North Korea Shuts its Nuclear Reactor

The first, big step towards North Korean disarmament was confirmed by IAEA inspectors today. The plutonium producing facility in Yongbyon is now closed—the result of a diplomatic breakthrough acheived through the Six Party talks in February.

So what does this mean? For one, it shows just how impractical refusing to negotiate with one’s enemies can be. From December 2002 to February 2007 — when direct diplomacy was shunned — the North Korean government is estimated to have produced enough plutonium for ten nuclear weapons (and of course, actually detonated a nuclear weapon last October.) But more to the point, the recent progress shows that Security Council unanimity, combined with focused regional diplomacy and direct bilateral engagement with the United States can achieve desirable non-proliferation outcomes.