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Mutual Trust Broken in Six-Party Talks
North Korea senses the resumption of the Cold War
Leonid Petrov (Leonid7)     Print Article 
Published 2008-08-27 02:55 (KST)   
On Tuesday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry announced through the KCNA news agency its decision to suspend disabling its nuclear facilities.

The alleged violation by the United States of the understandings, reached at the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, was mentioned as the primary reason. North Korea says it took this step because the US failed to remove it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism. However, the US insists on a more stringent verification processes before it does so.

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North Korea was expecting to be removed from the US list of terrorism sponsors in return for the submission to the Six-Party Talks of a long-delayed account of its nuclear facilities. However, this positive move was delayed amid disagreement between the other five parties -- South Korea, the US, China, Russia and Japan -- over how to verify the North's declaration.

Pyongyang said that disabling work was suspended on Aug. 14 and even threatened to restore the nuclear plant in Yongbyon, where the main cooling tower was symbolically demolished in late June to demonstrate Pyongyang's commitment to disarmament.

Last month, when the US State Department went ahead with the decision to remove North Korea from its list of terrorism-sponsoring states, the Congress had time until Aug. 10 to enact a joint resolution that would block this from happening. No action was necessary to allow it to pass, and as of Aug. 11, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would have completed the rescission.

Obviously, something went wrong and until today, North Korea is still on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. If the work on disabling the nuclear facilities was suspended immediately, why did North Korea make this statement only two weeks later?

It is logical to presume that the last two weeks were marked by the military confrontation in the Caucasus, an event too dramatic for the world to notice a minor development (or the lack of such) where North Korea remains in the list of rogue states. Today, when the world is again deeply in the state of Cold War, characterized by the return of ideological bi-polarity, North Korea's statement sounds dramatic and threatening enough. In the minds of Pyongyang strategists, this confrontation has never ended.

Now, when Moscow and Washington again look at each other through the screens of antimissile radars, North Korea knows that it is not alone. The old "zero-sum game" continues with new fervor.

Apparently, "substantive talks" on verification between the two sides continue. What else can be verified? Do North Koreans really have any undeclared secrets that make Americans so nervous that they break their promise easily? Only time will show.

Surely, to "suspend" the disabling of its nuclear facilities is one thing, but to "reverse" this process is completely different. For the time being, Pyongyang can continue blackmailing Washington with a mere "suspension," while hinting at further possible steps in this direction as deterrence.

If North Koreans have some undisclosed nuclear programs, they could reactivate them very soon to start the game all over again. If they do not (meaning that they have been bluffing to squeeze economic assistance from the West), they certainly need to develop one, simply to keep the stakes high.

In any case, the positive dynamic of the previous 18 months (since February 2007) is now history, and mutual trust is broken. The adopted principle of "action for action" now works against the common interest, quickly being reduced to "an eye for an eye." I hope that the world will not become blind in this process, as Mahatma Gandhi once warned us.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Leonid Petrov

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