Today, the U.S. Department of State confirmed that, after years of posturing and belligerence on the development of its nuclear weapons, North Korea has agreed to suspend nuclear development and long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities. What brought about this change of heart? Certainly the threat of military response helped keep North Korea at bay for years — but it was international development, in the form of food aid, that ultimately applied the leverage necessary to start making progress toward the U.S. goal of a non-nuclear North Korea.

There remains, however, plenty of uncertainty surrounding North Korea, which has always been mysterious about its plans and ultimate objectives. As State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said:

“The United States still has profound concerns regarding North Korean behavior across a wide range of areas, but today’s announcement reflects important, if limited, progress in addressing some of these. We have agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with our proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance.”

We can be cautiously optimistic today about the future of our relations with North Korea, thanks in very large part to the hard work of the State Department, and the leverage that international development has provided. Thanks to everybody at the State Department who works on this issue and for making the world a safer place today.