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The U.S. and North Korea announced yesterday that a breakthrough had been reached. North Korea will suspend its uranium enrichment program, stop testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles and allow inspectors to check out its nuclear sites. In return, the U.S. will provide 240,000 metric tons of food aid annually. It sounds like a good deal, but will it help save a teetering regime with a human rights record comparable only to Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia?
The major concern is that the food aid will be diverted to the regime and the military instead of its starving population and then violate its agreements.
“The destitute North Korean economy needs foreign aid to avoid collapse. North Korea follows a now clear cycle of ostentatiously dangerous conduct followed by a conciliatory gesture that brings its neighbors and the U.S. rushing to the negotiating table, bearing goodies,” writes Christian Whiton, a former deputy special envoy for human rights in North Korea.
Under Kim Jong-Il, North Korea violated several past “breakthrough” agreements. It should be assumed that Kim Jong-Un will follow the same strategy because it worked. There is already uncertainty over whether the regime has agreed to suspend its plutonium reprocessing program that is responsible for at least two nuclear tests. Its announcement only referred to uranium. A senior U.S. official said the administration is confident that the plutonium program is also covered under the deal.
The U.S. says it will closely supervise the delivery of the food aid. It will send meals and products designed for pregnant women and children instead of rice and grains. It is hoped that the first shipment will arrive in 6 to 8 weeks. One official said that the operation will be the “most comprehensively monitored and managed program” devised yet.
It is obviously a good thing if the U.S. can prevent mass starvation among the North Korean population, especially if the recipients understand that it came from its so-called enemies. However, the regime’s giving in to U.S. demands for strict regulations over the food aid deliveries and willingness to suspend its nuclear activities is also a sign of weakness that must be exploited.
The U.S. must not accept the status quo with North Korea and turn a blind eye to the horrors that the regime puts its people through or the other ways it threatens the U.S. It still has 2,500 to 5,000 tons of chemical weapons and about 5,000 tons of biological weapons, with a dozen production facilities for the former and 20 for the latter. Some of these weapons are tested on innocent prisoners, including children, the disabled and the mentally-handicapped.
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