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Harder Line From North Korea At Talks?

A column in Japan's Daily Yomiuri asserts that North Korea's return to the Six Party Talks is a carefully calculated decision, post-nuclear test, and that Kim Jong-Il will likely take a much harder line now that he has demonstrated the production of a nuclear weapon.

Although North Korea has agreed to return to the table for the six-nation talks on its nuclear ambitions, negotiations will surely be hard going if they actually resume after a hiatus of about a year.

This is because North Korea, which claims it has become a nuclear power after its nuclear test last month, will raise the bar on conditions for every concession it makes. Diplomats from the other five countries involved in the talks are highly suspicious over whether Pyongyang seriously intends to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The North Korean nuclear problem may be further complicated if the going gets tough during the talks, as this would allow Pyongyang more time to develop its nuclear weapons.

A source in Seoul said North Korea's agreement to resume the talks was "a calculated action." Pyongyang knew the Oct. 9 nuclear test would shock the international community, and has been waiting for the United States, which has been tied up handling Middle East affairs, to offer a diplomatic solution.

The Seoul source believes the United States has been taken in by North Korea's tactics. Once North Korea returns to the six-nation talks, it will mean it has accepted a demand in the U.N. Security Council's resolution for sanctions against the country.

This conclusion holds much merit. Furthermore, it demonstrates the indispensable importance of the multi-lateral nature of the talks, with more than just the United States at the table for the North Koreans to argue with. China's pressence at the table is crucial, lending critical influence missing in the failed direct talks of the 1990's. The one-on-one talks that failed saw North Korea often successfully put the US and China at odds on the subject. This is something that the six-party talks have effectively diminished beyond North Korean usefulness.

This will be discussed at length in a ThreatsWatch analytical commentary to be published soon.


Today's (11/2) WSJ has an article about the painful financial measures U.S. Treasury has taken against NK. Apparently it's become most difficult for NK to do almost any international money transactions. Given the regime's essentially criminal character, starving it of money may be more effective than a parade of naval guns unlikely to be used under the circumstances. The WSJ suggests that at the resumption of 6-party talks NK will demand unfreezing of its Macau bank accounts. In our own domestic politics, under-the-radar Treasury actors may be more effective versus State Dept. appeasers than those at DoD.

I fully agree there. It was the reason they left the Six Party Talks to begin with. Having seen no success in their demands of retraction of the sanctions and little constructive result from their refusal (until now) to continue the talks, they appear to now be coming back to the table to try nuclear leverage.

Considering this, I am surely not alone in the belief that the North Korean nuclear weapons produced are far more for the purposes furthering extortion, considering the psychological leverage they provide, than for the aims of warfare.

To the extent that the NoKor weapons are intended for true defense (or, as many suspect, offense), the presence of top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders at both the summer's missile tests and October's nuclear test should be carefully weighed.

But even in that instance, the weapons' conceivable NoKor usage would be considered as an income generator rather than a North Korean war-maker.