Here we go again:
A U.S nuclear envoy said Thursday he held substantive talks with North Korea on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear programs in return for aid and would continue the negotiations into second day.
The discussions — the first since the death of the North’s longtime leader Kim Jong Il — could provide signs of whether North Korea’s new government is ready to agree to steps demanded by Washington and Pyongyang’s neighbors to restart broader international disarmament talks, which are meant to provide aid and diplomatic concessions in return for the North abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. [Associated Press]
It may be a new leader in North Korea, but expect more of the same from both North Korea and the US sides. The North Koreans are never going to abandon their nuclear weapons and the US knows this. However, the US has no better ideas on what to do about North Korea and thus talks become the goal to make it look like progress is being made. In return for behaving and agreeing to talks North Korea gets aid while at the same time covertly continuing to work on their nuclear program. When the talks happen expect some agreement like we saw before the death of Kim Jong-il where the North Koreans agree to something like suspending their uranium program that makes it look like the US achieved something even though they achieved little because the North Koreans can continue to work on their plutonium program instead to build nuclear weapons. It is the same thing for their missile program, expect some statement saying the North Koreans will suspend ICBM testing, but this means little because instead of testing an ICBM they will just call it a space launch vehicle.
Everyone knows this is all kabuki theater, but everyone plays along so the US can pretend progress is being made, especially in an election year and the North Koreans can continue to develop their weapons programs and receive aid at the same time. The South Koreans also play along with all of this because it keeps the peninsula stable which means their economy continues to grow. The Chinese also like to play along because such a deal ensures the stability of the North Korean regime as well as is ultimately less aid they need to pay to keep the regime a float. So bottom line all the relevant players are happy except of course the tens of thousands of people stuck in North Koreans gulags and even more that are malnourished in the country, but who cares about them?
Anyway with that all said, I would not be surprised if in the near term the North Koreans try to increase tensions, likely with a missile test in an effort to show Kim Jong-un standing up to the US before agreeing to the inevitable kabuki theater deal. Such a scenario makes it look like the Kim Jong-un made the evil Yankee imperialists submit to his demands for tribute due to the fear of his great military achievement. Like I said before this is all kabuki theater, but no one else has any better ideas so everyone just plays along.