In a landmark international accord, North Korea promised Tuesday to close down and seal its lone nuclear reactor within 60 days in return for 50,000 tons of fuel oil as a first step in abandoning all nuclear weapons and research programs.
North Korea also reaffirmed a commitment to disable the reactor in an undefined next phase of denuclearization and to discuss with the United States and other nations its plutonium fuel reserves and other nuclear programs that "would be abandoned" as part of the process. In return for taking those further steps, the accord said, North Korea would receive additional "economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil."
Of course, it is only a first step, and does not deal with the most crucial elements of North Korea's nuclear program:
The accord, described as "initial actions," left for further negotiations the question of what to do with North Korea's declared nuclear weapons, estimated at a half-dozen bombs, and a stockpile of perhaps 50 kilograms of plutonium. In addition, it postponed discussions on a separate highly enriched uranium program that the Bush administration contends -- but North Korea denies -- was undertaken in secret as a second source of nuclear weapons fuel.
The agreement is characterized as a "first step" by the participants. There are significant steps to be taken. Still, it is a start. And a success, if a qualified one as Kevin Drum states in discussing a Wall Street Journal article on the deal:
Basically, the North Koreans agreed to shut down their reactor at Yongbyon and freeze their bomb development in return for shipments of fuel oil:Sarcasm aside, this is progress. Qualified, and a long way from the destruction of the nuclear weapons the administration should have never allowed North Korea to have in the first place, but it's progress.Christopher Hill, the U.S. envoy to the talks, told reporters that the final text was "an excellent, excellent draft"....<A deal to rein in North Korea's nuclear program would give President Bush a rare foreign-policy victory at a time when he is embroiled in a bitter debate over the war in Iraq and tensions with Iran. But the proposed deal also exposes the administration to accusations from both conservatives and Democrats that President Bush has essentially returned to a Clinton-era arrangement with North Korea -- known as the 1994 Agreed Framework -- that he disparaged and cast aside soon after he took office in 2001.Nah, life's too short for that. If Bush's foreign policy in 2007 is now almost as good as Clinton's was in 1994 -- give or take a dozen actual bombs -- I'll take that as a big win. Next up: Bush brings peace to