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December 6, 2006
Carrots For Dear Leader

The US has made an explicit offer of aid and trade to North Korea in an attempt to get them to verifiably abandon their nuclear weapons program, an effort made outside the stalled six-party talks. The plan calls for assistance in energy and food while Kim Jong-Il dismantles his nuclear infrastructure:

The United States has offered a detailed package of economic and energy assistance in exchange for North Korea’s giving up nuclear weapons and technology, American officials said Tuesday.

But the offer, made last week during two days of intense talks in Beijing, would hinge on North Korea’s agreeing to begin dismantling some of the equipment it is using to expand its nuclear arsenal, even before returning to negotiations. ...

The combination of incentives and demands was the focal point of three-way meetings on Nov. 28 and 29 involving Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill; North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Kim Kye-gwan; and Chinese officials at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. The incentives offered by the United States include food aid from the United States, Japan and South Korea, a senior administration official said.

The offer is significant because the administration has resisted making clear to North Korea exactly what kind of aid it would receive if it agreed to begin taking apart facilities like the plutonium reprocessing facility that turns spent fuel into weapons, and to provide a list of all its nuclear facilities. Hawks in the administration, particularly in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, have long opposed what they call “rewarding” North Korea for its nuclear test.

But State Department officials have argued that while the argument has gone on in Washington, the North has produced fuel for six or more weapons. They say the only successful strategy will be one that results in the beginning of dismantlement.

The US also offered to find ways to allow Kim to comply with financial regulations in exchange for a restoral of his banking partners to the global market. This is a veiled reference to Kim's counterfeiting ring which used his Macao bank as a front for distribution of phony $100 bills, perhaps totaling over $1 billion. The Bush administration posed this as an opportunity to help Kim comply with international law, not as a concession, but the offer appears to answer Kim's demands to retract economic sanctions before his participation in further disarmament talks.

The tactic has its merits. The Bush administration has maintained a hard-line approach to the Kim regime, and a change of pace might find an opening -- especially since Bush took care to keep China engaged in the process. If it bears real fruit, it could bring an end to the nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula. However, it also runs the risk of being seen as weakness by Kim and his cronies in Pyongyang, and in the past that has signaled a new round of intransigence and lies.

Kim will likely find another excuse to abort the process. He cannot afford to lose the US as a bogeyman. His position in a starving nation is too tenuous to allow his people to believe that no overwhelming external threat exists. If that pressure disappeared, his people could find it within themselves to cast off his dictatorship, perhaps even faster than the North Korean military could do it. The 40-carrot approach should proceed to the deployment of more sticks if Kim balks.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 6, 2006 6:39 AM

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