North Korea and the US have finally come to an agreement after years of stagnated nuclear talks: the DPRK will disable their nuclear reactor and facilities as well as allow IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium, and in exchange the US will resume food aid to the impoverished nation, which was suspended in early 2009.
For myself, to hear this after years of working on North Korea's human rights -- a subject that was consistently overshadowed by the nuclear issue to the dismay of myself and my colleagues, I should add -- I have high hopes for the global community to analyze North Korea in a more appropriately open-minded manner.
It's also always interesting to see how two countries advertise these sorts of high profile talks and agreements to the world. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's take:
The United States, I would be quick to add, still has profound concerns. But on the occasion of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death, I said that it is our hope that the new leadership will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by living up to its obligations.Today's announcement represents a modest first step in the right direction.
North Korea's government-run news agency, KCNA, separately provided a statement by the state's Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman:
The U.S. reaffirmed that it no longer has hostile intent toward the DPRK and that it is prepared to take steps to improve the bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality. The U.S. also agreed to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports.
Clearly we are in the closest position in a long time to establishing better relations with North Korea. While diplomacy isn't always the most effective solution to a crisis -- Syria being a perfect example right now -- it is undoubtedly the most important first step to take before exploring military interventions.
This reminds me of the Cuban Missile Crisis decades ago. While the world was on the brink of nuclear war, President Kennedy took it upon himself to publicly suggest a path for peace, prompting Khrushchev to express his own desires for a peaceful solution shortly afterwards.
I understand that 1962 is a world of difference from 2012, but one lesson from that decade is clear: it is only through direct, mature, and reasoned communication and diplomacy that we even have a chance of avoiding much more harmful ways of "dealing" with global conflicts.
Perhaps with this small positive development, the world can finally start focusing on North Korea's human rights issues without being distracted by such a compelling hard power problem.