Bush and North Korea

The communist North Korean regime is a master in the art of political blackmail. Its condition of personal and unforeseeable redoubt, extremely dangerous both inside and out, allows it to successfully exploit international fear concerning its development of nuclear weapons. North Korea never hesitated to show its teeth to the West, each time that things seemed bad, the most recent and alarming occasion in 2006 when it set off an atomic device.

This skill in threatening has now worked, as it has led to President Bush recently arriving in North Korea after 20 years, and six since he included it in the axis of evil, the list of governments that support terrorism, a visit promised in June but blocked owing to insufficient North Korean compliance with the agreed nuclear inspection protocols.

It was enough for Pyongyang to interrupt the dismantling of its heavy nuclear complex in Yongbyon, to the north of the capital, begun last November, and to forbid the entrance of UN inspectors. Having achieved its objective, the dictatorship returns to cooperate with the United States and its regional allies and again promises unrestricted access to its installations.

The US decision – received with reluctance by South Koreans and Japanese, fearful neighbors of the North Korean arsenal – is a notable victory for Pyongyang which has now freed itself from the blow of its greatest and most enduring political stigma and will then be allowed access to international banking cycles, currently vetoed. All this at a time there is speculation concerning the state of health of the dictator Kim Jong-il, when there is fear of a new famine and when the early signs of an economic movement are arriving in the hermetic and petrified Stalinist country, with the proliferation of informal markets and the increase in border trade with China its only guild.

Bush in his lowest hours cannot afford to leave the White House attracting the charge of having failed in one of his most touted projects, that of the nuclear disarmament of the enemy North Korea, which is on track after years of multifacted diplomacy in which China, Russia, Japan and South Korea have played a determinant role. But not even this measure to partially rehabilitate Pyongyang is going to be easy to sell to his fellow religious Republicans, judging by the coolness with which it was met by his candidate for succession, John McCain.

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