This has the potential to be a pretty big deal.

North Korea agreed Sunday to declare and disable all its nuclear programs by the end of the year, the chief U.S. negotiator said — the first time the communist country has offered a timeline to end its secretive atomic program.

The North Korean envoy, in separate comments, told reporters his country was willing “to declare and dismantle” its nuclear program, but mentioned no dates….

Hill said the declaration will also include uranium enrichment programs, which the United States fears could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Aid in the form of food and oil from the US and the rest of the six-party group is part of the deal.

Any story that mentions “North Korea” and “deal” or “cooperation” in the same sentence deserves every bit of skepticism you can bring to it, but there are reasons to look at this news with some guarded optimism. The North appears to be near a state of collapse: Famine has returned (it never really left), and massive floods killed more than 600 a few weeks back. In times past, North Korea would hide behind its juche and tell the world that nothing was wrong, but after the recent floods, North Korea has been more open than usual about the extent of the damage.

Purely speculating, but North Korea’s new cooperative face could be the result of several things. Its economy, never exactly an Asian Tiger, actually shrank in 2006. There have been rumors swirling about Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il’s health for a few weeks now. The refugee flood from North Korea into China has reportedly prompted Pyongyang to start building a fence to keep the refugees inside the country.

From whichever angle you choose to look at North Korea, it’s an awful place and getting worse. The blockade that the US with allies has had in place around North Korea, to curb its illegal weapons trade, has undoubtedly played some role in that, as has the crackdown on North Korean counterfeit operations and dubious banking schemes. Combine that with Japan’s recent moves to normalize and upgrade its military forces and China’s evident annoyance with Pyongyang’s games, and we might have an environment conducive to getting Kim to cooperate.


Tags: China