Monday, January 04, 2010

What is North Korea thinking?

North Korea is in the throes of a new "peace offensive" that analysts say could lead to the resumption of six-party talks on its nuclear program.

The North Korean regime kicked off the offensive with a carefully modulated New Year's message of reconciliation with the US. The statement calls for establishing "a lasting peace system on the Korean peninsula" in order to "make it nuclear-free through dialogue. The question, however, is whether the latest rhetoric represents any shift in policy - " or just a new approach.

Kim Tae-woo, veteran analyst with the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis, says the North's latest tactics are "a continuation of the shift" that began with the death in August of South Korea's former president, Kim Dae-jung, an ardent advocate of North-South reconciliation.

While the New Year's message may be a sign of the North's willingness to return to six-party talks, last held in Beijing in December 2008, it bears no clue as to whether the North would abandon its nuclear program before attaining a number of other goals.

If nothing else, however, North Korea's New Year's message may be good news for Robert Park, the American missionary who crossed the frozen Tumen River border from China into North Korea on New Year's eve. Mr. Park bore a message of peace and good-will for Kim Jong-il - " along with demands for release of political prisoners and opening of borders. Park is expected to become a pawn in negotiations as the US presses North Korea to return to negotiations.

Christian Science Monitor

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