Reports about the discovery of more than 30 tonnes of weapons (including rockets, explosives and missile components) on a plane inspected in Thailand, believed to have just come from North Korea, underscore the point I made recently about Pyongyang’s apparent inability to negotiate in good faith.
What must be particularly galling for the United States is that the plane likely left just after US special envoy Stephen Bosworth met with North Korean officials for talks that he described as ‘useful’. There was no agreement reached on when North Korea would return to the six-party talks over its nuclear programme, but South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the two sides had agreed to conduct talks aimed at replacing the Korean War armistice agreement with a peace treaty.
As the Korea Herald points out in an editorial:
‘The incident reveals that even as it was pursuing dialogue with Washington, North Korea was pursuing illegal arms exports. The incident also exposed North Korea’s duplicity. On the other hand, the fact that the Thai authorities inspected the cargo on a tip-off from the United States shows Washington’s resolve to continue with UN sanctions while engaging in dialogue with North Korea.’
But it adds rather optimistically:
‘Perhaps the seizure of the arms cargo will drive home the message to the leadership in Pyongyang that it really does not have much choice but to return to the aid-for-denuclearization talks.’
Maybe it will return to talks. But as far as a serious commitment to denuclearizing goes, it’s difficult to see how anything is sufficiently different to make North Korea change its mind. It just doesn’t want to, and there’s nothing really on the table that will make its self-serving and self-glorifying leadership even think honestly about doing so.