Pyongyang’s posturing

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Pyongyang’s posturing

As the year begins, North Korea is appearing edgy and its policies uncoordinated.

In an apparent message to the incoming American administration, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Tuesday, said denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula cannot take place unless bilateral ties with the United States are normalized.

But three days later it issued a contradictory statement, saying, “Even if bilateral ties normalize, we won’t surrender our nuclear weapons while the nuclear threat from the U.S. exists.”

Then on Saturday, the North’s military launched a threat against South Korea, declaring it will take an “all-out confrontational posture.” This stance does not square with their position to let the Kaesong Industrial Complex keep running.

North Korea appears to be testing bolder brinkmanship to draw attention from Seoul and the incoming Obama administration.

It inevitably has to resort to such maneuvering as it is quickly running out of cards to play against the Western world.

For the last 20 years, the North has maintained the same old threatening disposition. But it needs to be aware that the world has become weary of its game of brinkmanship.

Pyongyang may still have room for gains in its nuclear strategy. It can intensify its threat and get what it wants, such as financial support through North Korea-U.S relations or the six-party talks.

But that kind of maneuvering would be just a waste of time and do little to help its dismal economic state. It is obvious from the record that North Korea has long been a beneficiary of international support, but failed to use the resources to improve its economy.

So once again we are forced to emphasize that the fundamental remedy to its economic woes would be to resolve to abandon its nuclear ambitions and guarantee nuclear-free security. Through its senior spokesman, the North Korean military openly came out and threatened the South in December by restricting business at the Kaesong Industrial Park. Now it has done the same.

Its actions may be associated with a change in the power structure in Pyongyang. We need to be at full alert and keep close watch on the North’s internal affairs to read its future steps.

And importantly, we need to be in perfect coordination with the U.S. in order not to be swept away by North Korea’s persistent strategy to seek deals with Washington while keeping Seoul in the dark.

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