Wednesday, February 29, 2012

N. Korea Agrees to Stop Nuclear and Missile Tests for US Food Aid; Big Win for Obama Administration After Hardening of US Position

Administration Tied Assistance to Nuclear Progress

Likely Consequences for Iran Nuclear Issue

The U.S. State Department announced today that North Korea has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and uranium enrichment activities at its main nuclear facility. North Korea also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the uranium enrichment moratorium.

The dramatic development will surely be seen internationally as a major foreign policy victory for the Obama administration amid rising tensions with Iran over its nuclear program because North Korea--Iran's longtime partner in nuclear and missile proliferation--made the concessions after the United States for the first time publicly tied nuclear progress to food assistance.

A senior U.S. military commander said yesterday that North Korea must make concessions on its nuclear program in order to secure the desperately needed aid from Washington.

Admiral Robert Willard, the head of the U.S. Asia Pacific Command, said the conditions include a halt to North Korea's nuclear program and ballistic missile tests, as well as allowing United Nations nuclear inspectors back into its atomic facility at Yongbyon.

Willard spoke at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.

“In terms of these negotiations that have been ongoing, I have been supportive of them, with regard to the United States' proposals for conditional food aid into North Korea and the preconditions that have come with it, which now include discussions of cessation of nuclearization and ballistic missile testing,” Willard said.

Linkage Long Denied

State Department officials have long denied that U.S. “nutritional assistance” for impoverished North Korea is tied to political concessions. The U.S. suspended food assistance in early 2009, partially because of concerns the food was being diverted to North Korea's military or members of its political elite.

Before the death of longtime leader Kim Jong Il in December, North Korea was reportedly poised to announce an agreement with Washington to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for the aid. Pyongyang has since hinted it is open to a deal.

The agreement could lead to a resumption of stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

North Korea has suffered from chronic food shortages since a famine in the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Aid agencies say the North's food situation is the worst in several years, with torrential rains and harsh winter weather early this year cutting harvests and prompting appeals for help from Pyongyang.

The U.S. has been the biggest single contributor of food aid to North Korea since the famine.

Foreign Confidential™ analysts believe the North will never agree to nuclear disarmament, that the regime intends to keep and continue producing nuclear bombs and warheads and long-range missiles. Be that as it may, the accord that was announced today is a diplomatic breakthrough that could also help President Obama domestically.