Wednesday, May 25, 2005


was his 9th. I know this is slightly old news for hardcore, inside the beltway, Korea-watchers. But a brief and interesting report of his trip can be read here. Harrison met with some DPRK heavy hitters (but not the DL):
My meetings in Pyongyang included Kim Yong Name [sic] Nam, President of the Supreme People's Assembly (one hour), Kang Sok Ju (two hours), Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan, who has represented Pyongyang until now in the Beijing talks (five hours) and General Ri Chan Bok, the North Korean representative at Panmunjom (two hours).
What does North Korea want? Dignity. Respect. A promise that the U.S. will no longer pursue regime change:
What North Korea wants now is a start toward normalization with the U.S. in the form of direct bilateral talks with the U.S. A direct bilateral dialogue is regarded as an essential first gesture of a willingness to recognize and legitimize the North Korean regime. Six party talks could also be held, but Pyongyang's emphasis is on direct talks.

Kim Gye Gwan emphasized that North Korea is not seeking to impose preconditions for its participation in the six-party talks relating to the agenda, such as a U.S. willingness to discuss its March 31 demands. However, North Korea will not attend, he said, unless the United States "improves the atmosphere for the talks by making clear that it is not seeking regime change."

The formal North Korean position is that Condoleezza Rice should apologize for calling North Korea "an outpost of tyranny." But Kim Yong Nam said, "if they are not prepared to do that, there should be some other way to provide us with a justification to attend. It's up to them to find a way. The ball is in their court."

Similarly, Kang Sok Ju said that it was not enough for Rice to have said: "no one denies that North Korea is a sovereign state." I asked whether it would be satisfactory if she said that "the United States will respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the DPRK and is prepared for peaceful coexistence despite the differences in our social systems." "That's something we can accept," he said, but we want to hear it directly in open or secret discussions with the United States."

"We need a springboard to be at the six-party talks," Kang added, "some signal that the United States treats us with respect. We have to convince our Army and our people that we are acting in a way consistent with the dignity of a sovereign state that is respected as a strong military state. It's not a difficult thing to be at the six-party talks, but we can't do so if we are going there under pressure."
Is the Bush Administration willing to give this? Should it? Does a nation that starves and oppresses its citizens deserve dignity and respect? Only when it can threaten its neighbors with nukes? I don't think these are simple or easy questions.

Finally, some tantalizing bits on DPRK nuclear capability (or the lack thereof):
When I asked Kim Yong Nam how he knew North Korea's nuclear weapons would work in the absence of a test, he replied, "The agencies concerned are convinced that they have all the preparations made properly, and that our nuclear weapons are operational." General Ri Chan Bok said, "there's no need for a test, and we don't want to have one, even one underground, because of the fallout. Without a test, our nuclear deterrent will be functional. We are ready to put warheads on our missiles whenever we want."

This statement suggested that the warheads are not yet on the missiles. It also prompted me to ask whether the North Korean deterrent consisted only of missiles, or also included air-deliverable nuclear bombs. "In the twenty first century," he replied, "it's hard for me to believe that any country would use air deliverable nuclear weapons."

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