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(LEAD) Iran nuclear deal unlikely to have major implications on N. Korean standoff: U.S. experts

2015/07/15 02:24

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By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, July 14 (Yonhap) -- The landmark deal on Iran's nuclear program is unlikely to have any major implications on the North Korean nuclear standoff as Pyongyang has little appetite for negotiating away its nuclear programs, U.S. experts said Tuesday.

Iran and six world powers announced the historic deal in Vienna after weeks of marathon negotiations earlier in the day, bringing to fruition more than a dozen years of efforts to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calls for significantly limiting Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the United States, the European Union and the United Nations lifting economic sanctions that have stifled the Middle Eastern nation's economy.

It fleshed out a framework agreement reached in April.

U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the deal.

"Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region. Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon," Obama said. "This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it."

   Apparently mindful of critics, Obama said the deal "is not built on trust," adding, "It is built on verification."

   He emphasized that U.N. inspectors "will have 24/7 access to Iran's key nuclear facilities."

   The deal stands in sharp contrast with the grim deadlock over North Korea's nuclear programs.

Analysts have said that North Korea stands low in the U.S. priority list and that the Obama administration has little interest in resuming nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang as it has been preoccupied with the Iranian nuclear issue.

The conclusion of the Iranian deal raised hope Washington would be able to pay more attention to the North Korean nuclear issue, but American experts said such chances are low and, moreover, North Korea is not interested in negotiating away its nuclear programs.

The Iran deal "will almost certainly embroil the Obama administration in a domestic political debate over its provisions and implementation," said Joel Wit, editor of the website 38 North, sponsored by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

"And given all the other problems the administration is facing abroad, the chances of the U.S. making a concerted effort to restart nuclear negotiations remain small. To be fair, I don't think North Korea is interested in such talks since its policies have been successful in building up its nuclear arsenal while moving forward with some economic improvements," he said.

Ken Gause, a North Korea expert at CNA Corp., agreed that chances of a breakthrough are low.

"While the deal will free up time for the U.S. to focus on North Korea, which it might or might not do, I don't think it will lead to a breakthrough on the six-party talks," he said. "North Korea's calculus will not be impacted by the Iran deal."

   Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the two issues are fundamentally different as the North has an ongoing weapons program and has withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, whereas Iran agreed to meaningful constraints on even the possibilities of a weapons option.

"I don't anticipate any major implications for North Korea's nuclear program," he said. "Barring profound change in DPRK thinking and strategy, the impasse will remain undiminished. Nor do I envision any significant changes in U.S. policy toward North Korea."

   Douglas Paal, vice president and director of the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also noted that for Iran, its nuclear program was "an option, not a prerequisite for the regime's survival" but Pyongyang believes its weapons capabilities are vital to regime survival.

"So the two situations are not analogous," he said.

Richard Bush, a senior researcher at Brookings, said he sees no implications on the North Korean issue.

"Iran is not as far along as North Korea," he said, adding that Tehran was willing to place significant limitations on its nuclear program in return for economic benefits while Pyongyang is unwilling to do so. "So Iran's present won't be North Korea's future."

   The Iranian deal is expected to undergo tough scrutiny in the Republican-controlled Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) criticized the deal, saying it is likely to fuel a nuclear arms race around the world, instead of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.

"We're going to do everything we can to get to the details and if in fact it's as bad a deal as I think it is at this moment, we're going to do everything we can to stop it," Boehner told reporters.

Congress has 60 days to study the agreement before endorsing or rejecting it.

Should Congress reject the deal, Obama is expected to veto the motion. A two-thirds majority in the House and Senate is necessary to override his veto.

jschang@yna.co.kr

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