North Korea said it would walk away from multinational nuclear disarmament talks on Tuesday. This move came after the UN Security Council issued a statement criticising the Kim Jong Il regime for launching a rocket on April 5. Some analysts think that this is Pyongyang’s way of pushing the United States into meeting one-on-one.
On April 8 2009, North Korean officials attended rallies to celebrate the rocket launch that the UN has officially condemned
The 15 member states of the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to condemn North Korea’s recent rocket launch on Monday. In order to get China and Russia, allies of the Kim Jong Il regime, to go along with it, the wording was watered down and was not the binding resolution that Japan and the US had originally pushed for.
But Tokyo’s UN ambassador, Yukio Takasu, still considered the statement a victory, saying that “concrete measures had been included to implement fully the existing sanctions regime. I think there is no stronger language than this one.”
Pyongyang reacted swiftly to the UN statement with its official Korean Central News Agency releasing a statement from the foreign ministry declaring that North Korea would no longer participate in the six-party denuclearisation talks.
The news agency also reported that efforts would be made to restart the partially-dismantled Yongbyon nuclear reactor and to reprocess spent fuel rods.
A habit of saying one thing and doing another
But some analysts believe that just because Pyongyang says it is walking away from the talks, it does not mean it actually will.
Narushige Michishita, an assistant professor at the National Graduate Institute of Policy Studies in Tokyo, explained: “Sometimes they say one thing and do another. This is a typical North Korean tactic in which they try to use other countries’ actions as an excuse for their misbehaviour.”
It’s not out of the ordinary for North Korea to make this type of threat. Machishita said that when North Korea had raised tensions like this in the past, it had usually been trying to get Washington’s attention.
“Ideally, they would like to talk to the Americans bilaterally;” he explained, “and so I think this is a part of their attempt to bring the Americans to a bilateral negotiating table and not the six-party negotiating table.”
Michishita cautioned that if Washington chose to negotiate with Pyongyang one-on-one, it could wind up leaving its closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, feeling sidelined.
Japanese sanctions might have very little impact
As a means of applying more pressure on North Korea, the Japanese cabinet recently extended economic sanctions. These block any imports from the country and forbid North Korean citizens or vessels from entering Japan.
The embargo also includes a ban on exports of luxury items such as electronics or high-priced seafood to North Korea. Tokyo has also limited the amount of money that can be transferred to North Korea.
But Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies at Temple University in Tokyo, said Japan’s sanctions had very little impact: “North Korea wasn’t getting much from Japan, a lot of the support that the North Koreans were getting from pro-North Korean residents in Japan had melted down earlier, so it’s fairly minor, if not insignificant.”
Speculation about the Dear Leader’s ill health
Meanwhile, there has been renewed speculation about North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s health.
Kim appeared looking thin and frail at a recent parliamentary session in which he was re-elected to a third term as Chairman of the National Defence Commission, his official title.
Contradicting most North Korean accounts that Kim is doing just fine, one North Korean paper commented this week on Kim’s haggard health.
An editorial from the Rodong Shinmun reported that workers at a local factory were saddened and some even wept when they saw the so-called Dear Leader’s poor condition when he visited.
There are rumours that this may be a tactic to raise public sympathy for the reclusive ruler.