Watching negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program is a bit like watching "Groundhog Day."
Past is prelude when it comes to North Korea's nuclear weapons program, so it should be no surprise that the United States this week announced an agreement much like its past agreements.
In exchange for 240,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea, the "Hermit Kingdom" has announced that it will suspend its uranium-enrichment and its long-range missile and nuclear tests.
That would normally be viewed as good news — offering aid to the starving in that country while obtaining a commitment to stop its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. But this country has made agreements like this before, and North Korea keeps breaking them.
The U.S. had an agreement in place three years ago with North Korea for the same thing. After having received about one-third of a promised 500,000 metric tons of food aid, North Korea rewarded our generosity by testing a long-range missile.
So there is no reason to have any confidence that this new agreement will be any more successful than previous efforts.
Of course, both sides issued the usual promises about inspection programs intended to make sure that North Korea keeps its word. But there's nothing new about inspections. What would be new is if North Korea actually complied with its agreements.
Maybe it will, and maybe it won't.
There is no telling what this inscrutable regime will do next, particularly after the recent death of its longtime dictator Kim Jong Il.
He was succeeded by his young and inexperienced son, Kim Jong Un, amid reports that leaders of the country's military were not pleased by the turn of events.
About the only thing that is certain is that North Korea is a desperate country where citizens' lives are tightly controlled by a brutal, unpredictable regime.
Most disappointing is that there is no guarantee the food aid will go where it's intended. There is no oversight of that program and U.S officials have been concerned that in the past, aid was distributed to the military or members of the governing elite or even sold at a profit on the black market.
So this news could be either good or bad. But it would be no surprise at all if North Korea breaks its word on the nuke issue in the next year or so.