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Will Iran, Korea really back off nukes?

Some laud moves with the two nations. Others are suspicious.

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After years of setbacks to nonproliferation efforts involving North Korea and Iran, the news appears to be good: a reactor shuttered, inspectors readmitted, the brakes applied to uranium enrichment.

Or, as some critics of the diplomatic efforts contend, are the two nuclear scofflaws hoodwinking the international community with clever diversions while they pursue a goal of developing nuclear weapons?

North Korea last weekend shut down a nuclear power plant that provided fuel for its nuclear weapons program, while Iran has slowed its uranium enrichment program. Both countries have agreed to readmit international inspectors: North Korea to verify and monitor the disabling of its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, and Iran to monitor a heavy-water reactor that experts say could be used to develop weapons-grade plutonium.

Iran has also agreed, for example, to a set of new inspection safeguards for its nuclear fuel-enrichment plant in Natanz.

And six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear operations are set to resume Wednesday in Beijing.

But not everyone thinks that the nonproliferation developments signal progress. Some caution that what looks like promising compliance by North Korea and Iran could simply be a facade behind which the two countries advance toward entry into the club of nuclear countries.

The North Korea deal, which rewards Pyongyang with food and oil, marks the end of the Bush administration's tough, desist-or-else approach to what it considered rogue regimes with nuclear ambitions, says John Bolton, the administration's former United Nations ambassador.

"This is North Korea succeeding with a tactical maneuver, something they've perfected over the last 50 years, but I still think they are never going to give up their nuclear capability because it is their trump card," he says.Now an expert in international institutions at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, Mr. Bolton expects both regimes to interpret recent actions by the international community, including the US, as a green light to pursue their nuclear aims.

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