Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What IS their Game?

It seems that no matter what North Korea did in the past there were always pundits, experts and ordinary Joes who thought they knew the real motives behind North Korea's actions. It was a call for help, or a trick to get more money, or a ploy to delay progress, or something. I too always felt that, even though I may not really know the true motives driving North Korea's actions, there was essentially some plan that North Korea was following. Now I have to question that assumption.

Lets step back to the Agreed Framework. The North Koreans signed on the framework in 1994 but we now know that they did not keep their side of the bargain. As the Agreed Framework died a messy death the North Koreans worked in earnest to develop nuclear weapons regardless of world opinion. In the meantime they also attended the six-party talks aimed at halting their nuclear program. They attended under duress and called constantly for bi-lateral talks with the US, which they did not get.

And then, just as things were plodding along endlessly with lots and rhetoric and little action, North Korea exploded what they tell us was a nuclear weapon. Predictably this led to sanctions. And now North Korea is labelling the sanctions as an act of war.

Surely North Korea would have predicted beforehand that the outcome of the nuclear test would be sanctions. Surely by declaring sanctions as an act of war, the rest of the world would expect North Korea to declare war right back at us. But instead, they declare sanctions as an act of war and then prepare to do another, less than impressive, nuclear test.

Is North Korea trying to look like a master of calm and restraint by not fighting back against the world's acts of aggression (ie: sanctions)? Or, more likely, are they holding back because they do not want to fight the world (I say 'world' to show that it was a UN resolution and not a US thing). In which case why declare the sanctions as an act of war? Why not play down the impact of sanctions?

North Korea does not want to talk, either in the six-party forum, or even bi-laterally in my opinion. Nor does it want to go to war because it knows it will be destroyed. They don't seem to want peace and they don't seem to want war (at least they don't want a war they would lose). And now it finds itself in a very strange situation where it has gone so close to the brink that anything they say now needs to be backed by action. Testing another nuclear weapon seems is a pointless exercise, but it seems that these days pointless words and pointless gestures are all North Korea can do. They don't even know what they want.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui