There’s been a flurry of reports the past couple of weeks suggesting that North Korea is finally ready to return to the Six-party talks on its denuclearisation.
According to the Korea Herald this ‘willingness’ to reconsider is based largely on the country’s deteriorating economic situation:
‘Recent reports showed that the North Korean economy may be at its worst, with a record number of people dying of starvation in provincial areas.
‘A report by Good Friends, a North Korean human rights group, said in its recent newsletter that many died of hunger in South Pyeongan Province, following a similar report last month that people starved to death in the Hamgyeong region.
‘As a further indication of a worsening recession, Pyongyang has been increasingly focusing on economic improvement in many of its editorials and broadcasts.
‘In a rare move, it also came out to meet South Korean officials on adjusting the business conditions of the joint industrial park in Gaeseong, which previously served as a major cash cow for the North.’
However, the report also rightly highlights the probability that things are likely not so bad that the country will forfeit its nuclear ambitions. Christian Whitton, a former US State Department official under the George W. Bush administration who advised on North Korea, will be giving his take for The Diplomat next week on the situation, and making some policy recommendations for moving forward. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see if there are any indications if Pyongyang is simply going to take what it wants and run–again.