KimJongil(Pictured: North Korean military officers trying to convince Kim Jong-il to step back from the spent-fuel-rod pool.*)

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has finally been put on the table. At long last, NORK seems ready to make concessions. Yet the West remains unmoved. Writing about Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s trip to the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, John Garnaut of the Sydney Morning Herald explains.

North Korean military officials have floated the prospect of ending the North’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for a peace treaty, to formally end the Korean War, and US forces leaving the Korean peninsula. . . . The approaches coincide with reports that North Korea is at risk of mass starvation on a scale it has not experienced in more than a decade following summer floods, an extreme winter and general economic dislocation. . . . “I think they really want to do a deal,” said a European diplomat, after what he described as candid discussion with a North Korean military officer.


. . . Julia Gillard, has hardened her uncompromising position on North Korea’s nuclear program. [Besides Australia] South Korea [and] the US . . . have dismissed the prospect of talks until North Korea meets tough preconditions.

In particular, Garnaut writes, “South Korea is deeply divided on what to do with its northern neighbour.”

“I think negotiations will be only possible once North Korea has displayed a clear position regarding its provocations with the Cheonan warship incident and the artillery attacks on Yeonpyeong Island,” South Korea’s Minister of Defence, Kim Kwan-jin, told the Herald .

On the other hand

Choi Jong-kun, at Yonsei University, said South Korean domestic politics should not stop Ms Gillard from engaging with the North. ”Make your own case, get involved in humanitarian aid, train them, spoil them with capitalism,” he said.

The West apparently seeks to turn North Korea’s misfortune into an opportunity to get its nonproliferation needs meets. But Pyongyang is nothing if not intractable and it may be willing to let its people eat grass before it agrees to every condition that the West sets.

*Kidding. For more such images, visit the Tumblr site Kim Jong-il Looking at Things.

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