Wednesday, July 25, 2007 at 10:29 AM

Latest razzle-dazzle in North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Just over a week ago, US President George W. Bush hailed what he thought was a silver lining in the dark clouds that have hovered over disarmament negotiations with North Korea from day one of his presidency. Bush’s triumphal hope stemmed from the fact that North Korean President Kim Jong Il promised to not only shut down his nuclear program completely, but also allow UN inspectors to verify his compliance.

But Kim made this promise only after Bush agreed to the release of $25 million that had been frozen at a Macau bank – to punish him for being an uncontrollable (nuclear) menace – so that it could be transferred to an account at a Russian bank under his control….

Unfortunately, it only took days for Bush to realize that that silver lining was just the glint from Kim’s now patented Cheshire grin. Because, true to form, Kim wanted far more than the cash in hand to fulfil his promise.

In fact, his bedevilment in this respect forced six-party negotiators to adjourn their meeting on Saturday after Kim’s bag men refused to confirm that he will fully disclose all of his nuclear activities or permanently disable his main nuclear reactor by year’s end as promised.

(Incidentally, representatives from China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States have been negotiating the terms of North Korea’s proposed disarmament since 2003.)

But even I anticipated this latest razzle-dazzle in Kim’s nuclear brinksmanship. Indeed, I could have told Bush that Kim would consider the release of that $25 million as nothing more than a good-faith gesture. After all, Kim does not need cash (which he counterfeits at will anyway) as much as he needs oil to fuel his totalitarian regime and international respect to stabilize his Napoleonic complex.

Therefore, no one should have been surprised that the six-nation meetings hit an impasse when Kim’s reps insisted that there will be no more (empty) promises made about disclosing or disabling anything until the West forks over 950,000 tons of fuel and unqualified diplomatic recognition of their “Dear Leader”.

And so, despite vowing not to be hoodwinked by Kim’s Three-Card Monte diplomacy (the way, he insists, his predecessor Bill Clinton was), Bush has clearly been had. But, more to the point, here’s how I framed the prospect of negotiating with Kim almost two years ago – in an article entitled Resolving the North Korean menace:

…no one familiar with Kim’s negotiation tactics should be surprised by this turn of events [i.e. that he reneged on yet another promise to disclose and disarm his nuclear program]. After all, this little tyrant has been performing his own version of the tail wagging the dog, with infuriating effect, for many years.

Recall the embarrassing spectacle of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright [in the Clinton Administration] traveling all the way to Pyongyang in 2000 to toast a similar triumph of diplomacy only to have Kim renege on his word even before she made it back on American soil. And recall the equally futile overtures of South Korean leaders who offered a bonanza of economic benefits through their Sunshine Policy only to have Kim accept with one hand in agreement whilst giving them the finger with the other.

So, until the next kabuki nuclear dance (scheduled for September), Kim will be sitting quite comfortably in his (nuclear) catbird seat!

Related Articles:
Why do world leaders even give North Korea’s president the time of day
Resolving the North Korean menace

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