Talks in Geneva between North Korea and the US have produced a breakthrough on nuclear disarmament. Pyongyang has declared that it will end all nuclear-weapons efforts by the end of 2007, agreeing for the first time to account for its complete list of programs:
North Korea agreed in weekend talks with the United States to fully account for and disable its nuclear programs by the end of this year, negotiators said on Sunday.
“We had very good, very substantive talks,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told reporters. “One thing that we agreed on is that (North Korea) will provide a full declaration of all of their nuclear programs and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year, 2007.”
North Korea’s top nuclear envoy said separately his delegation was pleased with the outcome of the talks, held to hasten the end of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, a target agreed to in principle in 2005 in exchange for diplomatic and economic benefits.
“We agreed about many things,” Kim Kye-gwan, speaking in Korean, told reporters. “We made it clear, we showed clear willingness to declare and dismantle all nuclear facilities.”
Neither side revealed what the DPRK received in return for its capitulation, but some carrots have been long proferred by the other five parties in the talks. Kim Jong-Il has demanded economic assistance and normalization of relations with the US for decades, and certainly would expect to receive both in exchange for shutting down his nukes. That would likely end the war between the two Koreas, which has been ongoing for almost sixty years and only quieted by a truce.
The US and the other nations should ensure that verification is a big part of the agreement. The Bush administration has insisted on better verification regimes than the previous Agreed Framework that allowed Pyongyang to build its nuclear program in secret. That is especially necessary now that the US has apparently agreed to take North Korea off its list of terror sponsoring nations, which will allow the DPRK to start selling its arms openly, and buying even more for themselves.
The DPRK will meet with Japan in a couple of weeks in Mongolia to reach agreement on side issues, especially on the abductions of Japanese nationals over several decades. If that proceeds well, the six-party negotiators will meet once more immediately afterwards to ratify all agreements. If this succeeds, it will increase pressure on the other major known nuclear dabbler, Iran, which just announced an increase of operational centrifuges to 3,000. That can’t be good news for the mullahcracy, who had tried coordination with the DRPK as a means to keep the international pressure split.
A success with North Korea would give Bush some momentum in foreign policy, and a real accomplishment for the last months of his term. Hopefully it will represent a real and peaceful victory for the US and pave the way towards freedom for the people starving on the Korean peninsula.