So, maybe after all of North Korea’s recent bluster we may now know a possible motivation for the recent standoff: Pyongyang might simply be in need of food.
The Wall Street Journal’s Korea Real Time blog reported this week that “at a courtesy call on the Mongolian president last week, Pyongyang’s new ambassador made a request for food aid, according to the official website for the head of state.”
Mongolia’s Presidential website has released a statement that confirms this report:
“At the meeting, both sides exchanged opinion on enhancing partnership in sport and cultural sector and discussed possibilities to bring North Korean basketball, football team and judokas to Mongolia to prepare for the international competitions. Mr. Hong Gyu said ‘North Korea may face severe food shortage. Therefore, we ask Mongolia to learn possibilities of delivering food aid to North Korea.’”
As has been discussed on The Diplomat, and by many academics and regional experts, there is a historical pattern of North Korean belligerence being followed by attempts to get aid. This process begins with North Korea making wild, outlandish threats or otherwise provoking a crisis. Many times South Korea, the United States and Japan have provided aid after some sort of agreement is reached. North Korea then later breaks the agreement, again making wild and threatening statements, and once again receiving again. This pattern has repeated over and over.
For its part, the Obama Administration has adopted a policy of “Strategic Patience,” which basically vows to not reward North Korean belligerence with negotiations for aid.
The United States, some would argue, has been backing off this approach recently — if only slightly. Over the past several weeks the U.S. has stated North Korea must show progress towards denuclearization before talks can resume.
While current tensions have eased somewhat over the past week, North Korea has rejected the United States’ preconditions for talks, stating, “If the DPRK sits at a table with the U.S. it has to be a dialogue between nuclear weapons states, not one side forcing the other to dismantle nuclear weapons.”
The U.S. has also rejected what could be called North Korea’s preconditions for talks as well.
So, how does the current crisis end? Stay tuned…