Jeffrey LewisWhat's the NSC Up To With North Korea?

David Sanger in the New York Times reports “a previously undisclosed incident in June” involving trade between Iran and North Korea:

… American satellites tracked an Iranian cargo plane landing in North Korea. The two countries have a history of missile trade – Iran’s Shahab missile is a derivative of a North Korean design – and intelligence officials suspected the plane was picking up missile parts.

Rather than watch silently, senior Bush administration officials began urging nations in the area to deny the plane the right to fly over their territory. China and at least one Central Asian nation cooperated, according to senior officials, who confirmed the outlines of the incident to demonstrate that President Bush’s strategy to curb proliferation, which has been criticized by some experts for moving too slowly, is showing results. The officials insisted on anonymity because they were discussing sensitive information.

The officials said they believed the Iranian plane left without its cargo, but they were not sure.

Can’t wait to find out what he isn’t telling us.

The little nugget is a “creation myth”—A senior official told Sanger the Bush Administration was “inspired by the June incident” to “be more systematic” about its “efforts” to curb North Korea’s illicit WMD trade..

Well, good for you guys. We weren’t systematic before?

Seriously, Sanger describes this as an “effort” but doesn’t explain the effort’s bureaucratic ontology beyond noting that it comprises three not terribly distinct “components”:

  • “The first is to block the sale of any bomb material or radioactive material from North Korea.”
  • “The second is to beef up anti-proliferation efforts, including denying overflight rights.”
  • “A third component of the effort is to step up “counterproliferation,’ which involves preparing nations to counter chemical or biological weapons, and work out ways to defend against a missile attack.”

The components don’t seem very systematic to me—I can’t distinguish among them.

Sanger doesn’t mention that the Treasury Department recently designated eight North Korean entities pursuant to Executive Order 13382. (Actually, the eight firms are entities are subsidiaries of two firms already in the annex to the Executive Order)

Nor does Sanger mention his February 2005 story on the development of an NSC tool kit on North Korea.

I’d love to understand how the “more systematic effort” described by Sanger details is related to EO 13382 and the tool kit he described in February.

Maybe bureaucratic consolation to those die hard opponents of Six Party Talks?