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SEOUL - North Korea has agreed to suspend its enriched-uranium nuclear weapons program, a key United States demand for the resumption of disarmament talks, news reports said Dec. 17
Yonhap news agency and the Chosun Ilbo daily quoted an unidentified diplomatic source saying that Washington had also agreed to provide the North with up to 240,000 tons of food aid.
The missile test reportedly occurred from the east coast of North Korea. The regime conducts intermittent trial launches of short-range missiles during regular military maneuvers or in connection with delicate political situations, according to Reuters. The most recent launch was believed to have occurred in June (Jack Kim, Reuters/Chicago Tribune, Dec. 19).
Pyongyang is estimated as having enough fissionable material for fewer than 10 warheads, though no evidence has emerged to date that it has made any weapons operational by mating them with bombs or ballistic missiles. North Korea has said that its nuclear arms are for deterrence.
By some accounts, Kim, 69, was likely to have played a unique role over the disposition of the North’s atomic arms, both day-to-day and under any imagined combat scenario.
By contrast, Victor Cha, a former Asian affairs director at the National Security Council, said Kim’s sudden death could yet lead to serious instability in North Korea.
There is “the potential for loose nuclear weapons [in] a country that is a nuclear weapons state that doesn't have a leadership,” Cha, who now directs Asian studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, said on the PBS NewsHour on Monday. “And that is a far more difficult problem than what was already a difficult problem when it came to nuclear weapons in North Korea.”