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.