Give North Korea one final chance

By Bhuwan Thapaliya

To many people in the West, North Korea is all one phenomenon: illiberal, alien, dangerous and baffling. Some of this week’s headlines – North Korea eyes 2nd nuclear test, Starvation on the roll in North Korea, What North Korea really wants? – will confirm such people in their views. Yet a wider reading of the news bear what should be a commonplace: North Korea has many faces.

Everyone seems to think that relations between the U.S and North Korea are in major crisis, as if war were to break tomorrow. This is not the case at all. For South Koreans who remember the past, the communist North’s current confrontation with the U.S holds surmounting possibilities for them.

Slowly and sullenly, amid a flood of complaint and confusion, North Korea is moving towards another nuclear test, not because it can afford it, or because it wants it, but because it is frustrated, and wants to signal Washington about its chilly approach toward them.

Nuclear tests are only a message to the U.S. The communist, North Korea wants to have a stable relationship with America and get financial aid from them in return, and the only way they know to catch the attention of U.S and the West, is to fire their missiles and clatter their nuclear bombs right beneath their ears.

It all started from the year 1994, and since then North Korea has been caught helplessly waiting. The unacceptable face of North Korea 's nuclear-weapons program certainly exists and the Programme has taken a momentum after a historic1994 agreement that froze North Korea 's nuclear-weapons program during the Clinton administration.

North Korean wanted to build on that breakthrough and embark on a stable relationship with the U.S thereafter, but the Clinton administration was more focused on the Middle East peace process. The North Korean regime waited and waited with desperation.

Then finally in October 2000 Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state came to North Korea and met its president Kim. She left North Korea on a positive note, and on her return to Washington, briefed then President Clinton, by saying that the stage for the final act is set, and he could get an agreement by going to North Korea himself, as per the media reports.

But President Clinton never went to North Korea , and it is yet not known why he persuaded not to go. Observers say that during the end of his tenures, he was focused exclusively on a final, attempt to broker a Middle East peace deal instead. Was it a right decision? Looking back now, we can conclude by saying that it was indeed a tactical blunder of the Clinton administration. At least he should have tried.

Middle East is, as it was now, stagnant, neither forward nor back, and so is North Korea . But analysts say it would have been a different story if Clinton had taken the North Korean opening more seriously.

After Clinton , Mr. Bush won the Presidential race and went on to become the next President of the U.S. North Korea had hope, but unfortunately America was attacked and after 9/11, The Bush administration adopted a harder line toward North Korea . But sources say that Kim Jong Il, and the high level diplomats continued to seek the US president's attention by various means. But it was not enough to catch the attention of President Bush.

Perhaps, President Bush then had other enemies to deal with - al Qaeda and its terror net. And then, Iraq war happened and rest they say is one confrontation leading to another for the United States of America . But analysts said, alike Clinton , President Bush too failed to take advantage of this opening. Or was it done with intention, as later Mr. Bush labeled North Korea as one of the axis of evil.

Dismayed, restless, angry and completely bankrupt, it was then that North Korea went helter-skelter. It showed its true face to the world and of its dubious intention by first expelling UN weapons inspectors and then by withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Thereafter, to the dismay of the world, it reopened its nuclear facilities yet again.

Meanwhile, now, despite their anti – American audacity, North Korean regime is well aware of the country’s necessity. It knows, it is fighting a losing battle pretending to win. It is in dire need of help, and above all it wants a lasting bilateral relationship with the US .

North Korea has given another opening. So what is stopping the U.S?

The United States must understand the signal of North Korea and must not miss the opportunity to directly engage and observers say it must cash this opportunity because if not now, then when. The crucial question now is whether American government should put their drive towards ever closer union on the hold, or whether they should keep moving away from the North Korea because North Korean regime is making bombs after bombs.

Meanwhile, Washington is unlikely to dethrone North Korean from the axis of evil as long as the nuclear issue remains unsettled, that is unless North Korea agrees to put its nuclear weapons program back in the freezer.

Action has to be taken and it is America ’s to take. North Korea rejoinder that nothing can be done until America acts, America ’s approach of N. Korea hasn’t changed, and has become a delaying device. But delay is not a policy. The choice before America is to continue with the accusation, or to watch North Korean build weapons after weapons, with the certainty that more violence will ensue, and will make this world a more dangerous one than it already is - today.

Nonetheless, but so far efforts to strengthen the links between NK and US have made little impact. A better solution might be to get America exert more control over the North Korea ’s ambitious nuclear program. If they wish, both Pyongyang and Washington can view the glass proffered as half full, representing the best deal available after decades of division.

What is needed is some mechanism for linking relationships between North Korea and United States of America . In deed, some American veteran thinks that time has come for the Bush administration to make use of the widening openings. According to this school of thought, it is not the message that is at fault, but the failure to communicate it effectively.

Yet it remains true that most North Korean issues leave the West baffled. For instance, North Korea ’s financial dispute that erupted after the U.S financial crackdown that led to Macau freezing $24 million in North Korean accounts has not yet been resolved. But nonetheless, it is worth trying then complaining.

But, however, in the end, North Korea regime must decide whether or not it is ready to risk its political clout now, hold serious comprehensive talk with Washington in the interest of the long –term safety of their country. It is, however, a reminder that North Korea , no less than the America , has much at stake – and will be risking it, if it not stretches its hand first towards the west.

Bhuwan Thapaliya is a Nepal-based economist, author, analyst, poet and journalist. He serves as an Associate Editor of The Global Politician (