Snakes on a trans-Siberian train

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Snakes on a trans-Siberian train

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Kim Jong-il was on board his armored train on the Trans-Siberian railway when he learned about the downfall of Libyan dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi. Enjoying the scenery of the wide Siberian plain spread out before him, Kim and Vice Premier Kang Sok-ju discussed the strategy for their upcoming meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. They must have had a conversation like the following:

Kang: Mr. Chairman, Comrade Qaddafi has fallen.

Kim: I expected this and even warned him about it. I advised him not to abandon his nuclear program so easily. I, too, have my share of anxiety. Sometimes, I wake up at night worrying that I will be brought down by the U.S. as Saddam Hussein and Qaddafi were.

Kang: But the U.S. will not meddle with North Korea because of China’s presence. Nowadays, they can’t afford to proceed with a plan without the consent of China.

Kim: You may be right. But we are different from Libya. We shouldn’t give up our nuclear program until the last moment.

Kang: But we should never show our true intentions. If we get a good offer, we need to give the impression that we will abandon the program. We can only lead the negotiation by confusing the other parties about whether we intend to give up our nuclear weapons or not.

Kim: The meeting with Medvedev is approaching. What should I say? I need immediate aid, and I don’t want to miss the chance to get $100 million per year in exchange for allowing a gas pipeline to go through the country.

Kang: Just say that we’re ready to return to the six-party talks. These days, Washington and Seoul are demanding that we prove that we’re serious about giving up our nuclear program. How about implying a moratorium on nuclear testing and missile launches? Russia would find it very interesting, and Washington couldn’t ignore it, either. Then we can take the initiative at the six-party talks. Once the talks resume, it will be a piece of cake to get economic sanctions lifted and win an aid package. We have used this tactic before, and it’s worked every time.

Kim: It sounds very plausible.

Kang: Another thing. We shouldn’t give the impression that we’re too close to Russia.

Kim: My plan to stop in China on the way back from Russia is significant. You are my real strategist.

*The writer is a deputy editor of the JoongAng Sunday.


By Yeh Young-june

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