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Schiff Requests Intelligence Assessment of Effect of U.S. Withdrawal from Iran Deal on North Korea Negotiations

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Washington, May 7, 2018 | comments

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee, sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats requesting that the Intelligence Community provide the House Intelligence Committee with an assessment of the effect a U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA on will have on North Korea’s behavior and posture in advance of negotiations.

In the letter, Schiff writes:

“Soon President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a summit to discuss North Korea’s illegal and destabilizing nuclear missile program. Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, coupled with its belligerent and destabilizing behavior, have made North Korea a top security threat to the United States and our allies. The prospect of a diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula is a historic event, and I support pursuing this opening with vigor. A comprehensive agreement with North Korea will be challenging under any circumstances, but a decision that the President will make in the coming days could undermine U.S. credibility and leverage…=

“There is good reason to question North Korean objectives in this negotiation, but if North Korea is willing to enter into an agreement in return for sanctions relief and security, they will doubtlessly look towards the Iran nuclear deal. Should the United States withdraw from the JCPOA, at a time when all parties agree Iran is in compliance, and reinstate sanctions, North Korea could justifiably question whether the United States would honor our end of an agreement.”

The full letter is below:

Dear Director Coats:

Soon President Donald Trump will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a summit to discuss North Korea’s illegal and destabilizing nuclear missile program. Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, coupled with its belligerent and destabilizing behavior, have made North Korea a top security threat to the United States and our allies. The prospect of a diplomatic breakthrough on the Korean Peninsula is a historic event, and I support pursuing this opening with vigor.

A comprehensive agreement with North Korea will be challenging under any circumstances, but a decision that the President will make in the coming days could undermine U.S. credibility and leverage. On May 12, the President faces the next deadline under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to certify Iranian compliance with the terms of the JCPOA, without which U.S. sanctions will snap back. Iran remains in compliance with the terms of the JCPOA, as recently confirmed by CIA Director Mike Pompeo before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stating he has “seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today.” The verification and inspection mechanisms to confirm Iranian compliance are stringent, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis recently described them as “robust.”

The President has made clear that absent major changes to the JCPOA, he intends to withhold certification, causing U.S. sanctions on Iranian entities to snap back into place and putting America in breach of the deal. Taken alone, this would be a deeply unwise decision, isolating the United States and possibly causing Iran to renew covert enrichment or weaponization programs. However, the Administration and the Intelligence Community should also consider the implications of a withdrawal from the JCPOA on the possibility of an agreement with North Korea.

Reaching an agreement with North Korea will be in many ways more complex than the P5+1 negotiations that led to the JCPOA in 2015, after two years of negotiations. Unlike Iran, North Korea has a mature nuclear weapons program, possessing a sizable arsenal with a record of successful nuclear tests. Additionally, we know far less about the full scope of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and enrichment programs, as it has been more than ten years since IAEA inspectors have had access to any North Korean facility. Finally, North Korea has a long history of cheating on previous deals, meaning that verification will be incredibly important as well as highly challenging.

There is good reason to question North Korean objectives in this negotiation, but if North Korea is willing to enter into an agreement in return for sanctions relief and security, they will doubtlessly look towards the Iran nuclear deal. Should the United States withdraw from the JCPOA, at a time when all parties agree Iran is in compliance, and reinstate sanctions, North Korea could justifiably question whether the United States would honor our end of an agreement.

Denuclearization in North Korea would be an unprecedented and historic accomplishment, one that would greatly increase the security of the United States and some of our closest allies. It is vitally important that the Administration focus its efforts on achieving a positive outcome in the North Korean talks, not introduce new factors to make a deal more difficult.

Accordingly, I request the Intelligence Community provide the House Intelligence Committee with an assessment of the effect a U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA on will have on North Korea’s behavior and posture in advance of negotiations. Additionally, I request that you schedule a briefing for members of the House and Senate on this important issue.

I appreciate your urgent attention to this request and look forward to your earliest possible response.

Sincerely,

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