North Korea

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I've mentioned the DPRK (that's North Korea, as opposed to ROK, which is South Korea) in this space before (such as here and here).

A quick rundown: North Korea twice entered bilateral agreements with the Clinton administration. Both times, the DRPK agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for food, energy, and other assistance. Both times, the DPRK violated those agreements unilaterally, restarting its nuclear program.

What was entirely obvious is that the North Korean government had no intention of ever getting rid of its nuclear program, and was abusing the process: by merely freezing their program (instead of dismantling it) and by entering agreements with only one other country per agreement, they could be in a cycle of a. threaten everyone else, b. put program on hold, c. get handouts, d. restart program to try to get more handouts.

This was clearly an untenable situation, so when Bush came along, the policy changes slightly, but significantly: no more bilateral talks (as they were a proven failure, because there's no way to put pressure on the DPRK if they violate an agreement with the U.S. alone, instead of an agreement with all of its neighbors), and no more accepting a mere freeze of their nuclear programs (but requiring a dismantling).

There have been some successes in this along the way. Frankly, the policy is still working: North Korea is still demanding bilateral talks. What does that tell you? That is is afraid of the inevitable result of multilateral talks. Which means multilateral talks are still the right thing to do. Honestly, why does anyone think they are demanding bilateral talks? What possible reason could there be for them, except that they know they can more easily violate such an agreement?

The DPRK is hoping this nuclear test will make the U.S. panic and jump at the chance of bilateral talks, and a nuclear freeze, which will just put us back on the path to have to deal with this all over again in a few years when they decide to violate THAT agreement. They realized Bush is stubborn and mere posturing was not going to force us into bilateral talks, so hey, maybe an actual test will do it. Missile test? Nope. Maybe actual nuke test?

If I know Bush, it's thankfully not going to work. If we enter into bilateral talks here, we will be merely continuing a proven failed policy, at a time when failure is more dangerous than ever. But never before has China been so steadfastly opposed to North Korean policy than in the last 24 hours, and the test will also surely reinvigorate the recently weakened ROK position (the DPRK's cousins to the south have been having fantasies of imminent reconciliation).

There's only one way forward here, that I can see: keep pushing multilateral talks, set a deadline, announce the bombers will be coming if the deadline is missed, and fulfill the promise should that happen.

Sure, such a response from the U.S. might lend some fuel to the DPRK claim that the U.S. is the real aggressor here, and the only reason they have a nuclear weapons program in the first place is to defend itself from the U.S., but no one outside the DPRK actually believes that.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on October 9, 2006 9:30 AM.

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