N. Korea’s twists and turns

THERE SEEMS to be something perceptionally wrong in Pyongyang. Its never-ending hype and resolve to fix the Westerners, especially the Americans, is now becoming a bizarre script.

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Published: Thu 31 Jul 2014, 10:08 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:33 PM

News is that North Korea wants to put two detained United States men on trial, accusing them of committing ‘hostile acts’. North Korea is holding three Americans in custody. The latest to be detained is a tourist, Jeffrey Edward Fowle, who reportedly left behind a copy of Bible in his hotel room — something the North considers incendiary. Similarly, another US citizen, Kenneth Bae, is currently serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly crossing over into the North from South Korea and is said to be a missionary.

The hyperbole doesn’t stop there as the reclusive country is even prepared to go to war with the US in ‘retaliation’ for an upcoming Hollywood movie, which purportedly shows the character of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. This is outrageous, and exhibits the inability of the regime to address genuine issues in a pacific manner. A few months back, the foreign office had protested with Britain for a salon naming a haircut after Kim, and thought it to be sacrilegious!

All these instances drive home the point that the level of confusion in Pyongyang is quite high, and there is something that the isolated government is trying to prove before the world at large. Under any calculation it is its sense of restlessness, as it has not been able to tackle socio-economic and foreign policy issues in a realistic manner. And then it is this same pariah state that suddenly believes in releasing American hostages and feels cool in hosting NBA basketball icon Dennis Rodman. Previously detained US nationals were freed after visits from senior officials, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

This tendency of using detainees as bargaining chips is not without a purpose. In the same breath, North Korea is trigger-happy and had off and on experimented with its newly produced arsenal, including a third nuclear test — all meant to strike an accord of respectability and equality with the capitalist West. What is needed at this point of time is to reengage Pyongyang in diplomacy and revisit the 2007 deal, under which its nuclear ambition was to be passively addressed by the United States in lieu for climbing down the ladder. President Barack Obama who had made Asia Pivot his foreign policy preference cannot ignore North Korea at the twilight of his second-term in office. Striking a practical accord with Pyongyang will be a feather in Obama’s cap in furthering the objectives of global disarmament. Until that is done such shenanigans will continue from across the Armistice line.

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