Wednesday, July 18, 2007

North Korea Offers Nuclear Concessions

New York Times: "By CHOE SANG-HUN

SEOUL, July 18 — North Korea today offered to declare all of its nuclear weapons programs and disable them by the end of the year in return for energy aid, the South Korean nuclear envoy said, raising hopes for quick progress in international efforts to stop the Communist state’s nuclear armament.

The North Korean offer came only hours after the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency today confirmed that the Pyongyang government had shut down all five of its declared nuclear facilities, as it had promised to do in a February agreement.

That news gave an added push to a new round of six-nation talks that began in Beijing today...

Baek Seung-Joo, a senior analyst at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said that the most the United States can realistically achieve before President Bush’s term ends in January 2009 is to ensure that North Korea declares all its nuclear assets, and that it does not produce any more materials for nuclear weapons or transfer them overseas.

“North Korea and the United States appear to be finding common ground on such a goal,” Mr. Baek said. “But whether North Korea will dismantle its nuclear weapons and place its nuclear materials under I.A.E.A. control is a whole different issue. I don’t think North Korea has made a decision on that.”

Washington and Seoul envision a “comprehensive” deal in which North Korea will dismantle all of its nuclear weapons and facilities in return for economic aid and political rewards like normalized ties with the United States.

Off my usual beat, but heartening news. Could it be?
(Maybe Cheney has his hands full on other things and hasn't been paying attention to this part of the world?)
If progress is possible with even the North Koreans (and over Northern Ireland), why is the Middle East so everlastingly intractable?

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