The latest US-DPRK nuclear deal is one of those times when the first question that comes to mind is what is really going on here? The press has a fairly predictable array of explanations for this quite sudden and seemingly unexplained turn of events. This analysis piece in the New York Times, for example, argues that both Bush and Kim Jong-il are in trouble and needed to find a way out. It also claims that the nuclear test turned out to be a “strategic mistake” for the DPRK because it angered the Chinese government, which I actually think is wishful thinking on the part of the NYT.
On the other hand, the irrepressible Kim Myong-chol (Kim Jong-il’s unofficial spokesman) somewhat predictably sees it as a famous victory for the “legendary leadership” of Kim Jong-il.
The most significant fact about the six-party talks that ended this Tuesday is US President George W Bush waving a white flag, offering to allow the DPRK to retain its nuclear arsenal as it is. It means the shared recognition of the five parties and the DPRK as a nuclear-weapons state and the US notice that it would lift its financial crackdown on the Korean state.
The spectacular five successive victories over the US administrations leave no doubt in the eyes of the 70 million Korean people and the world public that Kim Jong-il is another legendary Kim Il-sung, a peerless national hero and iron-willed, brilliant commander of Korea, and is favorably compared to Jumong, founder of Koguryo with a history of at least seven centuries, and Dankun, founder of ancient Korea 5,000 years ago, whose territory covered most of what is now northeastern China and much of Siberia.
[By the way, I like the cheeky bit of Korean ultra-nationalist irredentism thrown in as a little poke in the eye for those disloyal Chinese.]
Aside from his raving, Kim is basically right though, the US did back down. So the question remains why and why now? This is where I have a bit of a horrible feeling because I think it might have something to do with Iran. It seems ever more likely that the Bush administration (led by Cheney) will carry out some sort of attack on Iran before the president leaves office, possibly even this year. So, the neocons have chosen the enemy they have wanted to confront for so long and decided, for strategic reasons, to buy off the other one. Obviously, there is nothing to say that this latest deal will last very long, but there does seem to be a sense that the Americans want it to work and that, strangely, makes me even more worried.