North Korea Plan Has Two Stages, and Doubters

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu DaWei (center) joins hands with  Christopher Hill. i i

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu DaWei (center) joins hands with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea Kim Kye Gwan (left). Michael Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu DaWei (center) joins hands with  Christopher Hill.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu DaWei (center) joins hands with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill and Vice Foreign Minister of North Korea Kim Kye Gwan (left).

Michael Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Washington welcomes North Korea's decision to take initial steps toward abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. The agreement came after six days of hard diplomatic bargaining in Beijing. But the diplomatic road ahead appears long and uncertain.

The agreement has two main phases. First, North Korea would shut down its main nuclear plant, readmit international inspectors — and receive some energy aid. That should take two months.

In the next phase, Pyongyang is supposed to declare and disable all its nuclear weapons programs, after which it will get even more energy aid.

Analysts concede that there is no guarantee North Korea will move on to the second phase, in which it is supposed to declare all its nuclear weapons in exchange for more aid.

In some ways, the agreement resembles the 1994 "Agreed Framework" with North Korea, which was never fully implemented. But this time, unlike 1994, China is placing real pressure on North Korea to move forward with the deal.

U.S. chief negotiator Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said his aim is to get beyond the first phase.

"We really want to keep this going; we don't want to lose momentum," Hill said. "We don't want anyone to think that these initial actions were an end in themselves. And the best way we can prove they were just initial is to get on to the next set of actions."

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