With this week’s visit of North Korean envoy Kim Kye Gwan to New York, it’s deja vu all over again — with yet another U.S. administration hoping to wheedle Kim Jong Il into giving up his nuclear weapons program. The Washington Post has just published an AP story with the timeless headline, “US seeking signs that NKorea serious about giving up atomic weapons for better relations.”
The U.S. has sought such signs before — with the 1994 Agreed Framework, the 2007 denuclearization deal, and round after round of feelers and talks betwixt and between. While the U.S. has been doing all that sign-seeking, which has by now spanned more than 17 years and the administrations of three American presidents, Pyongyang has conducted two nuclear tests, unveiled a uranium enrichment program, and been working away — in cahoots with Iran and other paragons of proliferation — on missiles to deliver nuclear warheads.
The unpleasant but obvious reality is that Kim Jong Il has no intention of giving up nukes. Without them, how could he or his designated son and heir continue the nuclear shakedown racket that has been core for years now to the survival of North Korea’s totalitarian regime? Kim doesn’t mind sending his envoys back to the negotiating table every so often, to collect whatever diplomatic loss leaders they can get. But a visit by Kim Kye Gwan to New York does not herald a sudden wish by Pyongyang to render up its nuclear program. It simply means that Kim is ready for a fresh intake of concessions and nuclear payoffs from the Free World.
If U.S. diplomats are serious about seeking signs that North Korea is serious about giving up its nuclear program, here are three signs they should be looking for:
1) Kim Jong Il and his heirs have fled North Korea, and are begging for asylum — perhaps as guests in exile of someone like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
2) Having kicked out Kim Jong Il and his heirs, North Koreans have emptied their prison camps, opened the country’s borders, and are asking for help in dismantling the country’s nuclear weapons program — the better to spend scarce resources not on nuclear weapons, missiles, and a swollen military; but on feeding, doctoring and rebuilding a society maimed, starved and stunted by more than six decades of dynastic rule by Kim Jong Il and his late father Kim Il Sung.
3) Corollary to signs #1 and #2 above: There will be no need to seek signs that North Korea is serious about giving up nukes. North Korea will make it unmistakably obvious.
Diplomats might reasonably object that none of these conditions currently apply, and we must deal with the world as it is. To which one might reasonably respond that, in that case, it is time to stop endlessly chasing after fantasies of North Korean good faith that doesn’t exist, stop entertaining Kim Kye Gwan and his cohorts in New York, and put a lot more effort into creating conditions that will produce the above signs #1, #2, and #3.