23 July 2005

Can't We All Just Be Friends?

With just days to go before the resumption of the six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea reiterated its long-standing (but infrequently stated) optimal solution to the 2003 nuclear crisis (now two-years past the intended North Korean date of resolution). In a Foreign Ministry statement released by the KCNA, Pyongyang cited the imminent 52nd anniversary of the 1953 Armistice Agreement (July 27, one day after talks resume) and said he best solution to the nuclear crisis is a formal peace accord with Washington to replace he Armistice.

The key paragraph follows:

Replacing the ceasefire mechanism by a peace mechanism on the Korean Peninsula would lead to putting an end to the US hostile policy towards the DPRK, which spawned the nuclear issue, and the former's nuclear threat and automatically result in the denuclearization of the peninsula.

Essentially, Pyongyang says that the whole reason North Korea pursues nuclear weapons is to defend against the United States. And the reason that is necessary is because there is no formal peace mechanism between the two states. If there were, and the Armistice Agreement was replaced with a formal peace treaty, then Pyongyang would no longer feel threatened and no longer need nuclear weapons. Crisis solved in one simple step. No energy deal needed, no excessive payments of cash simply not to be bad.

Now, this is not necessarily reality. But this remains one of the core goals of North Korea, even if its methods (threatening nuclear weapons production and ballistic missile sales) appears a little counter-intuitive. Pyongyang feels embattled. It is one of the few relics of the Cold War (Cuba is another) that remains a semi-viable state, and it is convinced that Washington would like nothing more than to overthrow the North Korean regime and replace it with a “democratic” one. Pyongyang still has delusions of grandeur when it comes to U.S. priorities, but the fear of being sidelined from the global stage is certainly accurate.

By so blatantly stating their goal, of course, North Korea is finally realizing that the game is one they can’t win in the post-911 world. Washington just doesn’t play around like that. No guarantees a solution will be reached, but Pyongyang is obviously ready to get this self-made crisis over with and move on with other priorities, like trying to rebuild an economy without losing total political control. Its all fun and games until someone loses a regime.

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