Devlish Details

6 March 2018

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

North Korea Open to Denuclearization Talks

According to diplomats in the service of the South Korean government, North Korea is open to talks on denuclearization. The North has said there would be no need for its nuclear deterrent if it had sufficient security guarantees and offered a testing freeze during talks. This statement is in advance of a North-South summit scheduled for late April in the truce village of Panmunjom. Whether the position merely to buy time for the development of more weapons of mass destruction or whether there is something genuine about this olive branch, the news must be taken seriously.

Chung Eui-yong, head of the Blue House's National Security Office, said after a two-day trip to the North that included a four-hour meeting with the North's leader Kim Jong-un, "North Korea made clear its will for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It also assured that it has no reason to own nuclear arms if military threats against the North are resolved and the regime's security is guaranteed."

He added that the North wanted direct discussions with the US, "While the talks are ongoing, the North made clear that it will not conduct any additional nuclear tests or ballistic missile firings. Furthermore, the North assured that its nuclear weapons and conventional arms will not be used against the South."

There is little reason to believe that the offer is a straightforward plea for normalization, denuclearization and a formal end to the Korean War with a comprehensive peace treaty. The North Korean regime sits on bayonets, and it can ill-afford to let the pressure it maintains on its own population diminish very much.

That said, the North's willingness to talk cannot simply be ignored. The trade sanctions imposed by the UN are hurting, and the elites cannot travel outside the prison nation very easily because of them. The poverty of the North makes the regime vulnerable in the long run. As Herb Stein observed, "If something can't go on forever, it won't." Kim Jong-un is a young man and could conceivable rule another 50, 60 or even 70 years. Winding up like Benito Mussolini before he is 40 is hardly a desirable path from his perspective.

In other words, the offer is probably nonsense and will blow over after the summit in April. However, one of the offers either now or in the future is going to wind up being genuine, although it may not be deliberately so. Events can overtake strategy. Those with an interest in a peaceful Korean peninsula (and that's everyone) must take the offer seriously enough to explore just how intent Pyongyang is in making changes to the way it does business.

The main issue that proponents of talks must address is the past cheating by North Korea on its commitments. The violations are real and are problematic. Trust but verify, as the Russian proverb has it. Yet the violations cannot be used as a reason for ignoring the overtures. The details are always devilish.

Nevertheless, one expects the Trump administration to botch this, as they always do. If they don't dismiss it out of hand, they will likely set preconditions that make the negotiations pointless. An example would be denuclearization before any talks can start. It is a ridiculous mindset adopted mainly one the American right that the US must receive a concession as the price of talking. It is also one that will scupper these talks before they can start. Here's hoping a future administration won't be so short-sighted and hoping that happens before the North uses its weapons.

© Copyright 2018 by the Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Publisher. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. 

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