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America: Time to Talk with North Korea

November 12, 2014 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Power is like quicksilver. It often slips through the fingers of those attempting to grasp it. Who is in power in North Korea? Maybe thirty-one-year-old Kim Jong-un. Maybe someone else.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues its policy of mixing threats and entreaties. A high-level delegation visited Seoul to propose further talks and promote warmer relations. Days later, the North’s troops were exchanging gunfire with the Republic of Korea’s military, only to be followed by an inconclusive military meeting—and most recently, the apparent collapse of bilateral negotiations.

Kim disappeared from public view for forty days. His reported health problems—gout or ankle or foot surgery—should not have prevented him from attending important meetings and being filmed while sitting. And his return was not entirely convincing: Pyongyang only released undated still photos of a smiling Kim leaning on a cane while talking with other officials.

There’ve been no untoward troop movements or party conclaves in the North, though there was disputed talk of a “lock-down” restricting movement in and out Pyongyang. When visiting Seoul, the DPRK’s number two, Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, seemed to enjoy some of the trappings of power previously limited to the supreme leader. The conflicting signs reawakened questions about the execution of Kim’s uncle, Jang Song-taek, a year ago. Was it Kim’s decision, or one forced on him by the military, which apparently had clashed with Jang over control of economic enterprises? There is no stability in the regime’s upper reaches: In his nearly three years at the top, Kim has replaced upwards of half of the party’s and military’s top officials, changing some positions multiple times.

It’s time for Washington to try something different.”

Whoever reigns, there is little reason to hope for nuclear disarmament. To the contrary, the North appears to be increasing production of fissile material, moving ahead on ICBM development and upgrading rocket-launch facilities. Who in Pyongyang has an incentive to abandon a weapon that causes the rest of the world to pay attention to an otherwise small, impoverished and even irrelevant nation? Why trade away an effective tool of financial blackmail that has yielded billions in aid from the ROK?

Finally, even a seemingly secure Kim, the “Great Successor” whose father concocted the North’s “military first” policy, would hesitate challenging the armed services by trading away its most important weapon. And if he is insecure—or merely a figurehead for …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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