Talks With North Korea a Farce, Say Experts

By Matthew Little

News Analysis

North Korea’s new willingness to hold talks with South Korea is either a ploy to buy time or hold off a possible U.S. invasion or both, according to two experts.

Much has been made of North Korea’s sudden willingness to talk to South Korea. Some credible commentators are calling it a diplomatic breakthrough. Other’s have framed the possible participation of two North Korean figure skaters in upcoming Winter Olympics as a turning point in a decadeslong problem that has seen the world’s most oppressive regime march towards nuclear statehood.

But any hope that North Korea’s current olive branch could translate into a meaningful change on the Korean Peninsula is misplaced according to Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Fisher believes that during the current crisis North Korea has aligned the entire world against it, with only two strained allies—China and Russia—willing to offer credible support.

Trucks wait in the Chinese border city of Dandong, in China’s northeast Liaoning Province, before crossing the Friendship Bridge to the North Korean town of Sinuiju on Sept. 5, 2017. China remains North Korea’s economic lifeline. (GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)

With nowhere left to turn, and sanctions now taking a fiercer hold on the North Korean economy, Kim Jong Un’s communist regime is staring at a credible threat from a new American administration that has put military force back on the table.

North Korea can’t change that through force, so Kim’s regime is trying a different approach.

“They think they can deflate some of the growing American-led consensus for some kind of action against them by making nice with the South,” said Fisher.

For South Korea, the memory of a devastating war and the possibility of another are enough to want to preserve any hope that North Korea could be sincere.

But Kim Jong Un has specifically said his nuclear-armed ballistic missiles are intended for the United States, making any such optimism dangerously reckless.

Fisher leaves little room for naivete in his analysis.

North Korea will continue building towards a nuclear missile threat to the world and especially the United States, he said.

North Korea’s Hwasong-15 ICBM reached an altitude of about 2,780 miles and flew 590 miles during its 53-minute flight on Nov. 29, 2017. (REUTERS/KCNA)

The current diplomatic overture is a tactical retreat of sorts, a way to ease pressure that is building to a dangerous possibility North Korea doesn’t want to face.

“The North Koreans want to prick the bubble of a gathering international consensus led by the United States that if necessary, military action must be taken against North Korea.”

Fisher said that by opening a dialogue, North Korea hopes to dilute that consensus. That gives the regime time, about the only thing Kim needs as much as money.

Fisher holds with other intelligence assessments that North Korea is a year away from being able to fully exploit their current nuclear and missile programs, combining them together to create a nuclear ICBM capable of delivering a warhead to a target on the ground.  

The Kim regime also needs time to finish building a larger submarine as well as perfect a submarine-launched missiles that could pose a threat to Japan.

Fisher isn’t the only one that thinks negotiations are unlikely to bear fruit.

Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, and the author of the newly published “Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order,” thinks North Korea is buying, or rather bribing, time.

“From the American point of view past negotiations with North Korea have accomplished nothing. From the North Korean point of view, however, they have accomplished precisely what they were intended to. They have bought North Korea the time and over a billion dollars in American aid from the Clinton and Bush administrations,” he said.

North Korean soldiers attend a mass rally to celebrate the North’s declaration on Nov. 29, 2017, it had achieved full nuclear statehood, on Kim Il-Sung Square in Pyongyang on Dec. 1, 2017. (KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)

That money and time were essential to North Korea’s current missile and nuclear weapons programs, said Mosher. Now the regime is entering the stage where it can pair those two technologies together.

It just needs time, and perhaps some money, neither of which are possible through force or further provocations. With no other option available, North Korea has to pull out its talk card.

And there is no country as ready and willing to talk to North Korea as South Korea. While Japan and the United States both call for a hard line on the Kim regime, Seoul remains more open and optimistic.

“The sanctions are starting to bite, and Kim Jong Un is reaching out to the weakest link of the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-South Korean alliances, which is South Korea,” he said.

Mosher agrees with Fisher that South Korea is moved by its natural sympathies towards average North Koreans, people traumatized by the current regime. There is also the memory of a devastating war and the very real possibility that North Korean artillery could claim millions of lives in South Korea.

But while those sentiments may urge South Korea to make every possible effort at a diplomatic solution, Mosher said all the while, North Korea will continue to feverishly build missiles and nuclear weapons.

This undated picture released from North Korea
This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 5, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the defense detachment on Jangjae Islet. (AFP/Getty Images)

“The key to solving the North Korean dilemma will not be found in negotiations between North and South Korea, but in pressure by the U.S. on North Korea’s ‘sponsor,’ China,” Mosher said. “As long as Kim Jong Un is convinced that he enjoys China’s quiet support, he has absolutely no reason to change his behavior.”

That holds doubly so as North Korea develops ICBMs capable of carrying the miniaturized nuclear warheads that the Kim regime is believed to already possess.

Mosher believes that Trump’s forceful approach has given Kim pause and slowed North Korea missile tests.

But for a more lasting change, the United States needs to break the China-North Korea alliance.

Mosher said North Korea has enjoyed “huge bribes” from the previous Bush and Clinton administrations, bribes facilitated by China.

Fisher also believes that China is the key to solving North Korea. For China, North Korea is a boogeyman perfectly designed to distract United States military resources.

North Korean soldiers on the border with South Korea on Nov. 27, 2017. (Korea Pool/Getty Images)

And should war break out, the United States would use up significant military and financial power, leaving it weakened and less able to stop China from claiming Taiwan.

Fisher said another Korean war could accelerate China’s timeline for conquering Taiwan.

From his view, the best solution to all these problems is to reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons in Asia, something the Bush administration withdrew during earlier efforts to negotiate North Korea away from developing nuclear weapons.

With that effort clearly a failure, tactical nuclear weapons on Kim’s doorstep would do much to convince Kim and China that war is in nobody’s interests.

From The Epoch Times


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