Brinkmanship, again

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Brinkmanship, again

North Korea is again threatening to develop nuclear weapons. It has refused to attend the six-party talks, expelled International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from the country and said that it has begun reprocessing spent fuel rods - which could be used to develop weapons-grade plutonium.

North Korea has been using its nuclear capability as a threat for over 15 years, since 1993. In relations with other countries, the North has no better card to play.

Of course, the North has also extracted political and economic benefits from all of this, particularly when South Korea and the United States have capitulated and engaged the North in talks or contributed various forms of financial aid.

However, it is time for North Korea to think clearly about what benefits it has really reaped from its brinkmanship.

In the process of negotiating the 1994 Agreed Framework, the North complimented itself, saying that it made the U.S. surrender. But construction of light-water reactors, which the North considered to be the biggest result of the Geneva meeting that brought about the accord, was canceled in the end.

Things were much the same after the second nuclear threat in 2002 when, after much ado, the North only gained a few hundred thousand tons of crude oil. Later, though it was removed from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, it was still unable to bring about even a minimal economic recovery and it could not guarantee its national defense.

Most importantly, North Korea’s biggest fault is pushing the U.S. into a corner even though it must know that the administration of Barack Obama is willing to look upon the North more favorably than its predecessor.

How can the North expect to get the U.S. to the table now that it has blasted off a rocket despite widespread international opposition and refused further participation in the six-party talks?

The North, which put a halt to talks with the U.S. after the missile launch and nuclear test in 2006, is now planning to strengthen its nuclear deterrent. The Choson Sinbo, the pro-North Korea newspaper in Tokyo, has already acknowledged the possibility of the North restarting nuclear testing.

What is important now is what action would be taken by South Korea and the U.S. The answer is close to what U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at her confirmation hearing when she said that even though the leadership in North Korea was unclear, it would be a mistake to submit to their actions. The U.S. must remember that if it does not take strong action, we will all be destined to repeat the past.
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