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Expert cautiously optimistic over NK nuclear -

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Expert cautiously optimistic over NK nuclear deal

Reporter: Tony Jones

Mark Fitzpatrick, who is a senior fellor for non-proliferation at the International Institute for
Strategic Studies, speaks with Lateline about the nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea.


TONY JONES: Mark Fitzpatrick spent 26 years in the US foreign service, including 10 years in
non-proliferation, eventually serving as deputy secretary for non-proliferation. He's now the
senior fellow for non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and he
joins us now in London.

Mark Fitzpatrick, good to see you again.


TONY JONES: Now, deals with North Korea like this one have a habit of falling apart. How confident
are you this one will hold?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well, this is just the first part of what needs to be a much bigger deal. I think
this first part probably will hold, North Korea will suspend the work at the reactor, it will get
some heavy fuel oil and then it needs to permanently disable the reactor and the other facilities
and then get the big chunk of fuel oil that's in the deal.

TONY JONES: Critics are referring to this as a freeze rather than genuine disarmament.

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well, it's more than a freeze because it will result in the permanent disabling
of the reactor and the reprocessing facility. This is very important for the Bush administration
because it's something more than Clinton got. Clinton got a freeze, Bush will sell this as
something more.

TONY JONES: So how is the deal structured exactly, step by step, because for something to be given,
you have to give something back, according to deals like this?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Sure. Well, the very first step is that the US treasury has to unfreeze some of
the $24 million in North Korean accounts at a Macau bank, Banco Delta Asia, within 30 days and then
within 60 days, North Korea will suspend the reactor and then the United States will provide - not
the United States, the other parties will provide 50,000 tonnes of fuel oil. And then in the next
stage they will be working toward this permanent disabling. How exactly that will be done will have
to be worked out in some working group discussions among experts.

TONY JONES: That is the permanent disabling of what they call the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, is that

MARK FITZPATRICK: That's right, it's the reactor but also the reprocessing facility and the other
associated facilities and the details have not been spelt out but press reports have said about
five facilities will be disabled.

TONY JONES: What about the actual nuclear weapons which it is believed, or - US officials for
example believe they've already built up to six?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well, that's really the problem, isn't it? There's nothing in this initial deal
that dismantles those nuclear weapons. North Korea, you know, has anywhere from six to 10 weapons
worth of separated plutonium. Now the deal has working groups that will be discussing the
disabling, dismantling of these nuclear weapons. I don't have much hope that that will actually
happen but look, this is a first step and it's a confidence-building measure and maybe it could
lead to more.

TONY JONES: You don't have much hope, you say, so how hard exactly would it be to hide in an entire
country actual nuclear weapons or even stockpiles of plutonium that's already been created?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well it it's easy enough to hide them but the IAEA inspectors had a pretty good
idea of how much plutonium North Korea had, so actual dismantling of the weapons would have to
involve showing the actual plutonium cores of the weapons and that would be one means of
verification, but that's a long way into the future I'm afraid, the actual dismantling of the
weapons. The first stage is you stop what they have now. They also need to stop work on the missile
programs so that the weapons cannot be deliverable.

What they have now is a nuclear device, whether it fits on a missile, whether that missile can hit
Japan or parts of the United States. That's also something that needs to be stop.

TONY JONES: Let's talk about the job of those inspectors because eventually they're going to have
to be let back into the country. They'll be wanting to see all the documents, as you say, they'll
be wanting to track all the plutonium and presumably they'll want to see all the weapons or
partially-built weapons.

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well at the first step North Korea will allow in IAEA inspectors just to verify
that the facility is stopped, that it's frozen and then inspectors will also have to verify the
dismantlement of the facilities. Now eventually, when they get to this stage, if they get to this
stage of turning over weapons, dismantling weapons, it will have to be inspectors from the nuclear
weapons states, not the IAEA, because of the requirements of the NPT. This happened in the case of
South Africa, the IAEA inspectors were augmented by nuclear weapons experts from the five nuclear
weapons states.

TONY JONES: There is another twist to this because The New York Times is reporting that the current
deal does not include what it calls a still unacknowledged nuclear weapons program that the US
officials believe the North Koreans bought from the rogue Pakistani nuclear engineer, AQ Khan. What
do we know about that?

MARK FITZPATRICK: There's no question that North Korea obtained uranium enrichment technology and
materials from AQ Khan. Khan admitted it in his January 2004 admission of guilt, probably two dozen
centrifuges that he gave North Korea. North Korea then used those centrifuges and the design
blueprints they got from AQ Khan to go out on the market, the black market, in Europe and Russia
and try and buy more components that would allow it to build an enrichment plant and produce a
nuclear weapon and we know that they tried to do that because a delivery of aluminium tubes for
that program were stopped by German and other officials.

TONY JONES: Does that mean, at least theoretically, there could be another secret program that no
one has actually been able to prove the existence of?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Absolutely and that's the existence of this uranium enrichment program, what led
to the break-up of the previous deal that the Clinton administration had struck. North Korea had
agreed to freeze the plutonium program but then they were embarking on an enrichment route to
nuclear weapons. Now eventually, if there's going to be a long-term deal they'll have to come clean
on what exactly they got from AQ Khan, what exactly they procured in the black markets and they
haven't admitted to that program yet. So that will be one of the big verification challenges in the

TONY JONES: And presumably one of the sticking points but it certainly points to the complexity of
the task facing the inspectors, the nuclear inspectors, when they go in there?

MARK FITZPATRICK: I mean these are huge tasks. But you know, the weapons program, the enrichment
program, this is also going to be, I think, going to be several years away. This very first task of
stopping the program where it is right now, disabling the reactor and the reprocessing plant,
that's all double and I think by the end of the year we could very easily see that happen and it
will be a signal achievement.

TONY JONES: Let's look at the political side of this, because as with President Clinton, President
Bush will need congressional approval for the large amounts of money that the United States has to
front up here in order to make this deal work to buy the fuel to give to North Korea. So is he
going to get that approval, first of all?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well first of all, I don't think it will be a large amount of money that the
United States will have to pay, and this is a difference from the previous deal. The previous deal
Clinton struck, the United States supplied all the heavy fuel oil, 50,000 tonnes a year. Now this
deal is structured that all the parties to the six-party talks, that is all the other five parties,
help with the provision of 50 - I'm sorry 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil, twice the amount the
United States paid per year, but it's a one-shot 1 million tonnes and everybody will chip in. I
think probably most of it will come from South Korea.

What will be important for the Bush Administration is the symbolism of being party to that and he
will have to explain why he criticised Clinton for doing it, but this time he's struck a deal that
is not so dissimilar.

TONY JONES: He's already facing opposition from former allies. He had a UN ambassador called John
Bolton, for example, until recently. John Bolton has come out and really heavily criticised this
deal on CNN because he doesn't favour doing any kind of deal with nuclear renegades. How much
traction will that argument get?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well I think there will certainly be those who are political allies of Ambassador
Bolton who will say that, and if they are consistent with their previous position they would have
to, because if they criticised Clinton for doing it, they would have to criticise Bush for doing
it. But right now of course, the Congress is in the hands of Democrats who all supported the
Clinton deal and several Republicans will go along with it. When the Bush Administration asks the
Congress for support, it's their same party. So, I don't think it will be that hard to persuade the
Congress to go along with giving a symbolic assistance to North Korea, the bulk of which will
probably be paid for by other countries.

TONY JONES: It certainly hints though, at winds of change passing through Washington, does it not,
because Bolton was very close to Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney close to the neo-conservatives, and
what they wanted to do was to basically squeeze the North Korean regime until it collapsed? Now,
that's not going to happen, is it?

MARK FITZPATRICK: That's not going to happen. It wasn't going to happen then. This is a very big
change in US policy. I think it's a big change for two reasons. One is that the policy was
obviously a failure. The policy of not talking with the North Koreans, of not negotiating with them
resulted in North Korea having a nuclear weapon s arsenal that was four or five time what the Bush
Administration inherited. The second thing is that the Bush administration has got its had full
with so many other problems in the world, this deal with North Korea will show at least one of
those crises is being managed.

TONY JONES: Going away, in fact, and one of the axis of evil countries, no less. In a side deal,
looks like it's going to be delisted as a terrorist nation. hat's an extraordinary move, isn't it?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well, that one that move has been in the works for about 20 years. It's been,
actually, a long time since North Korea conducted any terrorist acts or supported any terrorist
groups and so 20 years ago, when I was in the State Department, we were talking about what would be
necessary to take North Korea off the terrorist list and it's resurfaced several times since then.
It's always been a card that Washington is able to play. It's got some tricky politics to it but
it's actually overdue.

TONY JONES: It may well be but we've just seen the Iranian President appealing directly to the US
public and threatening to attack the United States if it attacks Iran. Now what is the message
being sent out by this deal to the Iranians? Is it a message that could lead to peace or a message
that could still lead to war?

MARK FITZPATRICK: Well, there's - Iran could take it one of two different ways. I hope they take it
to see that the United States is willing to talk to its enemies. It still regards North Korea as
part of the axis of evil, it still regards Iran that way but they're able to talk and make a deal.
So I think Iran should take heart that, if they were willing to make a concession, suspend the
enrichment program, there are real benefits to be gained. The unfortunate other lesson they might
learn is, if they stick to their guns, go ahead, develop a nuclear weapon, test it, do something
that provocative, that eventually that will persuade the super power to make some concessions of
itself. I hope it doesn't come to that.

TONY JONES: That's of course what the hardliners are arguing right now, but do you think
essentially what we're seeing here is a shift away from the influence of the neoconservatives in
Washington and their point of view and Bush moving towards, if you like, the Democrats who now
control both houses of Congress?

MARK FITZPATRICK: I think it definitely represents a move away from that hard-line belief that you
can't talk to your enemies. I wouldn't say it's necessarily moving towards the Democrats. What it
is, it's listening to the pragmatic voice of Condi Rice. She's not saying anything too different in
this regard that Colin Powell said in terms of the need to negotiate and push pragmatic polls but
she has the President's ear and he may have realised that the advice he was getting from Vice
President Cheney and the others had gotten him into Iraq and it's time to listen to more flexible
voices of reason.

TONY JONES: Mark Fitzpatrick, we'll have to leave it there. We thank you very much once again for
taking the time to come and spell out some detail on these rough and fast moving stories. Thank you
very much.

MARK FITZPATRICK: You're welcome.

(c) 2007 ABC