North Korea has borne exactly no costs for what is ostensibly an extraordinarily destabilizing nuclear transgression. Quite the contrary: As the alarming intelligence about the Libya-North Korean connection percolated through Seoul, the South Korean government responded with a new outpouring of concessions and blandishments for the North Korean regime. Over the past few weeks, in fact, Seoul has formally declared that North Korea is no longer the "main enemy" in South Korean defense policy, and has acted to discourage North Korean refugees from trying to go South.
No less significant is Seoul's newly revised position on nuclear aid for Pyongyang. Raising the ante and lowering the bar, Seoul now promises to give "large scale economic support" as soon as the North even "starts to give up its nuclear program." Interestingly enough, less than two weeks after the South unveiled this generous new plan, the North officially declared its status as a nuclear power.
We in the outside world can only speculate about the timing of North Korea's self-proclaimed entry into the nuclear-weapons club. As we reflect on the sorry record of events that has led us to this juncture, however, a most worrisome possibility is that the North Korean state has actually been learning from its interactions with the United States and the rest of the world.
To date, an ever more menacing North Korean nuclear program has in practice encountered only token resistance from the United States and others, despite the obvious and increasing threats that program poses to national interests in many countries. Each new round of North Korean nuclear provocations has generated clear-cut benefits for the North Korean state, rather than incontrovertible costs. It will be very unpleasant--and very expensive--to un-teach Pyongyang the lessons of the past two and a half years.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
If you haven't read much about the latest North Korean nuke flap, a good place to start is with Nicholas Eberstadt: here.