submitted a long-overdue declaration of its nuclear programs to China, in accordance with agreements made during the six-party talks. U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed the move as "one step in the multi-step
process laid out by the six-party talks," immediately lifted the application
of the Trading with the Enemy Act, and notified Congress of his intent to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
What does all this mean in practice? The Bush administration's moves are highly symbolic, and
unlikely to have any immediate, practical impact. Most U.S. sanctions based on the Trading
with the Enemy Act (pdf) were already lifted in 2000, and most of those still in
place are authorized by an overlapping hodgepodge of other laws and
regulations. Minor changes will go into effect -- for instance, some imports from
will no longer require licenses -- but for the most part trade policies will remain
Bush's intention to remove North
Korea from the state sponsors of terror list is a
similarly symbolic gambit; the actual removal cannot go into effect for 45 days
after the notification to Congress, and in any case it is probably contingent
on verifying North Korea's
nuclear declaration. Countries on the terror list cannot receive, among other
economic aid or loans from the World Bank and other financial institutions.
Removing North Korea
from the list may allow more money to flow in, but, as a U.S. Treasury
spokesman noted yesterday, sanctions aimed at preventing money laundering, illicit
finance, and weapons proliferation will remain firmly in place.
Practicalities aside, this development has rightly
been hailed as a diplomatic success; the New York Times today declared
it a "triumph." The path to a denuclearized North Korea is still long and the process could
easily be derailed at any point, but it is nice to finally have some reason,
however slight, for optimism.