Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Friday, March 2, 2012

North Korea's nuclear pledge: will Kim Jong-un keep his word?

Robert Gates, the former US defence secretary, had a salty phrase for summing up the problem of negotiating with North Korea. "I'm tired of buying the same horse twice," he said while attending a security conference in Singapore in 2009.

Gates was referring to a familiar pattern that has emerged in America's dealings with the world's last Stalinist state. North Korea promises to freeze its nuclear programme in return for US food aid or other concessions. Washington duly supplies the goods, while North Korea breaks the deal. Pyongyang then says "please give us more aid and we will keep the deal that we've already broken". The US coughs up again – and North Korea breaks its side of the bargain. Again. And so the process goes on, with North Korea extracting more concessions in return for agreeing to keep an agreement that it has already broken (and then reneging on the deal to keep the deal).

North Korea's latest pledge to stop enriching uranium and obey a moratorium on nuclear weapons tests should be seen in this light. You might remember that back in 2007, North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions altogether. The Bush administration duly removed it from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. Whereupon North Korea conducted a nuclear test in 2009. Read More