Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The trouble with North Korea
If there are no consequences to North Korea's belligerent development of nuclear weapons technology at the expense of its own people's well-being, the regime in Pyongyang is not going to alter its behavior. That should be plainly obvious by now, after years of abandoned and broken agreements and still-angry relations with South Korea and the United States. So, reports from Seoul that North Korea has been hauling off equipment from the site of an internationally funded nuclear power station where construction was halted in 2002 should not have surprised anyone. Yet outraged reactions from South Korean officials reflect just such surprise, according to the Reuters international news service. "The removal of equipment without taking steps to settle financial issues is a clear violation of the agreement and can be construed as theft," one official told South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, Reuters said. More than 200 pieces of heavy equipment worth $39 million, including cranes, bulldozers and trucks, were left at the site in 2002 and could have been used in North Korea's latest nuclear test in May, officials said. Most of the 6,500 tons of steel left at the site also has been removed by the desperately poor Pyongyang regime, the newspaper said. North Korea's foundering economy has been further crippled by stepped-up international trade sanctions that followed its nuclear test in May. Western nations have been offering trade improvements as an incentive to induce the north, which depends on food aid shipments from the West every winter, to halt its development of nuclear technology. Pyongyang has recently signaled that it might be willing to resume talks, Reuters said. But to what end? Sanctions only seem to make the people of North Korea poorer and the government in Pyongyang even more angry. It may very well be that North Korea's government will have to be forced from power before a reasonable accommodation is possible.