North Korea's push-me, pull-you strategy

What does the North Korean regime want? More than anything it wants to preserve itself.

AP Photo
North Korean Army delegates arrive Wednesday for a military meeting between the Koreas at truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone. The delegates later walked out.

North Korean foreign policy alternates between handshakes and stiff arms. By walking out of low-level talks with South Korea yesterday, North Korea signaled it is anything but remorseful over the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel last March or the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November.

Yesterday's meeting was to have been the first step toward resumption of six-party talks (the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan, and Russia) over the North's nuclear program.

North Korea is an isolated nation under the eccentric rule of a military regime headed by Kim Jong-il. Its national mythology, as detailed in a fascinating 2010 book by B. R. Myers -- "The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why it Matters" -- is made up tall tales of how it periodically must teach its enemies lessons even as the world admires its achievements in science and culture and envies its racial purity.

All of which would be amusing if the North weren't keeping its people in dire poverty, brandishing its military power on the Korean peninsula, and acquiring ballistic missiles to go along with its nuclear weapons. What does North Korea want? Clearly, it doesn't want normal relations with the outside world.

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