Tokyo Seoul Offer Faint Praise
Japanese And South Koreans Await Concrete Steps by North Korea

South Korea and Japan offered faint praise for the US North Korean agreement while hinting at some of its deficiencies.

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Amiel Ungar,

Koichiro Gemba (l(
Koichiro Gemba (l(

The agreement between North Korea and the United States, under which the Americans will deliver massive food aid to the Pyongyang regime and in return North Korea will freeze its nuclear and long-range missile program and open up to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors. is getting faint cheers at best.

The two countries most directly threatened by the North Korean nuclear program – South Korea and Japan,have been very reserved in their reaction to the agreement.

South Korea,in remarks by a senior government official, claims that the agreement in itself would not open the door for a resumption of the suspended 6 party talks, and Seoul would await "concrete steps." What was agreed upon was "pre-steps".

The South Koreans insist that the North give a commitment to refrain from military provocations, such as the 2 deadly incidents involving South Korean forces in 2010. The South Korean reaction also highlighted a loophole in the agreement, namely that its emphasis on the Yongbyon plant left open the possibility that the North would continue business as usual at other facilities.

Japan, speaking through its Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, similarly called for concrete action by North Korea and noted that Japan insists on denuclearization and not just a moratorium. Japan said it would not be participating in the food aid until there was a resolution of the painful issue of Japanese citizens who had been kidnapped by North Korea.

In the United States as well, the agreement came under criticism.  Critics recalled previous North Korean perfidy, when a similar agreement was reached during the Clinton administration. They also pointed out that Pyongyang had made similar pledges to the Bush administration and then had gone on to test nuclear devices.

An issue totally ignored by the agreement was North Korean involvement in nuclear proliferation, including assistance to Syria and Iran.

The two countries most enthusiastic about the agreement were China and Russia, because it validated their position that problems such as North Korean nuclearization could be best solved by negotiations, however tortuous they may appear.

For China, massive food aid could quell the influx of North Korean refugees to China. China also realizes that the North Korean nuclear threat helps bind South Korea and Japan to the United States. If things cool down, it may prove easier to pry them out of the American alliance system. China also hosted talks between the United States and North Korea, so she take credit for their "success".