Kim Jong-Un’s gambit to extract money to keep his dictatorship afloat is going to work. Despite it being pointed out many times since the crisis began that there was nothing much new in Kim’s creation of a crisis in order to force the big powers back to the negotiating table, the U.S. is eagerly looking to do exactly that.
The cancellation of a missile test here in the U.S. — ostensibly to prevent Kim from getting the wrong idea about U.S. intentions — might be considered prudent under the circumstances. Whether Kim is pretending to be crazy or actually is off his nut hardly matters when you’re looking at someone who might take anything as a provocation and respond militarily.
But the administration has all but announced its capitulation to Kim’s belligerence, as Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia next week.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Asia next week where he is expected to discuss potential diplomatic incentives for North Korea once it stops its threatening rhetoric, senior administration officials told CNN on condition of anonymity.
“Secretary Kerry agrees that we have to have a robust deterrent because we really don’t’ know what these guys will do,” said one senior official, who was not authorized to speak on the issue.
“But he also knows that the North Koreans need a diplomatic off-ramp and that they have to be able to see it.”
A “diplomatic off-ramp”? In other words, a bribe.
The Christian Science Monitor fleshes this concept out:
After sending nuclear-capable B-52s to the skies and antimissile ships to the waters around the Korean Peninsula, as well as missile-defense batteries to Alaska and Guam, the Obama administration is now moving to ratchet down the tensions.
The aim of Secretary Kerry’s Asia trip will be to reassure allies and partners that the US, after having taken necessary military precautions, is focused on finding the diplomatic steps – both short-term and further into the future – to address the nuclear-armed North’s belligerence.
“While recent US actions have shored up the concerns of our allies and moved to protect the US from potential attack, now is the time for reinforcing as well the diplomatic and economic measures that will stifle North Korean behavior and force a reset on their part,” says George Lopez, a former United Nations sanctions monitor on the North Korea case.
What would some of these “diplomatic and economic measures” be?
Kerry left Saturday for the Middle East and then for London before traveling to Seoul, Bejing and Tokyo later next week.
The shape of a possible eventual deal, the sources said, is likely to take the form of previous attempts at satisfying what the United States sees as North Korea’s ultimate goal of survival, which could include security guarantees, a road map to a peace treaty and a lifting of sanctions.
North Korea wants all three of these elements as part of any potential agreement with the United States.
“It’s really old wine in a new bottle,” one official said. “We have 30 plus statements, offers and positions we have put on the table over the last several years.”
Earlier this week, the United States attempted to reduce friction with Pyongyang by emphasizing a return to diplomacy, recognizing that its announcements of American military deployments in response to belligerent statements by North Korea may have contributed to escalating tensions between the two countries.
“The U.S. is not matching their rhetoric,” notes Joe Cirincione, a former adviser to President Barack Obama on nuclear issues who now serves as president of the Ploughshares Fund, which works against the spread of nuclear weapons. “They are not pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Cirincione argues North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be ready to calm the situation with the United States and South Korea, having achieved his goals of solidifying his position with the North Korean people and military and increasing his bargaining position with South Korea and the United States.
“You are starting to see this tamp down and I suspect after a decent interval you might be able to restart talks directly with the North,” he said.
Much more on the next page.