The American Interest

Out of Korea

Another futile round of the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program ended in Beijing last September.  The communist authorities in Pyongyang subsequently declared that further negotiations involving both Koreas, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States were pointless, but China said it was working to arrange a second round of talks.

For once, I am inclined to agree with the unlovely Comrade Kim Jong-Il.  As currently structured, the talks cannot succeed: He will not give up North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program without getting written security guarantees from the United States—especially not after seeing the demise of Saddam Hussein’s regime—while Washington refuses to grant such guarantees without first securing a promise of nuclear disarmament from Comrade Kim.

The two parties’ positions are not equally coherent.  Kim may be evil and paranoid, but—having been named a member of the “Axis of Evil” by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union Address in January 2002—his desire for a tangible insurance policy against “Operation Korean Freedom” is both rational and unsurprising.

For now, that insurance policy comprises an arsenal of atomic bombs that can pulverize Seoul or even Tokyo, but it may also take the form of a pact with Washington giving Kim and his regime the stamp of American legitimacy in perpetuity. ...

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