- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

North Korea’s agreement to suspend nuclear tests and uranium enrichment in exchange for food aid provides little insight into whether new leader Kim Jong-un is seeking to soften the totalitarian nation’s posture toward the rest of the world.

The agreement revealed Wednesday would have been announced in December if longtime dictator Kim Jong-il had not died.

U.S. officials framed the agreement as a modest first step toward thawing relations with Pyongyang, where a succession process is under way to make Kim’s 27-year-old son, Kim Jong-un, the youngest person ever to head a nuclear-armed nation.

Regional analysts cautioned against reading too deeply into the development.

“It’s important to understand that the outlines in the agreement were already essentially in place in December before Kim Jong-il died,” said Scott Snyder, who heads the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“So it’s hard to say much about whether this represents anything about the decision-making process of the new leadership because it’s basically, in terms of the overall direction of the agreement, a decision that the father made. It just hadn’t been stamped.”

Mr. Snyder noted that a Feb. 23 meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials, which spawned Wednesday’s joint announcement by the two nations, actually had been scheduled for late December.

The State Department announced the agreement in a statement that mirrored remarks issued at the same time by Pyongyang’s ministry of foreign affairs to North Korea’s state media.

Under the agreement, North Korea will put a moratorium on nuclear tests, long-range missile launches and uranium-enrichment activities at its Yongbyon nuclear facility.

North Korea also will allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to return to “verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the [nuclear] reactor and associated facilities,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

While the State Department took care not to characterize the agreement as a quid pro quo, Ms. Nuland said U.S. officials have agreed to meet with North Korean representatives.

They will “finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with our proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance,” she said.

Concerns over the likelihood that Kim Jong-un will do little to break from the isolationist bent embraced by his father have run high since last weekend.

On Sunday, a day before the U.S. and South Korea began a 12-day joint military exercise, Mr. Kim said that if North Korea felt provoked, it would make a powerful military strike on South Korea.

Getting duped by the North

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