- By Brian FungBrian Fung is an editorial researcher at FP.
The hermit state’s routine of artificially manufacturing a crisis (with the intent to reap rewards by agreeing to fresh negotiations) is nothing new. Yet this time, rather than asking for food aid or oil shipments, Pyongyang now says it will come back to the table only if the six-party format is abandoned and replaced by bilateral talks with the United States.
The United States has offered to talk to North Korea directly within the six-party framework, but the latter insists that’s not good enough. The nuclear issue, according to the North’s top U.N. diplomat, is an issue concerning only Pyongyang and Washington, and should be discussed as such.
For all its faults, North Korea makes a good point; the Six-Party Talks have been a tremendous disappointment for everybody involved, and not all are as concerned about nukes as the White House is. Washington has strongly resisted talking directly to North Korea in the past. But maybe it’s time to try a different tack. After all, the current stalemate has been nothing less than gift to the Kim regime.
Until now, negotiations have had participants working at cross-purposes anyway. The South Koreans want to pursue a strategy of economic integration with their neighbors, while U.S. officials want to starve them out. Japan won’t touch the nuclear issue until a longstanding hostage crisis with North Korea gets resolved. China doesn’t want to push the rogue state too far for fear of prompting a flood of refugees across their common border. And Russia has never been very engaged in the debate to begin with, though it remains a major source of fuel oil for Pyongyang. What’s worse, only the United States insists on the North’s total disarmament as a prerequisite to U.S. concessions — a position not shared by America’s partners.
Viewed in a different light, the North’s proposal could be a unique opportunity.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a senior editor at The National Interest. Prior to Fletcher, he taught at the University of Chicago and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Drezner has received fellowships from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University. He has previously held positions with Civic Education Project, the RAND Corporation, and the Treasury Department.| Daniel W. Drezner |