The US and North Korea have agreed to a deal that would send over 240,000 tons food aid to North Korea in exchange for a moratorium on their nuclear program and missile testing. Yul Kwon speaks with Stanford University's David Straub about the agreement.
To help us understand what this agreement means, we're joined on Skype today by David Straub. Mr. Straub is associate director of the Korean Studies Program at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University. Among other diplomatic jobs, he was head of the political section at the US embassy in Seoul and ran the State Department's Korea Desk in Washington, DC. Thanks for joining us today, David. Now first of all, the Al Jazeera report says that this deal was in the works even before Kim Jong-Il died and his son was thrust into power. What can you tell us about that?
David Straub, Stanford University:
Well, that's basically correct. The US and North Korea were negotiating last year, and I think they were close to finalizing this agreement during the month of November, just before Kim Jong-il died. So I think the fact that they've now finalized the agreement suggests that there's a great deal of continuity in North Korea under the new leadership. That's the good news. It would have been bad if they had not been able to finalize this agreement. It would have suggested that there are serious problems with the new leadership.
So Kim Jong-un isn't exactly making a U-turn in terms of policy. But have circumstances in North Korea changed or worsened in the past year such that the regime is more anxious to make a deal now rather than later?
I don't think the situation has seriously deteriorated in North Korea, but it's probable that the new leadership there would like to show other people and the elite, as well as the people as a whole, that they're able to manage external threats and challenges. And also, North Korea is chronically short of food, and so under this deal, they're going to receive 240,000 tons of US food aid over the next year, and that will help alleviate the food shortage.
Secretary of State Clinton sounded very cautious when she announced the deal, characterizing it as a "modest first step," and saying that the US will "watch closely and judge" North Korea by its actions. From your experience in dealing with North Korea, do you feel that this level of caution is warranted?
Yes, indeed. The North Koreans have, in their own mind, good reasons to keep nuclear weapons. And over the years, they've negotiated with US and others about eventually giving up those weapons, but so far, all they've been willing to do is negotiating suspension of various programs, various kinds of talks on the margins that have never led to them completely giving up their nuclear weapons. And in the meantime, they get various concessions and aid. So yes, we need to be realistic and cautious when dealing with the North Koreans.
In contrast to the US, which gave a more tepid and cautious tone, North Korea by contrast, seemed a lot more positive when it released its statement about the moratorium. Was there anything about the statement that surprised you?
In the North Korean statement, they do say that when six-party talks are resumed, that the priority will be put on lifting sanctions on North Korea and providing North Korea with light-water nuclear reactors to provide energy. Now that's not in the American statement. And in fact, if you look at the North Korean statement, it doesn't say that there was agreement with the United States about this point. This is the North Koreans putting their negotiating position on the record.
A moratorium on the nuclear program and missile testing implies that the stoppage is just temporary and that it could resume at some future point in time. What do you think the US could do to try to facilitate a more permanent solution?
Well the moratorium is indeed just a temporary measure. In fact, in the North Korean statement, it says that the moratorium on nuclear tests and missile launches will continue only as long as the talks are continuing. That means, obviously, continuing to North Korea's satisfaction. But what this does do is move us a step closer to being able to hold another round of six-party talks in Beijing on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. And when we get there, if and when we get there, then it will be up to the six parties to have some very tough negotiations to try to reach a comprehensive agreement that will finally end North Korea's weapons programs.
How do South Korea's upcoming elections play into this week's announcement?
South Korea this year has national assembly elections and a presidential election. And South Koreans have long been very divided by how to deal with North Korea. On the right, the position is typically similar to the United States. That is, North Korea must first move to give up its nuclear weapons, and as it does so, we'll be willing to remove sanctions and provide some assistance. The left in South Korea believes that North Korea will not respond positively to that and that the best way to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons is to provide it with assurances, aid, and eventually to make North Korea believe that it no longer needs nuclear weapons to be secure. There's a possibility that the left will win the elections in South Korea, and if they do, they're going to pursue that kind of a policy, which usually is called a Sunshine Policy, that's significantly different than the policy of the Obama administration or of previous US administrations for the most part. So by having these talks with the North Koreans and possibly resuming six-party talks, the United States will be in a better position to try to cooperate with its South Korean ally if the progressives do win the elections this year.
Thanks, David. David Straub is a former diplomat and Korea expert. In 2009, he helped Bill Clinton gain the release of two American reporters who'd been captured on the border with China.
Thirty years after the CDC confirmed the first cases of HIV, millions have died, particularly in developing nations. But there's hope. Innovative HIV prevention programs -- including a peer education program from hair stylists in Zimbabwe and a media campaign promoting male circumcision in Africa -- are contributing to a decrease in the global rate of new HIV infections.
These and other stories of effective programs on the ground in developing nations are showcased in a new TV documentary, ViewChange: HIV Prevention - Looking Back & Moving Forward, that premieres on Friday, July 29, from Link TV and international global health organization PSI (Population Services International). Debra Messing, actor and PSI ambassador, narrates the half-hour show.
You can view ViewChange: HIV Prevention - Looking Back & Moving Forward online at www.viewchange.org.
You can also watch the documentary on Link TV (DIRECTV channel 375, DISH channel 9410) at the following times:
We hope you'll join us in marking this key milestone, and that you'll spread the word about what's working in global HIV prevention.
(Al Jazeera English: 0125 PT, May 13, 2011) The fight for global access to anti-Aids drugs has been given added urgency as a research study found that people with HIV who start taking anti-retroviral drugs early can dramatically reduce the danger of passing the virus to their partners.
(Al Jazeera English: 0431 PT, May 13, 2011) At least 70 paramilitary trainees are killed just 50km from Abbottabad, in an apparent revenge attack by the Pakistani Taliban following the death of Osama bin Laden.
(Press TV: 0243 PT, May 12, 2011) This pro-military rally, apparently urged by the government, was aimed at easing the pressure over the controversy surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden. But the mood was different at a meeting of the country's main opposition party, which was discussing the fallout of the Abbottabad operation that killed Bin Laden. Press TV's Kamran Yousaf reports from Islamabad
(Channel 4 News: 0740 PT, May 12, 2011) Eric Holder, United States Attorney General, tells Channel 4 News that US drone strikes in Pakistan are consistent with international law.
Two contrasting reports from Afghanistan on attempts to create local police and military forces capable of controlling the troubled country when the US and NATO leaves.
(Associated Press: 0851 PT, May 10, 2011) US personnel have been training and fighting alongside Afghan special operations forces. The development of such commandos may be key if Americans are to reduce their presence in the country.
(Al Jazeera English: 0238 PT, May 10, 2011) The Afghan Local Police (ALP) has been expanding fast across the country over the past year. Community-based units, they are seen as a pet project of NATO commander General David Petraeus, who has described the ALP as having a significant impact. But the police force has also faced allegations of theft, abduction and intimidation. Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Maidan Wardak province.
(Euronews: 0742 PT, May 10, 2011) NATO aircraft conducted raids over Tripoli overnight with government buildings bearing the brunt of the attacks. Libyan officials escorted journalists to the High Commission for Children, which suffered extensive damage. Witnesses in the capital say NATO planes were trying to hit Gaddafi's compound.
(Al Jazeera English: 2352 PT, May 9, 2011) NATO warplanes launched a new round of airstrikes in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, witnesses said. They told Al Jazeera the attacks targeted several sites, including Muammar Gaddafi's compound. Earlier, the United Nations humanitarian chief called for a break in fighting to allow medical aid into the country. Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar reports.
(Al Jazeera English: 0910 PT, May 6, 2011) Following the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden, various groups in many Pakistani cities have railed against violations of the South Asian country's sovereignty. Imtiaz Tyab reports.
(Al Jazeera English: 0910 PT, May 5, 2011) In the days since Osama bin Laden's killing, the Obama administration has been at pains to stress that the US-Pakistan relationship is intact. But other politicians have been much more critical. Al Jazeera's Rosiland Jordan reports.