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July 10, 2005
North Korea Returns To The Table

North Korea has agreed to return to the six-nation negotiations that George Bush insists on using to address the nuclear expansion of the Kim regime. After a year of alternately threatening and flirting with the West, Kim Jong-Il has apparently decided that his economic situation has degraded to the point where he needs to engage the US on its terms, rather than his:

The agreement to restart the talks was reached at a rare dinner meeting here between a senior U.S. envoy and his North Korean counterpart, held shortly before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived Saturday night for talks with Chinese officials on the North Korean issue.

During the meal, Kim Gye Gwan, the North Korean deputy foreign minister, told Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill that North Korea was willing to attend talks in Beijing the week of July 25, according to a senior U.S. official traveling with Rice. In what U.S. officials took as an encouraging sign, they reported that Kim said the purpose of the talks was the "denuclearization of the Korean peninsula" and that North Korea intended to make progress at the negotiations.

Kim declared victory in the impasse between his despotic government and the US, claiming that North Korea had forced a "change in tone" from the United States. Bush did start calling the dictator Mr. Kim when referring to him, but neither he nor Condoleezza Rice ever retracted their characterization of North Korea as an "outpost of tyranny", the phrase Kim found most objectionable. Despite Kim's assertions, the likeliest proximate cause of his reversal was the suggestions that verifiable cooperation could result in significant amounts of aid -- an unfortunate but probably necessary carrot to rid North Korea of its nuclear program.

Rice made sure that everyone understands that this represents just another step, and that real progress still has yet to be seen:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cautioned Sunday that North Korea's decision to resume nuclear disarmament talks does not mean the United States is any closer to its long-standing goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

"It's only a start," Rice said at a news conference. "It is the goal of the talks to have progress.">/blockquote>

One reason to keep expectations low is that we have been here before. Kim may yet find another reason to pull out before the meetings, hyping whatever real or perceived diplomatic slight into a rationalization into an excuse to abandon the talks. Given his fragile grasp on food and cash, it's less likely than before that he will renege, but it's not inconceivable. Rice is smart to play it safe in setting a low threshold prior to the meetings. It also reminds the North Koreans that talks aren't enough. We will insist on verifiable disarmament before we start giving any energy or financial assistance -- a position we should have insisted on, and were insisting on, before Jimmy Carter jumped in front of Bill Clinton and screwed things up in the 1990s.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 10, 2005 4:41 AM

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