Tehran, Iran - North Korea has been at the receiving end of it all -- isolation,irrelevance, and trickles of food and fuel to avoid starvation. Undiplomatic language, threats of invasion and abrasive comments with veiled threats have snuffed out substantive exchanges, even if China was the intended target of it all.
An isolated and angry North Korea is no longer desirable for the region. The world must realize that our collective past is riddled with what I call "mutually assured failures." An objective analysis of the past 60 years shows nothing more than crude and ineffective brinkmanship with predictable reactions.
The agenda and substance of the upcoming 6-party talks ought to create a new atmosphere. Suspicions must be eased.
The suspicions of North Koreans date back to the end of World War II when Korea was arbitrarily carved up into two pieces by Americans and the defeated Japanese state. Since that time, and after the inter-Korean conflict of the 1950s, America has persisted in labeling North Korea as an enemy. Unreasonably, America still expects full capitulation.
North Korean minds are frozen in time of the carving up of the peninsula alas the inter-Korean conflict has not been formally settled. North Korea considers itself to be, at least technically, at war with the United States. No formal security agreements, treaties or declarations have been made. This frozen vision has its own clone in Washington as the United States continues to focus on destruction of the communist ideology (that is to say, a politically bankrupt doctrine). It has blocked South Korean rapprochement and attempts to relax the atmosphere and has doubled up pressure from Japan.
Negotiations with North Korea ought to create a completely free and relaxed platform and must lead to tangible exchanges. Efforts must focus on engagement and ought to remove suspicions held by the North Korean regime if only to save face. Its time we move to a modern mindset.
The North Korean economy is comparatively small. Its reported $40 billion GDP is a mere 4% of its southern cousins. Chinese exports to America, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, easily exceed this sum. It is an arid, inhospitable place and practically void of any strategic materials such as oil, gas or uranium. As such, it is not a very large economic or geopolitical prize nor is it a promising market. The concession of North Korea to the Chinese regime will not register as a loss for Russia, the United States or South Korea.
Concurrently, China has a much more significant role in these political and economic equations. A confirmation of China's (otherwise de facto) control of North Korea shall signal a new China to the rest of the world and an intention to engage China by the rest of the world. In turn, China will reduce tensions and such symbolic recognition might appease hard line politicians in China that are, essentially, the puppet masters of Kim Jong-Il. In turn, these Chinese politicians will disarm and neutralize North Korea in their own clever way.
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