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Talking to The Hermit State March 7, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North Korea.

This past Tuesday Japanese and North Korean diplomats agreed “on a timetable for two days of talks” set to begin Wednesday March 7, 2007. According to an article in today’s Japan Times,  “the first day would be spent addressing Japan’s priority issue (abduction issue) and the second on North Korea’s — how Japan should atone for its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.”

Interestingly enough, but not surprising, after the day’s morning session of talks, “North Korea has delayed the afternoon session of talks with Japan on normalizing strained relations, raising doubts about their chances.”

In a BBC News story (March 7, 2007) it is mentioned that “the North gave no reason for pulling out, and it was not clear if talks scheduled for Thursday were affected.”

Could it be that since the first day of talks were to address Japanese issues and concerns the Hermit State is just playing games?

If the talks do resume on Thursday, as planned, I am willing to bet the North will be in attendance the entire day, and will not cause any undue disruptions. This is because the second day is all about what North Korea wants.

I’m also guessing they will claim that all of Japan’s concerns were addressed in the previous day’s morning meetings.

Even if the meetings have been disrupted for a valid reason (very unlikely), are they even worth re-scheduling?

How can any democratic/capitalist state in North-East Asia, or the world for that matter, have a normal relationship with the DPRK?



1. koda7 - March 7, 2007

This could be political jockeying, but should Japan not insist on addressing Japan’s issues before continuing with Day 2’s agenda. Sorry, but my pragmatic approach would lead me to think that no state can expect “normal” relations with DPRK, and consequently should expect these things to occur and always have a plan for such occurrance.

2. canexafish - March 7, 2007

I agree with you, and must add that I was trying to say (last two questions in post) that while the DPRK is ruled in its current fashion and by that regime, I believe no democratic state should even deal with them in a “normal” manner.

3. Shingen - March 7, 2007

While the DPRK is intransigent, I do believe that states should attempt to normalise their relations with the North. Greater engagement in the international system might help the hermit state become less hermetic. However, they might (probably) be inclined to take advantage of the situation to secure concessions. Keeping the DPRK in the cold is not the solution though, to my mind.

4. koda7 - March 8, 2007

I completely agree with that. You can not build relations by not having them.

We have to open the door and have meaningful discussions with all nations. As long as nations talk, they don’t fight.

BTW Shingen… I think you ment “hermitic” and not “hermetic”. Hermetic refers to a system of esoteric knowledge associated to the Occult.

The reason I point it out, is because I laughed a little, thinking that it would be equally frightenning to have a Hermetic North Korea!

5. Shingen - March 8, 2007

Hah, you’re right 😉 I just allowed my firefox extension to check it and went with it. When I saw it, I thought of ‘hermetically sealed’ medical goods (which is the right spelling) and thought maybe they were one in the same.

The more you know…

6. canexafish - March 8, 2007

The DPRK can be brought “in from the cold” in either of two ways… By getting them to start talking with their neighbors (by giving in to their demands) or by completely cutting them off until the North Korean people rise up and revolt against their leaders.

In my opinion, isolating and economically crippling them further, to the point the army is directly affected, would lead to a very quick change. However, in order for that to happen China and South Korea would have to drastically change their behavior towards the North.

7. koda7 - March 9, 2007

I don’t agree with that. Those aren’t the only teo options. Humans are creative. We have to be able to come up with better than that. Slow intergration through diplomacy and business would work as well. Let’s be honest…

Your first options does nothing for N. Korea except create a future welfare state.

Option 2 will lead to war before revolution. Revolution only works when there are two factions. As I understand it in N. Korea there is only one… hence the dictatorship.

Is there an example in history where a nation’s people ever overcame a dictatorship without help from the outside?

8. canexafish - March 9, 2007

1- North Korea is already a welfare state. The recent 6 Party Accord is merely an extension of the welfare benefits it had already been receiving from the international community.

2 – The second option can only happen if all states surrounding the DPRK co-operate, and let’s pretend they were all going to work together on this one. Who would North Korea attack?

My guess is South Korea since that is where they could do the most damage. Unless they can figure out how to arm their missiles with nuclear warheads, then Japan will most likely get attacked.

However, prior to any of this happening, the South Korea, and Japan would have been watching and have been prepared for such moves.

There are plenty of examples “out-there” where the military has (for better or worse, with or without bloodshed) revolted and ended governments (dictatorships and/or other types). The most recent in my memory is Thailand. It is possible. Especially in North Korea where the military is all-powerful.

9. Shingen - March 9, 2007

The question is: “Is the military all-powerful?”

Certainly, it is not the military that has power, but individuals within it, as well as other political elites (the Dear Leader being the most obvious example). Unfortunately, so little is known about the politics of the DPRK that to suppose that the military have the power to turn and succeed is to do so with only the slightest evidence.

Furthermore, one might ask why the military might wish to revolt? They are the most well-fed of the DPRK citizens, they no doubt have a sizeable cut of the budget, and so general grievances aren’t likely to start a revolt. Perhaps if there was some power-politics play (a survivor of constant purges) or maybe even a more progressive thinker, then that is possible.

However, while we quarantine the DPRK and wait for these individuals to make their stand, how many civilians will starve to death? Starving people cannot fight a revolution… If we are looking for that outcome, giving tough love and expecting them to fight for themselves is not a good answer to the current state of affairs.

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