Thursday, August 20, 2009

Whats Going on in North Korea?

It seems that as of late, barring North Korea's missile launch, the country is making conciliatory efforts towards their southern counterparts and the West:

North Korea announced Thursday it will dispatch a high-level delegation to Seoul for two days to pay respects to the late former President Kim Dae-jung - a rare visit that raised hopes of improved relations between the two Koreas.


The trip is the latest in a series of conciliatory gestures made by North Korea in the past week, including the government's release of a South Korean detained for four months and the announcement it will allow some stalled cross-border projects to resume. On Thursday, Pyongyang sent a message to the South that it will lift border restrictions imposed in December, beginning Friday, the ministry spokeswoman said.

North Korea is sending some mixed messages as of late, but overall they seem to be making an attempt at reconciliation...little by little. Could this be a sign of detente between the communist nation and the West?

A delegation of North Korean diplomats told New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson that Pyongyang was prepared for expansive disarmament talks with the Obama administration, but wants to talk directly instead of in the multicountry format Washington prefers.

The comments made to Gov. Richardson Wednesday in New Mexico are the clearest signal yet from North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that his reclusive state is prepared to resume negotiations over its nuclear program following Pyongyang's May detonation of an atomic device and a string of missile launches that have rattled Northeast Asia. Gov. Richardson met two North Korean diplomats Wednesday at his office in Santa Fe.

One thing we need to remember is that Kim Jung Il has not been well lately. Like Castro, there are rumors and speculation about his health and potential expiration date. While this may seem like an overly intrusive observation, the leader in question IS the country. In a personalist regime, especially one that cannot stand without complete authority and separation from the outside world, the loss of a leader can be the end of a whole society. Of course, there is speculation as to Kim's successor, but it is possible that North Korea is building up diplomatic capital for use in the future.

Critics of the White House have charged Mr. Obama risks rewarding North Korea's provocative actions by allowing such high-profile meetings between Democratic stalwarts and Pyongyang. Mr. Clinton's trip received particular attacks, as Kim Jong Il seemed to use the former U.S. leader's presence to enhance North Korea on the diplomatic stage.

Gov. Richardson Wednesday acknowledged Pyongyang was pursuing this tactic. "The North Koreans obviously used the journalists as a bargaining chip and now they want a gesture in return," the governor told CNN.

The question is, if they're building up capital, what do they plan to use it on?

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