Tantrum Time Again?


Looks like the next round of ‘Make a pledge, break a pledge’ is set to start with North Korea, with news that Barack Obama is sending his special envoy to Pyongyang in an effort to get the country back to the table for six-way talks.

One of the most interesting things that appears to have come from talks is the idea of a ‘grand bargain’, under which North Korea would get a package of rewards for abandoning its nuclear programme. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak reportedly mentioned the idea a few times in a press conference with Obama, though Obama didn’t use the term himself.

The problem with this approach, aside from the fact that we’ve been down this road before, is that it is premised on the assumption that deep down, Kim Jong-il really wants to give up the nuclear weapons programme. But there’s little evidence he does.

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As L. Gordon Flake, a Korea analyst with the Mansfield Foundation, put it to me once–if North Korea gives up its nuclear programme, then it’s basically Bangladesh. The point being, with respect to Bangladesh, that it is of relatively little strategic importance and interest to the rest of the world.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton probably could have been a little more diplomatic than publicly likening Kim to an unruly child earlier this year. But at the end of the day, she’s right isn’t she?

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