A First Step toward a Nuclear-Free North Korea?

In an announcement on Wednesday, North Korea “agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and uranium enrichment activity at Nyongbyon [Yongbyon] and allow the IAEA to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment while productive dialogues continue,” all in exchange for U.S. “nutritional assistance.”

These steps are modestly significant. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have long sought North Korean actions that demonstrate some degree of seriousness and sincerity toward resolving the nuclear dispute in a way that is acceptable to us. The steps announced were on the list Washington and its allies had put forward.

However, they are only what negotiators call “confidence-building measures.” They could indeed be an initial step on a path toward serious negotiations, negotiations that Pyongyang has scuttled by its own actions.

Or they could simply be a ploy to get nutritional assistance and meddle in South Korean politics. North Korea’s record suggests the latter, but we shall see.

No one is holding their breath.