Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Korea Move

North Korea has struck a deal with the other countries involved in the six-party talks on its nuclear future. It says it's going to freeze its nuclear reactor and let the weapons inspectors back in, in return for aid worth more than 300 million dollars. Although any deal involving North Korea could reasonably be called a good deal, this isn't one of the best.

If they're honoured, the terms of the agreement would see the situation return more or less to how things used to be before the North Koreans fell out with the US a few years back. It essentially rewards the regime for last year's nuclear test, by tacitly admitting it's possible to buy international aid and the prospect of the recognition North Korea's leaders crave, simply by letting off a big old bomb. Telling the North Koreans to freeze their nuclear activities surely won't bother them too much, now their programme has achieved the first part what it was supposed to. The ban imposed on exports of cognac last month probably annoys Kim Jong Il more, given that he's the world's largest private importer of the stuff.

Whether it's in a few months or a few years, and there's another falling out, you can bet the inspectors will be out and the nuclear sabre-rattling will begin again (as long as China lets them). And after some more tortured negotiations, the North Koreans will get a bit more of what they want. It's the strangest and most dangerous way that any country's ever tried to ease towards international acceptance. But it seems to be working, bit by tiny bit.

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