Back in New York. Summer just continues here. Clear blue sky over the East Coast, but the nation is now keenly following hurricane Rita as it gathers strength and approaches the coastline.
It was indeed remarkable that it was possible to agree on a statement of principles in after 23 months of the so-called six party talks on the question of North Koreas nuclear program. It is obvious that Beijing had decided to demonstrate that at the end of the day they are able to deliver.
The document agreed upon certainly does not resolve all aspects of the conflict. It will unavoidably be compared with the 1994 deal that Pyongyang later violated by initiating a separate uranium-based weapons program, leading to the crisis that produced the crisis of today.
There are differences, but there are more of similarities. North Korea is promised normalized relations as well as access to civilian nuclear technology in exchange for giving up its weapons program. That was the essence of the 1994 deal, and that remains the essence of this deal.
But the devil is always in the details – not th least when one is trying to make a deal with the devil.
Pyongyang has immediately stated that it demands access to a light-water reactor before it dismantles its nuclear program. And Washington has said that this is all wrong, and that it has to be the other way around.
That will be the conflict when the talks continue, as well as the need to establish fool-proof mechanisms for making certain that Pyonyang does not try to cheat again. This will not be easy.
The deal has already aroused an amount of controversy here in the United States, since it does not really conform to what was implied in the beginning of the Bush administration. But with US powers bogged down elsewhere, there is de facto only a diplomatic track open, and there are limits to what can be achieved in this way.
Interesting is to see what implications this deal will have on the ongoing dispute with Iran.
The situations are different. Iran has not left the NPT, and accepts intrusive IAEA inspections. It professes to have no ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
But the similarity is still there in the nature of the deals that must be offered.
If the US offered to normalize its relations with Iran, and if ways could be found to more credible assist their civilian nuclear ambitions under strict monitoring, perhaps there would be more of a way forward in the case of Iran as well.