North Korea fuelled optimism that a peaceful future with the US may be a distinct possibility, with the country having suggested it will comply with uranium enrichment suspensions in return for food aid from the US. The deal has been on the verge of coming into effect shortly before Kim Jong Il’s death in December.
Officials in the country had spoken of their distain after the US had apparently “drastically” altered the terms of the deal with regard to how much food aid would be sent. However, Pyongyang then added that wait and “see if the United States has a willingness to establish confidence” with the county, which many have deemed a precursor for the deal being finalized and ultimately coming into effect.
The latest communication from North Korea offers perhaps the first true insight as to how Kim Jong Il will take over two of the country’s most pressing concerns – ongoing tensions with the west and a growing food crisis.
“The North is saying it is willing to go ahead with nuclear steps if it gets the food aid it wants,” according to North Korean professor Koh Yu-hwan. “The North is telling the United States to provide a goodwill gesture. If Washington doesn’t, Pyongyang is threatening it will go down its own path.”
Fears continue to grow across the West that North Korea may attempt to bolster support for the new younger Kim’s regime by test-launching further missiles or carrying out underground nuclear tests with the intention of intimidating Seoul. However, the statement issued this Wednesday suggests that Pyongyang may in fact be looking to pursue a more diplomatic resolution to the country’s troubles, which has the potential to represent a victory for all sides.
According to reports published by the Associated Press, just before the death of Kim Jong Il the US was ready to announce a large donation of food aid in return for North Korea’s cooperation. Just days after the announcement, Pyongyang would have agreed to its suspension of uranium enrichment – symbolizing a significant step toward long-term cooperation between the two nations.
However, all discussion were put on indefinite hold following the North Korean ruler’s death, as the country went through a period of official national mourning. With Kim Jong Un now officially in power, the time has come to once again attempt to solidify the deal.
Officials in the US have given the food aid program the title of “nutritional assistance” which focuses primarily on the provision of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. They have also made it clear that the vast majority of aid must find its way into the hands of the needy and not the country’s military.
North Korea has however specifically demanded rice and cereals.
Having tested at least two nuclear weapons over the past five years, North Korea has been increasingly seeking further talks aimed at food-for-disarmament agreements with other nations and world-leaders. However, the US has insisted all along that Pyongyang must first suspend all uranium enrichment efforts and fulfill existing commitments before new deals can be brought to the table.