The Weakened Regime in North Korea Strengthened

November 25, 2006

The former President of South Korea, Kim Daejung, has urged the US to lift its financial sanctions on North Korea. Daejung is among those that believe that these economic sanctions are, in fact, encouraging North Korea to develop its nuclear arms program.

The reasoning is simple enough and makes sense. The money being blocked by the US and its allies is needed for the North Korean regime to survive; without it, the country’s leadership needs to assert its power in other ways.

In that sense, the October 9 nuclear test was the government’s way of showing resolve and strength to its domestic audience. The test could have been postponed indefinitely, but it was North Korea’s last option with the financial sanctions in place. This would also explain President Kim Jong-Il belligerent discourse following the nuclear test.

The weakness of the North Korean regime is undeniable; in a document released yesterday, Amnesty International outlined the country’s worsening food crisis as well as the problem of child malnutrition. On the same day, the International Red Cross signed a three-year agreement with North Korea which will see the organization assist the government with food shortages and the provision of water supplies.

In the run up to the resumption of nuclear talks, North Korea has repeatedly called for the lifting of US financial sanctions. When these sanctions were originally imposed in 2005, North Korea walked away from the negotiating table. After the October 9 nuclear test, and several weeks of diplomatic signaling, North Korea said it was ready to return to talks.

The paradox is that the regime has gained strength in the meantime; having tested its nuclear capability, it has acquired the negotiating advantage.

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