By Stephen Hong
Analysts have offered a cautious welcome to North Korea’s decision to suspend its nuclear activities, but say it is a positive step which could lead to the resumption of six-party talks.
The United States and North Korea announced on Wednesday that Pyongyang had agreed to a moratorium on nuclear testing and uranium enrichment activities and that the US will provide the North with 240,000 tons of food aid.
The announcement follows a third round of bilateral talks between the US and North Korea which took place February 23-24 in Beijing.
The six-party talks involving Japan, China, North and South Korea, Russia and the US, which aim at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, have been stalled since 2008.
However, the analysts offered a note of caution, citing North Korea’s record of back-tracking on previous agreements.
“We just have to wait and see if North Korea intends to honor the agreement” because challenges lie ahead in the process of fine-tuning details over its implementation, said Park Jong-chul, director of the Center for Unification Policy Studies.
“However it is a positive sign that dialogue has already started,” he said.
James Byun Jin-heung, from Incheon Catholic University, said that though the agreement is “meaningful,” there is “a practical limit” as to what the agreement yields and whether it is a significant breakthrough towards North Korea’s actual denuclearization.
Sister Oh Hye-jeong, secretary-general of the Korean Bishop’s Committee for the Reconciliation of the Korean People, called on the South Korean government to use this latest development to help repair strained relations between the two neighbors
“The South Korean government must make more effort,” especially in facilitating mutual exchanges including humanitarian aid to the North, she said.
“We and the international community should not ask too much of North Korea, but wait and see if its change in attitude is genuine.”