That Dog Won’t Hunt

The widely covered KCNA statement on the role of a peace treaty in negotiations over its nuclear program underscores the fundamental gulf between the US and NK that will most likely undermine negotiations in New York this week.

North Korea has identified a peace treaty as the first and necessary for progress in denuclearization. As yesterday’s statement notes:

It is impossible to wipe out the mutual distrust nor is it possible to achieve a smooth solution of the issue of denuclearization as long as there persists the hostile relationship between the DPRK and the U.S…. It is the keynote of the DPRK’s proposal for concluding a peace agreement to scrap the armistice mechanism which has systematically deteriorated the hostile relations between the two countries, build confidence and step up the process of denuclearization.

Furthermore, the statement warns the US to expect “escalating tension” if détente is not reached. The KCNA commentary lays out a binary choice between a peace treaty and continued provocation.

This is not pre-negotiation posturing by North Korea, this is a consistent statement of policy with regards to its nuclear program, which goes back to the second North Korean nuclear test.

On the Korean peninsula, which is still in a state of the ceasefire, the sooner a peace agreement is concluded, the quicker the confidence necessary for denuclearization will be built.”

Until then, “the mission of the nuclear forces of the DPRK is to deter and repel aggression and attack against the country and the nation until the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the world is realized.

I can haz diplomatic non-starter?

I can haz diplomatic non-starter?

According to North Korea the state of war, not the nuclear program, is the “root cause” of US-NK conflict and the “fundamental issue” between the two countries. If that is resolved, the North could talk about denuclearization, but only in the context of global nuclear abolition.

That dog won’t hunt.

Secretary of State Clinton’s statement was extremely unenthusiastic about the meeting noting that “This will be an exploratory meeting to determine if North Korea is prepared to affirm its obligations under international and Six-Party Talk commitments, as well as take concrete and irreversible steps toward denuclearization.

Engaged to be Engaged (photo by John Varghese)

Engaged to be Engaged (photo by John Varghese)

According to the Secretary of State, we are not engaging North Korea, we are engaged to maybe engage them in the future, if they grow up and reverse their policy on their own, with no enticements from the United States.

Good luck with that.

Why bother? One theory is that this is the appearance of due diligence for both sides. Neither the US nor the North Koreans expect anything to come from the meeting, but both states want to use the talks to establish that the deadlock is the other party’s fault. North Korea can put the blame on the US and deflect the heavy, behind the scenes pressure from China to resume negotiations. The Obama Administration can set the bar so high for progress that the Republicans can’t possibly accuse them of being soft on North Korea.

In short, this is faux-diplomatic at its best.

About Scott Thomas Bruce

I am the Director of the US office of the Nautilus Institute. I've been working on North Korea related issues for almost a decade. This is a side project. The views expressed in this blog in no way reflect the views of my employer.
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