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April 13, 2006
Don't You Forget About Me

North Korea reacted predictably to the attention Iran has received over the past few days by issuing threats of its own, apparently somewhat jealous of losing the world's focus:

North Korea said on Thursday it might boost its nuclear deterrent if six-country talks on ending its atomic programs remained deadlocked, but said it would return if Washington met a demand to unfreeze it assets.

Pyongyang's top envoy to the stalled negotiations told a news conference in Tokyo the United States must lift what the North considers to be financial sanctions against it. ...

In an official media report on Thursday, North Korea reiterated it has been building a nuclear deterrent to counter what it views as Washington's hostile policy toward it.

Washington has clamped down on a Macau-based bank it suspects of assisting Pyongyang in illicit financial activities, including money laundering.

"Hey, look at me! Over here!" That's the message from Pyongyang, irritated at having its shell game interrupted and stalled while the Bush administration presses forward against Iran. North Korea has $20 million in the bank that has had its assets frozen, and they need the money desperately for a number of reasons. Primarily, they need to buy food, but that's probably not what Pyongyang intended with this cash; more likely it would have gone towards weapons, given the clandestine nature of the transactions.

The US has decided to strangle North Korea into cooperation. Kim Jong-Il is discovering something about his nuclear deterrent -- it only works to prevent military attack. Once developed, it loses its value as a bargaining chip. Pyongyang has threatened to build more nukes in response, but that is an ineffective threat for two reasons. First, no one is entirely sure that the North Koreans have the capacity to add to their nuclear arsenal, and second, even if they did, it wouldn't make much difference. The key had been to stop them before they made the first nuke. Now that they've managed to acquire them, that phase of the conflict has ended, and the US and its allies will simply confront North Korea in other ways, including financially.

We can wait longer than Pyongyang can afford to starve. It seems that they're unwilling to starve for attention, anyway.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 13, 2006 6:30 AM

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