Is North Korea really giving up its nukes?

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I have some good news for humanity in general — and for the portion of humanity living within range of North Korea's ballistic missiles in particular.

On Sept. 19, North Korea agreed in principle to give up its nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons programs.

Usually, it's good policy to ignore everything that North Korea announces via its news agencies. After all, on the same day that the Korean Central News Agency announced the country's intent to de-nuke, it also ran a "news" story proclaiming that North Korean scientists have developed a breakthrough drug called "Royal Body-Fresh" that cures nephritis, diabetes and, I kid you not, bed-wetting — all without side effects. Ask your doctor if Royal Body-Fresh is right for you.

But North Korea's promise to de-nuke isn't just some amusing announcement from Kim Jong-Il's propaganda department. It's the fruit of a couple of years of on-and-off international negotiations known as the six-party talks (the six parties being the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia).

With the agreement, announced in Beijing last week, North Korea promises to give up its nukes and nukes program in a "verifiable" manner. It also promises to re-enter the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, an international agreement that allows foreign inspectors to conduct periodic checks to ensure nuclear facilities are not being used to make nuclear weapons. North Korea had dropped out of the treaty in 2002.

In exchange for North Korea's cooperation, the United States has promised not to invade or attack North Korea, to work toward normalizing North Korea's diplomatic ties with the rest of the world, and to provide economic aid to North Korea, including giving the country a light-water nuclear reactor for electricity production. Light-water reactors create fewer weaponizable (is that a word?) nuclear byproducts than other types of reactors.

That one of the world's nastiest governments might soon give up its ability to kill millions at the flick of a switch isn't the only good thing about the agreement. It also marks a fundamental and encouraging shift in American foreign policy. You know that funny anti-Bush bumper sticker complaining that "Yeehaw" is not a foreign policy? Well, this deal is evidence that, at last, "Yeehaw" may no longer be considered Bush's foreign policy. Yeehaw!

What do I mean, exactly?

Well, you see what "Yeehaw" has done in Iraq. In North Korea, "Yeehaw" meant that, until quite recently, the administration's policy for dealing with the country has been to be as petulant to North Korea as North Korea has been to everyone else. Bush's declaration that North Korea was part of an "Axis of Evil" may have impressed Sean Hannity, but it also spurred North Korea to drop out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and accelerate its nuclear program. The country now has around 10 nukes and, thus, the ability to kill millions of South Koreans and Japanese — and possibly even hit the U.S. West Coast. Before North Korea dropped out of the NPT, the country probably had only one or two nukes.

"Yeehaw" also manifested itself in Bush's weird insistence on publicly referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il as "evil." One time, Bush even called him a "pygmy." Other than keeping North Korea away from the bargaining table, thereby giving the country time to make even more nukes, what exactly did the name-calling accomplish?

You might be wondering what will replace the "Yeehaw" doctrine. Well, believe it or not, it's the Clinton doctrine. The new agreement with North Korea is virtually identical to the one that Clinton's State Department negotiated with North Korea in 1994 — the same agreement that Bush explicitly disavowed in 2001, in the early days of the "Yeehaw" doctrine.