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Monday, October 13

North Korea: Pundita's Sherlock Holmes Award of the Month goes to Toshimitsu Shigemura

Julian Ryall has reported from Tokyo for the U.K. Daily Telegraph that newly-released photos of Kim Jong-il have only raised suspicions:
"Those photos were more damaging because it is well into autumn in North Korea now and the trees in the background clearly have summer foliage," said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Waseda University.

"This just goes to show how very ill he is," he said.
The professor also notes:
"The missiles that North Korea fired last week were into the Yellow Sea, instead of into the Sea of Japan. The military was sending a message to China and it is clear that relations between the two are not very good."
The rest of his analysis about North Korea is also well worth the read.

To add my two cents, if North Korea's military had been frightened by the U.S. treatment of Russia into backing away from the first phase of a disarmanent deal as I speculated several days ago, it could be that a rethinking of emerging economic realities caused them to knuckle down again to negotiations with Christopher Hill.

As John Batchelor noted on his show last night, the price of oil has to stay above $90 per barrel for Russia to pay its bills. The figure is surely a rough estimate but it underscores that governments heavily dependent on oil exports are looking at very serious trouble if the price of oil keeps dropping.

In any case I am happy that a deal was worked out to take North Korea off the terror list; I think the hardliners on all sides are wrong to sniff at the deal -- unless they'd like the U.S. to add Pakistan to the terror list to keep things fair.

No one disputes that Pyongyang is playing games about its nuclear weapons program, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with the North Korean society opening up more to the outside world. If a face-saving deal will help this process along, we should go for it. If it turns out we were played again -- what was the alternative to trying?
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