Leading article: A reminder of lost opportunities

Share
Related Topics

North Korea's on-off détente with the rest of the world has suddenly entered a new "on" phase. In the past 48 hours, Pyongyang has surrendered details of its nuclear programme to the International Atomic Energy Agency, heard President Bush announce North Korea's removal from the US list of states sponsoring terrorism, and overseen the demolition of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor.

We are still far from entering a new age of peace and openness. The nuclear information North Korea has handed over did not include anything about its weapons. The US may no longer regard North Korea as a state sponsoring terrorism, but Mr Bush declined also to lift economic sanctions. And while the tower that was blown up made for spectacular television footage, it was part of a reactor that had been shut down last July.

Nor is it clear precisely where the impetus for the new rapprochement originated. Was it the outcome of patient diplomacy conducted in the framework of the six-party talks , or was it – as Pyongyang's nuclear concessions generally turn out to be – a reflection of the deteriorating food situation? That there may be at least an element of the latter is suggested by the quiet resumption of US food aid deliveries and the recent arrival of a UN team to review food supplies countrywide.

Whatever the reasons, however, North Korea's decision to reconsider its self-imposed isolation is a positive development, as is Mr Bush's speedy and very public response. As Washington may well have calculated, some tangible diplomatic and material rewards for a repentant North Korea could convey a useful message to Iran. And if the administration that conjured up the "axis of evil" is now inclining towards diplomatic solutions and multilateralism, then this is a welcome change, too.

Yet the events of the past week also offer a reminder of time and opportunities lost. In its last year, the Clinton administration encouraged a so-called "sunshine policy" between North and South Korea. The tied US election of 2000 halted the momentum, and new presidents in the US and South Korea shut the process down. Since then, North Korea has become a nuclear power, albeit of a primitive variety, and started to talk from a position of new strength. The chance missed eight years ago should on no account be passed up again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and Sam Seaborne (Rob Lowe) in The West Wing  

You don't need to read Aaron Sorkin's leaked emails to realise he's a sexist — just watch The West Wing

Tom Mendelsohn
A still from 'The Interview' starring Seth Rogan (right) and James Franco  

The Interview: If a film being cancelled is an outrage, what does that make the 200,000 North Koreans living in death camps?

Mike Harris
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum