US brushes off North Korea's overtures
Many see Pyongyang's recent friendly gestures as a tactical move. The US moved Tuesday to freeze the assets of two North Korean entities, while South Korea accused the North of unleashing a deadly flash flood.
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Some observers see North Korea's recent overtures as a response to the latest sanctions; three North Korean ships suspected of carrying weapons have been boarded or otherwise deterred from reaching their destinations in recent months.Skip to next paragraph
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Others are more circumspect, suggesting it is too early for the sanctions to bite. "But North Korea wants to ensure that this doesn't happen in future," says David Straub, a former US diplomat in Seoul who accompanied Bill Clinton on his mission last month to free the two American reporters.
US sticks to sanctions
None of Pyongyang's recent moves, however, appear to have budged Washington or its Asian allies from their insistence that sanctions should remain in place and be properly enforced, so long as North Korea pursues a nuclear weapon.
On Tuesday, the US moved to freeze the assets of two North Korean entities believed to be supporting the regime's nuclear and missile programs.
The result: the announcement last week of progress toward a uranium-based nuclear weapon and the sudden discharge of water from a reservoir Sunday that caused a flash flood in the South, killing six people.
If the North Koreans stick to their familiar pattern of crisis and deescalation, says Dr. Kim, Pyongyang might be expected to offer a few more conciliatory gestures in the coming weeks.
But this "appeasement offensive … has nothing to do with denuclearization," he adds. "It is just a tactic to counter international sanctions."
Most experts on North Korea, in the US, China, and South Korea, seem to have given up hope that Pyongyang will ever renounce its nuclear-weapons program. Its diplomats have been calling for direct talks with Washington that would confirm its membership in the nuclear-weapons club, and that would address denuclearization by both sides.
"I am very skeptical that they are ready to give up their nuclear weapons on any terms remotely acceptable to any US government," says Mr. Straub.
Professor Ren in Shanghai shares those doubts. "I see a very low possibility that the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] will give up its nuclear programs," he says. "If that is correct, and the outside world continues to insist on denuclearization, the impasse will remain."