It’s Pyongyang’s turn to yield

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It’s Pyongyang’s turn to yield

The United States plans to restore full relations with Cuba, ending 50 years of hostility with its past Cold War enemy. Leaders from the United States and Cuba simultaneously announced on Wednesday that they will begin talks to normalize diplomatic relations. Following Cuba’s release of a U.S. government subcontractor after nearly five years of imprisonment, President Barack Obama spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro in the first communication between Washington and Havana at the presidential level since Fidel Castro came into power in the 1950s.

The breakthrough comes due to a shift by Washington toward its neighbor. Obama said a rigid and outdated policy of isolating Cuba achieved little to bring about change on the island nation and called for a new approach. America must “cut loose the shackles of the past, so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people.”

Since coming into power, Obama has promised changes on policies regarding Cuba and allowed Cuban-Americans to travel and send money to their families there. The latest move also included a review of Cuba on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, as well as an ease on financial transactions and travel permits. But there are many obstacles to overcome before the two can normalize full relations. A trade embargo, for one, requires congressional approval. Republicans who oppose rapprochement to Cuba dominate both the lower and upper house.

After Washington improves ties with Havana, eyes will be on its move on Pyongyang - its last Cold War enemy. Only North Korea and Iran would then lack diplomatic ties with the United States. Washington has been carrying out multilateral nuclear talks with Iran and has made some progress. The United States, as a sponsor of the armistice agreement to end the 1950-53 Korean War, must play a more active role to end the Cold War legacy on the Korean Peninsula. It should address the North Korean nuclear problem in a broader and longer context instead of sticking to the position of demanding improvement in denuclearization before any progress in the relationship. Obama admitted such a rigid policy failed to make an impact in Cuba. He must come to the same view on North Korea. Washington and Havana were able to break the ice because both yielded.

Pyongyang must also make tangible overtures if it wants to come out of isolation. It must recommit to the 2005 declaration to end nuclear weapons development and improve human rights conditions. JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 19, Page 34
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