North Korea Agrees to End Nuclear Weapons Program
In a surprising breakthrough, the North Korean government agreed today to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for various considerations from the international community. Details have been left for another day.
North Korea on Monday agreed to stop building nuclear weapons and allow international inspections in exchange for energy aid, economic cooperation and security assurances, in a first step toward disarmament after two years of six-nation talks. The chief U.S. envoy to the talks praised the breakthrough as a “win-win situation” and “good agreement for all of us.” But he promptly urged Pyongyang to make good on its promises by ending operations at its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon. “What is the purpose of operating it at this point?” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill. “The time to turn it off would be about now.”
The agreement clinched seven days of talks aimed at setting out general principles for the North’s disarmament. Envoys agreed to return in early November to begin hashing out details of how that will be done. Then, the hard work of ensuring compliance will begin, officials attending the talks said. “Agreeing to a common document does not mean that the solution to our problems has been found,” said Japan’s chief envoy, Kenichiro Sasae.
Responding to Pyongyang’s claims that it needs atomic weapons for defense, North Korea and the United States pledged to respect each other’s sovereignty and right to peaceful coexistence, and also to take steps to normalize relations. “The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade (North Korea) with nuclear or conventional weapons,” according to the statement, in assurances echoed by South Korea.
While this is certainly a step forward after years of recalcitrance on the part of Pyongyang, this is a rather hollow agreement. Indeed, the Kim government made similar concessions a decade ago and soon abrograted. Let’s see how strong the enforcement regimes are before getting too excited about this development.