What to do about North Korea: A Conundrum

Reuters: North Korea to suspend nuclear disarmament

After months of progress in North Korea, the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang has decided to take a step backwards and is suspending the disablement of its nuclear program. North Korea wants the United States to take it off of the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror, and the U.S. has said it will – once it verifies NK is disarming.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that Washington is in contact with North Korea trying to resolve this issue.

What North Korea is doing
Kim Jong-Il is trying to delay as much as possible. Pyongyang’s nuclear program is its most powerful negotiating card. He is reluctant to give it up. As well, his government is trying to get more out of the disarmament deal – namely, getting off the terror blacklist before full verifications are made.

Walking a fine line
Dealing with North Korea is a balancing act between being assertive enough without provoking a negotiations-ruining response and being acquiescent enough to get a deal done.

This conundrum makes it hard to tell what to do next.

A mechanism for verifying Pyongyang’s disarmament still needs to be set up: this should be the primary goal. During this crucial time, we must be careful not to needlessly provoke North Korea. However, that does not mean we should be weak.