Thursday, February 10, 2005

North Korea's Nukes Go Public

North Korea, a card-carrying member of the distinguished Axis of Evil club for its efforts in amassing the world's fourth largest army at the expense of its populations' desire to have a decent meal, publicly admits it has nuclear weapons. No real surprise here as they privately told U.S. diplomats the same thing last year. NK also said they won't be returning to the bargaining table anytime soon either.

What was rather interesting was the hermit kingdom's rationale for maintaining its nuclear program (from the AP):

It [N.K.] said Washington's alleged attempt to topple the North's regime "compels us to take a measure to bolster its nuclear weapons arsenal in order to protect the ideology, system, freedom and democracy chosen by its people."

Ok, you guys can stop kidding yourselves now. You just admitted publicly that you have nukes. Why can't you come full circle now and admit you starve and mutilate your own people, too. You may as well.

I don't know if this public revelation will change U.S. efforts to move forward with the six-party talks. It looks like they know they're going to get a lot more stick than carrot from the U.S. right now and want to give the U.S. and our allies in this process a taste of our own medicine. Keep in mind, this saber-rattling comes on the heals of the successful Iraqi elections and President Bush's public warning to Iran yesterday to stop developing nukes. So despite progress elsewhere, this tussle is definitely a major, major headache and I believe, if something dramatic (for the better, that is) doesn't happen soon, we're going to go to the brink with the North Koreans on this.

On the other hand, Nicholas Kristof, whom I normally don't always agree with, had some pretty good points about this issue in his column yesterday:

"The other option is the path that Richard Nixon pursued with Maoist China: resolute engagement, leading toward a new 'grand bargain' in which Kim Jong Il would give up his nuclear program in exchange for political and economic ties with the international community. This has the advantage that the best bet to bring down Mr. Kim, the Dear Leader, isn't isolation, but contacts with the outside world.

"A terrific new book on North Korea, 'Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader' by Bradley Martin, underscores how those few glimpses that North Koreans have had of the outside world - by working in logging camps in Russia or sneaking trips to China - have helped undermine Mr. Kim's rule. Yet Westerners have in effect cooperated with him by helping to keep his borders sealed.

"At least China and South Korea have a strategy to transform North Korea: encourage capitalism, markets and foreign investment. Chinese traders, cellphones and radios are already widespread in the border areas, and they are doing more to weaken the Dear Leader than anything Mr. Bush is doing."

Obviously we have a long way to go here.

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