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Catfish and Cod
Sunday, August 03, 2003
The fog of "war" clears somewhat.
(Link path: Incestuous Amplification)

Incestuous Amplification, who has followed the North Koreans with far more attention than I, agrees that the North Koreans are not likely to negotiate nicely:

Knowing the history of North Korean negotiating tactics, it would be quite easy for them to minimize the multilateral sessions, breeze through them with no effort, and bring out the big guns and blustering rhetoric during the promised bilateral session with the United States. If the Norks know that bilateral sessions will take place (whether formal or informal) alongside the multilateral, what incentive do the North Koreans have to fully participate and push their agenda in the multilateral format? None.

But two can play that game. Den Beste points out that we forced the North Koreans to use trilateral, rather than bilateral, talks with the Chinese by the expedient of refusing to meet in the same room and forcing "shuttle diplomacy".

We may do the same if the North Koreans make a mockery of "big-tent" talks. Here's the idea:

1) The North Koreans act asinine at the big-table discussions, and they break up.
2) The North Koreans go into the bilateral negotiations, and similarly act asinine. The Americans get up and walk out, or insult the North Koreans so that they walk out.
3) Once again, we initiate "shuttle diplomacy", with everyone else in the role of "shuttlers".

What purpose would such activities serve? None, if we walk in with the intention of actually making a deal with the North Koreans. But if they serve up standard fare, i.e., threats and blackmail, then we force everyone else to endure North Korean guff. That will strengthen our arguments for the North Korean blockade that we've been arguing for. When the North Koreans act insane, these arguments will take root in the diplomats' hearts and guts, where humans are far more vulnerable to prejudice. The goal is to convince the Great Powers' diplomatic corps that no deal with North Korea is possible. If all five nations then agree that a blockade is necessary, a blockade will happen. (The participants include three of the five members of the Security Council, and every major economic power in the region.) The North Koreans will be forced to either launch a pre-emptive attack or face economic starvation within weeks. Either choice results in suicide for the North Korean regime.

The bet that's being made here is that behind the facade of bluff and bluster, Kim Jong-Il is a rational actor. That he will act to save his butt, and make a deal to try to gain time. That would give us more time to organize a deal with the Chinese that will resolve the "Korean Question" permanently. The shape of such a deal is clear: South Korea gets North Korea, with active Chinese participation in the dismantlement of the current North Korean regime, in return for an eviction of the United States from the Korean peninsula.

UPDATE: Facts on the Ground thinks "Agreed Framework Plus" will be the result of the negotiations. This outcome is possible, but it will only be a stopgap if it occurs. The Administration will continue its efforts to talk the Chinese into putting the Norks out of their misery, because there's really no way to guarantee North Korean complicity.