North Korea has imposed a moratorium on nuclear testing, launching long-range missiles and uranium enrichment. This was the result of negotiations recently conducted by the representatives of the DPRK and the U.S. in Beijing. In return, followers of the Juche idea were offered food aid.
On February 29 the agreement was announced by the U.S. State Department. They noted that the U.S. intends to go beyond 240 thousand tons of food aid, and take other steps to improve bilateral relations. On its part, North Korea pledged to let IAEA inspectors into its main nuclear facility - a research center in Yongbyon. The information on the agreement with the United States was confirmed by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
A positive reaction followed from virtually all stakeholders. "The introduction of the moratorium is the first small step towards peace," commented on the incident at a congressional hearing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. State Department officials said they informed the Russian leadership of all the agreements reached. The Americans stressed that the participation of Russia and China in a dialogue on North Korean nuclear program was "extremely important".
The moratorium on nuclear testing was welcomed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He expressed hope that North Korea fulfills all its obligations, resulting in the Korean Peninsula transformation into a nuclear-free zone. Ban Ki-moon urged all parties to double their efforts to achieve a final solution to this issue. The IAEA has expressed its willingness to send its inspectors to North Korea.
The compatriots of the UN Secretary-General were happy as well. An unnamed representative of the South Korean government said that the agreements should help in resuming the six-party talks involving the two Koreas, Russia, China, Japan and the United States, suspended because of North Korea's nuclear tests. Seoul suggested an analogy with opening the first door leading to the resumption of the nuclear dialogue between the six countries, given that North Korea has adopted preliminary requirements for the denuclearization.
The least enthusiastic feedback about the decisions came from Japan. The country wants evidence of the peaceful intentions of North Korea. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan Koichiro Gemba welcomed this agreement as an important step to solve the complex problems of North Korea. He expressed hope that it will be a platform to stop all nuclear facilities in Korea and stressed the importance of North Korea taking concrete steps toward denuclearization.
China is also satisfied with this development. The Foreign Ministry of China stated that the Chinese Government appreciates the efforts of North Korea and the United States to fulfill obligations. They welcomed the improvement of the relations between the DPRK and the United States and their contribution to maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. They added that China will, along with all interested parties, make efforts to promote six-party talks.
The nuclear missile program of North Korea has long become infamous. While the debate over its fate became especially heated only in recent years, nuclear research in the DPRK has been ongoing for nearly 40 years. In 1974, North Korea joined the IAEA and allowed in specialists from nearby China that had become a nuclear power by that time.
In 1985, the DPRK under the pressure of the Soviet Union signed the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons. A few years later the world has changed. The Soviet Union was gone, and China has actually embarked on a path of market relations. The Communists were losing power everywhere, and the government of North Korea was in complete isolation. They needed warranties from external interference. They could not think of a better warranty than nuclear weapons.
At this point, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and the world community have developed concerns. One by one IAEA inspections frequented the country. In 1994, North Korea defiantly left the organization. It came to worsening of its relations with the United States, and the situation was defused by the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. He flew to Pyongyang, and eventually, North Korea signed a framework agreement with the United States providing for giving up its nuclear program for military purposes.
If the death of Kim Il Sung and the coming to power of Kim Jong Il did not change the behavior of North Korea, much depended on the team in power in the United States. While the Bill Clinton administration refrained from very prominent gestures towards the DPRK (obviously, it was preoccupied with Yugoslavia and Iraq), with the arrival of George W. Bush to the White House in 2001 the situation has escalated. The situation around North Korea has become a constant source of world tension.
North Korea was immediately included in the infamous "axis of evil." On a regular basis Washington would issue accusation that North Korea was developing nuclear weapons. In response, in early 2003, North Korea defiantly abandoned the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Given the secrecy and unpredictability of the authorities in Washington and Pyongyang, all the neighbors tensed up - South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan.
The negotiations between all six countries concerned were meant to remove the tension. They started in 2003, and were periodically interrupted. The U.S., Japan and South Korea demanded the renunciation of the nuclear program, and for North Korea it was unacceptable. As a result, in 2005, it was agreed that Americans, Japanese and South Koreans will provide food aid to Pyongyang in exchange for giving up work to develop nuclear weapons.
The U.S. was fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, threatening Iran and other "rogue" states with force. The DPRK decided to protect themselves. In the summer of 2006 long-range missiles have been tested, and in the fall of the same year there was a nuclear explosion. In the spring of 2009 nuclear tests were repeated. The UN Security Council has repeatedly adopted resolutions condemning North Korea. The latter did not obey. Since then aggressive statements have been made by both North Korea and Washington.
In 2010 the parties reached a very dangerous line. The death of South Korean corvette "Cheonan," and firing of South Korean island of Yeonpyeong from North Korea aggravated the situation. The U.S., Japan and South Korea introduced various new sanctions. North Korea in response to every new US-South Korean military exercise promised to "wipe out" the aggressors.
The situation of "neither peace nor war" existed continuously. Hope for some change was brought by the death of Kim Jong Il in December of 2011 and the coming to power of his son, Kim Jong Yna, who studied in the West. Some Western experts predicted a political thaw in North Korea. Time will tell if the agreement with the U.S. is indeed a "thaw." North Korea is a closed country and predicting the actions of its leadership is the same as reading tea leaves.
Perhaps Kim Jong-Eun has decided to show that he is ready for a dialog. Perhaps the situation in North Korea with food is difficult, and without concessions food aid will not be available. Time will tell.