Feature

What to make of North Korea's nuclear retreat

North Korea's paranoid regime is finally renouncing nuclear weapons, said USA Today. Of course, this could be another bluff. It

What happenedNorth Korea blew up the 60-foot cooling tower at its main nuclear power plant on Friday. The gesture was meant to demonstrate Pyongyang’s commitment to halt its nuclear weapons program after it belatedly handed over details of its efforts in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. (The New York Times)

What the commentators saidThe demolition of the cooling tower is a “dramatic but largely symbolic move,” said USA Today in an editorial. Coming as the paranoid, Stalinist regime finally hands over details of its past plutonium production, it’s a welcome hint of progress. “At best, it will start the kind of disclosures that Libya once made to renounce nuclear weapons. At worst, it's just another bluff.”

It’s hard to believe President Bush is buying the sudden conversion of the loathsome regime of Kim Jong-Il, said Frank J. Gaffney Jr. in National Review Online. “There is no indication that the North Koreans are dismantling their nuclear arsenal.” In fact, Pyongyang hasn’t even admitted how many nuclear bombs it already has in its arsenal. North Korea hasn’t done anything to deserve a reprieve from sanctions, but apparently Bush has decided a bad deal is better than none.

Give Bush some credit, said Investor’s Business Daily in an editorial. The concessions, which include soon removing North Korea from the U.S. list of terrorist states, are largely symbolic. Yet, in exchange, “the U.S. has just persuaded the most isolated tyranny on Earth to disable a plutonium plant and turn over nearly 19,000 pages of nuclear documents.” Barack Obama talks a good game, but Bush has shown how to make tough diplomacy work.

It’s a pity Bush didn’t give diplomacy a whirl sooner, said The New York Times in an editorial. For six years, he rejected any serious diplomacy with North Korea, and his obstinacy gave Pyongyang time to make more fuel for weapons and test a nuclear device. “Now that American diplomats finally have been freed to negotiate, there is a chance that North Korea can be persuaded to give up its weapons. That would make the world a safer place.”

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