Under Kim Jong Il, there would never have been a headline such as “North Korea gives up nukes for food!” However, that is exactly the headline Americans woke up to today.
The government of North Korea has agreed to a moratorium on further uranium enrichment activities at the Yongbyon nuclear facility, long-range missile tests, and nuclear tests. The North has also agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency into the country to monitor the program. In exchange, the United States will provide the North with a large food aid package.
While many experts, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, agree this is only “a modest first step” in solving the crisis on the Korean peninsula, this breakthrough marks a radical aberration from North Korea’s behavior over the past ten years in a very good way.
By no means does this agreement prove the new leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is sane. Regardless, this episode appears to demonstrate the new Kim is at least pragmatic and, above all, somewhat rational. He has demonstrated he is both willing and able to be negotiated with, as the world tries to disabuse the 62-year old Korean crisis.
Despite all of this, one must remember the North has made these same promises before in 1994; only 12 years later detonated the country’s first nuclear bomb, followed by a second bomb in 2009. If the North is sincere in its quest for rapprochement, then this modest first step is one deserving much approbation. If, however, the North is once again using equivocation to attain its domestic policy goals, the harshest censure must be administered and, if possible, regime change must be sought.
For the time being, let us hope the North is being sincere in its desire for détente.