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Snap Fact #119

President Obama’s Patient Diplomacy Moves North Korea To A Surprise Nuclear Moratorium!
The first official talks between the United States and North Korea since a youthful new North Korean leader came to power convened on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. The talks, described by the Obama administration as exploratory, were seen as a way to test whether the new leader, Kim Jong-un, who is in his late 20s, was prepared to meet conditions that would allow for a resumption of six-nation negotiations that aim to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. 

The senior American negotiator, Glyn T. Davies, met with his counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, and said “serious and substantial,” discussions were taking place. 

The issues covered included nuclear matters and nutritional assistance, Mr. Davies said. The United States, along with South Korea, Japan, Russia and China, has called on North Korea to suspend its nuclear activities as a condition for resuming the six-nation talks. Mr. Davies was believed to be testing the North Korean negotiator on that question. A former American ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. Davies was appointed to the North Korean task last fall. 

As North Korea’s chief benefactor, China has given financial support and has increased trade to prevent a collapse that would result in a flood of refugees at its borders. Beijing has apparently also tried to dampen North Korea’s enthusiasm for more nuclear explosions, American experts say. In the recent past, the Obama administration has offered nutritional assistance as a humanitarian gesture to the most needy — children, the elderly and nursing mothers — among the North’s impoverished population. 

On Feb. 29th a surprise breakthrough decision was announced simultaneously by the U.S. State Department and North Korea's official news agency, to stop nuclear tests, uranium enrichment and long-range missile launches, and to allow checks by nuclear inspectors, in an apparent policy shift that paves the way for resuming long-stalled disarmament talks.
"These are concrete measures that we consider a positive first step toward complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

While analysts cautioned that Pyongyang has backtracked repeatedly on past deals, the moves by North Korea mark a sharp change in course, at least outwardly, by North Korea's reclusive leadership following the death in December of veteran leader Kim Jong-il.

One senior U.S. official said the move "unlocked" an impasse over the six-party talks, but that follow-through would require persistence and patience.
"We believe that it's important to translate this initial sign of Pyongyang's seriousness of purpose into substantive and meaningful negotiations on denuclearization that get at the entirety of the North's nuclear program," the official said.

The State Department said that in return, the United States was ready to go ahead with a proposed 240,000 metric-ton food aid package requested by North Korea and that more aid could be agreed to based on continued need.

Along with halting weapons activities, North Korea said it would permit nuclear inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency to visit its Yongbyon nuclear complex to verify the moratorium on uranium enrichment has been enforced. 

"The U.S. still has profound concerns, but on the occasion of Kim Jong-Il's death, I said it is our hope the new leadership would choose to guide the nation to a path of peace by living up to its obligations. Today's announcement is a modest first step in the right direction," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "This is just one more reminder that the world is transforming around us," she added.

The State Department added that the U.S. is prepared to move toward "people-to-people exchanges" in culture, education and sports and said U.S. sanctions against North Korea "are not targeted against the livelihood of the DPRK (Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea) people."