Foreign Affairs

When North Korea Talks, No One Need Listen

Here they go again. North Korea is not acting like a nation that has embraced its own nuclear accords. Yes, they are back to what they do best: namely, provoking their neighbors and worrying the world. Indeed, the gang running the closed-in police state launched a series of short range missile tests last week which outraged South Korea and Japan and brought new tensions to the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slammed North Korea’s communist government over those short-range missile launches. He labeled them a provocation that defied the United Nations and could destabilize the region. He said that obviously these small tests alone do not constitute an immediate massive threat to Japan, but their provocative nature and North Korea’s continued militancy is highly unsettling.

"We need to seek a harsh response from the international community," Abe said in Tokyo.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be in the immediate cards. All that has happened thus far is 1) more words in the West decrying North Korea’s actions and 2) U.N. inspectors are now visiting North Korea’s key nuclear reactor to “discuss” a long-delayed shutdown of the facility. Indeed, the visit is the first International Atomic Energy Agency trip to the Yongbyon facility since its monitors were expelled from the country in late 2002.

The media has moved away from the story recently believing that once North Korea agreed to the shut-down in talks earlier this year, it was a done deal and the story was over. Hardly. The North Koreans are masters of deception, love to hold “talks” while doing nothing about honoring their words, and doing anything possible in the meanwhile, no matter how outrageous, to hang on to their nuclear options.

According to reports from the Associated Press, Olli Heinonen, the deputy director of IAEA, said that his team was touring the Yongbyon facility and would be discussing specific arrangements for future verification of the reactor shutdown and monitoring, emphasizing that this visit was not a formal inspection.

"We go to see the facilities and continue our discussions in more details," Heinonen said.

Well, how very helpful. Only a mere five years after being kicked out of the country, the inspectors return, but gee and gosh, not in any formal or demanding way, and only to see one facility.

U.S. officials in Washington have also criticized the latest North Korean launches:

"We expect North Korea to refrain from conducting further provocative ballistic missile launches, activity that is destabilizing to the security of northeast Asia," said Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.

Just this past February, madman Kim, the North Korean “Dear Leader”, who lets his countrymen starve to death and cares not one iota about their welfare, agreed to close the reactor in exchange for economic aid and political concessions, under an accord reached in six-party talks also including the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

But then North Korea simply ignored an April deadline to do so because of a “banking dispute” with the United States. Namely, we chose to freeze some of their assets until they did what they said they would do. But again, it was the U.S. who blinked first and that dispute was “settled” last week after months of delay, and North Korea announced last Monday that it would move forward with the disarmament deal. U.S. officials have said they expect the six-party talks to resume next month.

Perhaps, the recent missile tests are just North Korea’s way of saying to the other five parties that they are a viable threat and that they must be treated with respect.

And so it goes. They threaten, we act tough. They soften, we give in. They agree, and then they do nothing to honor their agreements. Now, five years after the “united” nations of the world were kicked out, they have returned for more words.

There should come a point when the U.N., especially the U.S. and its allies in the Pacific should see clearly that you cannot negotiate with bullies and terrorists. One would think five years of this nonsense should be enough. In the atomic age we must see that we no longer have the luxury of long drawn out “talks” especially with nations and individuals who have so obviously proven that they have no intention whatsoever of honoring any of their promises or commitments, except of course the commitment to bring more hatred and misery to the world.

Perhaps it would be wise of us to ask why it is that the United States has the largest and best military in the world. Why were we so blessed (though some might say “cursed”)? It should be clear: we do not seek war. We seek peace, and have saved the world from utter destruction on several occasions; but it is high time we woke up to the fact that you cannot have peace unless you are absolutely ready, willing and able to fight for it at any minute…and even more: that we act like it enough that the rest of the world gets that message.

That does not mean that we need to become constantly militant. It does suggest however that when words do not work, and after at least five years in North Korea they have not, that we make the alternatives very clear and set the timetable: either abide in peace, or realize, that, miracle of miracles, the United Nations including the United States, actually mean business.


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