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Monday, August 10, 2009

Approach to North Korea

I will state up front that I think that in the end The Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK, aka North Korea) will get a small number of nuclear weapons and a way to deliver them.  On the other hand, I don't think they will use them.

That said, we do need to be careful about how we work this issue and one of the reasons is Japan and South Korea.  If either thinks we are going to cut our own deal and move out, they will be energized to obtain nuclear weapons.  That will put a small dent in our non-proliferation efforts.

So, in today's Boston Globe we see this item on the US being willing to do one-on-one talks with North Korea.
The Obama administration said yesterday it is willing to hold direct talks with North Korea over its nuclear weapons if it first resumes international negotiations.
On the other hand, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, yesterday warned against such actions.  I am not a big fan of Henry the K, but he is a very bright person and has some insight.
Already, speculation is rife that the Clinton visit inaugurates the prospect of a change of course of American policy and of a bilateral U.S.-North Korea solution.  But two-party talks outside the six-party framework never made any sense.  North Korean nuclear weapons threaten the North's neighbors more than they do the United States.  The other members of the six-party talks are needed to help enforce any agreement that may be made or to sustain sanctions on the way to it.  These countries should not be made to feel that the United States uses them as pawns for its global designs.  To be sure, the Obama administration has disavowed any intentions for separate, two-power talks.  But the other parties will be tempted to hedge against the prospect that these assurances may be modified.  That feeling is likely to be particularly strong in Japan, where a national election campaign is underway and where Tokyo already feels it has secured inadequate support on behalf of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
As an aside, do you think Dr Kissinger figured this out on his own for his Sunday column or do you think some unhappy person inside the Obama Administration leaked this problem to Dr K so that back fire could be created before the announcement?  In DC one can never be sure.

At any rate, the US needs to be careful in how it deals with North Korea.  Even if we play a perfect game, there are a lot of other players and they could "make mistakes."  Further, economic collapse in North Korea could make it a whole new ball game.  And that isn't even considering possible chaos if the upcoming transition of power from Kim Jong Il to his son, Kim Jong Un, is interrupted by internal North Korean coups.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And that isn't counting the rumor that North Korea is helping Burma learn to make nuclear weapons.  Burma?

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