There is optimism – cautious optimism certainly, but hope nonetheless following North Korea’s agreement to suspend uranium enrichment, as well as nuclear and long-range missile tests.
This welcome development – just two months after Kim Jong-un came to power following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il – follows groundbreaking talks with the United States.
A third meeting last week between US and North Korean officials in Beijing further explored how to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
North Korea confirmed the move in a foreign ministry statement released in Pyongyang. In addition, Pyongyang has also agreed to allow UN inspectors to monitor its reactor in Yongbyon to verify compliance with the measures.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though admitting some lingering concerns, described the move as a “first step in the right direction”. And like all first steps towards resolving disputes of this kind, there has to be give and take on both sides. In return, the US is finalising 240,000 tonnes of food aid for the North. The region has suffered persistent food shortages since a famine in the 1990s, and relies on foreign aid to feed its people.
The announcement, reported by the KCNA news agency, said the measures were “aimed at building confidence for the improvement of relations” between the two countries, and said talks would continue . “Both the DPRK [North Korea] and the US affirmed that it is in mutual interest to ensure peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, improve the relations between the DPRK and the US, and push ahead with the denuclearisation through dialogue and negotiations,” it said.