May 07, 2003

North Korea Watch A policy

North Korea Watch

A policy synthesis between State and Defense appears to be emerging with regard to NoKo. Per Pentagon preferences, more pressure looks set to be applied on Pyongyang by clamping down on NoKo's drug and counterfeiting trade. At the same time, State gets to pursue talks with the North Koreans. The Administration wants China, South Korea and Japan on board for the talks too and, over the past months, Pyongyang has always refused such entreaties instead holding out for direct, bilateral talks with the U.S. So why might the North Koreans agree to talks at this juncture in a multilateral framework when they didn't before?

The difference might be that the North Koreans are finally under greater pressure from some of their neighbors like China and South Korea to try to reach an accomodation with the U.S.

"Asian officials, who earlier had appeared uncomfortable with the administration's tough line on North Korea, now appear prepared to accept the idea that more pressure must be placed on Pyongyang, particularly in light of its nuclear claims and its often blatant flouting of international laws.

Two weeks ago, Australian special forces seized a North Korean freighter that allegedly delivered $50 million in heroin. The ship, registered in the North Korean port of Nampo but sailing under a flag of the tiny Pacific island of Tuvalu, has been cited as evidence of the North Korean government's involvement in drug running, amphetamine production and counterfeiting.

"The international community cannot condone the illegal activity the North Korean government is engaged in," an Asian diplomat said. The North Koreans "need to understand this. Some things simply can't go on."

Perhaps needless to say, the entire North Korean issue remains highly time sensitive and of critical import:

"Adding to the sense of urgency, U.S. sources said yesterday, intelligence analysts within the past 48 hours have seen increasing signs that North Korea has begun reprocessing 8,000 spent fuel rods to provide plutonium for weapons. North Korea said it had begun the processing at the three-way talks in Beijing last month, but it had not been detected by U.S. intelligence until now. The spent fuel would provide North Korea with enough nuclear material to build two to three additional nuclear bombs within a few months."

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