North Korea zigs, North Korea zags

It appears that North Korea has changed its mind about walking away from six-party talks on its nuclear ambitions. Anna Fifield and Richard McGregor provide the following report in the Financial Times: North Korea suddenly reversed its position on multilateral nuclear talks on Tuesday, offering to discuss its nuclear weapons programmes with the US and ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

It appears that North Korea has changed its mind about walking away from six-party talks on its nuclear ambitions. Anna Fifield and Richard McGregor provide the following report in the Financial Times:

It appears that North Korea has changed its mind about walking away from six-party talks on its nuclear ambitions. Anna Fifield and Richard McGregor provide the following report in the Financial Times:

North Korea suddenly reversed its position on multilateral nuclear talks on Tuesday, offering to discuss its nuclear weapons programmes with the US and its neighbours, if Washington showed “sincerity” and met its “mature conditions”. The reversal, less than two weeks after Pyongyang captured the world’s attention by declaring it had already made nuclear weapons, follows the dispatch of Wang Jiarui, a high-level Chinese envoy, to the North Korean capital. The U-turn, offering the hope of a resumption of the six-party talks, is the latest bout of erratic behaviour from a North Korean regime that has so far evaded all efforts to disarm it. The official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, as offering to return to negotiations, adding that his country “never opposed the six-party talks but made every possible effort for their success”. “We will go to the negotiating table anytime if there are mature conditions for the six-party talks,” KCNA reported. It is rare for Mr Kim to be quoted directly, and this is his first statement since the February 10 nuclear announcement.

Here’s a link to the KCNA press report. This is certainly a change from North Korea’s rhetoric and actions earlier this month. If this change of tack pans out — the North Korean statement has an awful lot of wiggle room — then North Korea has put China into an increasingly awkward position. This episode would demonstrate that China is the one country that can get the North Koreans to cooperate. Which means, down the road, that China will be pressured by the other members of the six-party talks to compel North Korea to halt its weapons program.

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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