The announcement Wednesday of a diplomatic breakthrough between the United States and North Korea is a welcome surprise at a critical time. Not only are over six million North Koreans facing food shortages this winter, but also the window is quickly closing for the United States to have any leverage over North Korea’s nuclear program, given the changing global balance of power.
In exchange for an initial 240,000 tons of U.S. food aid and prospects for improving bilateral relations and returning to six-party talks, North Korea agreed to halt its uranium enrichment program, accept monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and stop testing its long-range missiles.
Contrary to some media assertions that U.S. food aid has not been linked to de-nuclearization, Washington has stalled for over a year on sending food to North Korea, despite a direct appeal from Pyongyang, and after several assessments, including by the UN World Food Program, the European Union, and a team of five U.S. non-governmental organizations, all verifying the urgent need. [read full article]