Sunday, October 26, 2003

an NK "concession"?

Here's the article.

SEOUL, South Korea -- In its first concession after months of hostility, North Korea signaled yesterday that it would consider President Bush's offer of written security assurances in return for the dismantling of its nuclear program.

The conciliatory statement, first reported by the North Korean news agency, marked an abrupt about-face for North Korea, which days earlier had ridiculed Bush's offer as "laughable" and "not worth considering."

My initial reaction: more shit.

There was speculation in Seoul that the change of heart was a result of pressure from China, which brokered six-party talks in August and has been trying to coax the North Koreans back to the table for another round of negotiations. The Chinese parliamentary leader, Wu Banggao, is scheduled to arrive in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day trip during which the restarting of the talks are expected to be high on the agenda.

Chinese pressure? It's welcome, if it's happening. Anticipatory Retaliation posts a polite reminder that China has three divisions stationed along the NK border.

North Korea's move follows an even bigger concession by Bush, who said that the administration would consider giving North Korea written security assurances that the United States will not attack if the North dismantles its nuclear program.

But how meaningful is Bush's concession as long as it's tied to verification?

Although the North Korean statement was terse and vaguely written, it marked a rare moment of civility after months of vituperation toward the United States, and it was roundly cheered in diplomatic quarters.

Do you ever get the feeling that diplomats are occasionally too close to the issues to see them clearly? I don't see what there is to cheer.

U.S. allies in the region -- particularly South Korea -- think that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is using the threats out of fear that he could become the target of a pre-emptive war, such as the one in Iraq this year. They also say the United States must offer security guarantees if the North Koreans are to disarm.

Whatever guarantees we offer need to be done with our fingers crossed.

What does "guarantee" mean, in this case? A peace treaty, effectively speaking? A formal declaration of the end of hostilities? I'm not sure I get the particulars.

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