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Washington Post: North Korea's six-party trap

Author: Nicholas N. Eberstadt, Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
April 14, 2011


Writing for the Washington Post, Nicholas Eberstadt argues that for all of its many weaknesses, North Korea employs a coherent and consistent strategy for nuclear negotiations.

Two years into the Obama administration — after detonating a nuclear weapon, test-firing long-range ballistic missiles, killing dozens of South Korean sailors in an unprovoked torpedo strike, unveiling a long-denied uranium enrichment facility, and murdering South Korean civilians in a daylight artillery attack that was broadcast globally — Pyongyang has decided to return to the negotiation tables.

With China's backing, North Korea is vigorously campaigning to draw the United States into another round of “six-party talks,” the multilateral deliberations on North Korean “denuclearization” first convened in 2003.

American officials appear increasingly receptive; this weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to visit South Korea, purportedly to test the waters with this key U.S. ally about a possible diplomatic reengagement with the North.

But if Obama's North Korea team really expects to settle some of its many differences with the North, it is in for a rude awakening. Pyongyang shows no intention of being ready to compromise with Washington. Quite the contrary: There is every reason to believe the North Korean regime regards new talks as an avenue for achieving permanent ratification of its status as a nuclear weapons state and for pressing demands for stunning new strategic concessions from Washington.

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