2003 April 12 Saturday
North Korea May Accept Multilateral Talks

North Korea drops its absolute opposition to multilateral talks.

``If the U.S. is ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue, the DPRK will not stick to any particular dialogue format,'' the North's KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

Its not clear that this really amounts to much of a concession. North Korea is demanding a non-aggression treaty with the United States. However, the "bold switchover" that the North Koreans seek may be the acceptance by the US of North Korea as a nuclear power with on-going nuclear weapons production.

Meanwhile, in a statement to Interfax news agency Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov hints that Russia will drop its opposition to sanctions against North Korea if North Korea starts making nuclear weapons.

"We will oppose this approach as long as our North Korean colleagues maintain common sense," Losyukov said. "But Russia will have to seriously consider its position, as the appearance of nuclear weapons in North Korea and the possibility of its using them close to our borders goes categorically against Russia's national interests."

South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun says North Korea's leaders are scared by what they saw in Iraq.

"And furthermore, in 2001, there was mention of preemptive strikes against North Korea," he said. "The United States has named North Korea as one of the axis of evil, and has even mentioned the possibility of a nuclear attack against North Korea. So I think North Korea can't help but to feel very nervous and afraid. Especially watching the recent Iraqi war I'm sure they are very much terrified . . . petrified by the Iraqi war."

Russia and China want to keep the UN Security Council out of involvement in dealing with the North Korea nuclear weapons development problem.

Moscow and Beijing prefer not to put pressure on North Korea through the United Nations but Chinese and Russian diplomats say they have pushed hard behind the scenes to get Pyongyang to shift tack away from insisting on bilateral talks only.

At the recent closed doors discussion of North Korea's nuclear weapons program China blocked issuance of a UN Security Council statement put forward by the United States to condemn North Korea's nuclear weapons development program.

But in a private meeting of envoys from the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China that took place late on Monday, Paris and London backed that approach but Beijing was strongly opposed while Moscow was hesitant, diplomats said.

Kim Jong-il is scared. The recent demonstration of US military prowess has definitely got his attention. But he's still probably unwilling to abandon his nuclear weapons development programs (plural on "programs" because he's pursuing plutonium and uranium bombs) under any circumstances. Russia and China want to keep the UN out of it and deal with the issue privately. Russia and China are pressuring North Korea but it is not clear that they are both able and willing to apply enough pressure to North Korea to get it to entirely abandon its nuclear weapons development programs.

Absent a credible US threat to North Korea Kim Jong-il will see no reason to abandon his nuclear weapons development programs. He wants nuclear weapons in order to increase his leverage to get aid (i.e. use nukes for blackmail) and to bring closer the day of unifying the Korean peninsula under the rule of his regime. Plus, any other types of weapons his regime has developed to date have been sold for needed currency. On the other hand, the ability of the US military to bring down his regime increases his determination to develop nuclear weapons to use as a deterrence against attack. The problem, in a nutshell, is that Kim Jong-il's motivation to develop nuclear weapons is pretty strong with or without a credible US threat to the existence of his regime.

The problem from the US perspective is that it is hard to imagine an inspections regime for North Korea that could work well enough that the North Korean regime would also agree to. The inspectors would need total unimpeded access to all of North Korea. Even with that level of access it is uncertain that the inspectors could find all of the sites that the North Korean regime has for doing nuclear weapons development.

War continues to be an unappealing option because the casualties for all concerned would be orders of magnitude higher than what has been seen in the war to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The North Korean regime would probably manage to fire hundreds of thousands of conventional and chemical artillery shells at populated areas in northern Seoul and kill hundreds of thousands. Also, it might fire missiles with chemical warheads at sites deeper into South Korea and possibly kill millions of South Koreans with chemical weapons. North Korea might even fire chemical warhead missiles at Japanese cities.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 April 12 11:17 AM  Korea


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