Wednesday, October 31

North Korea: starting a long journey in from the cold, or just another feint?

From Chosunilbo today:
New tones of engagement with the international community are emerging from North Korea's official and quasi-official media. Articles stress North Korea "in the world", "international economic relations", and "the need to respect rules in international relations."

Improvements in the hermit country's external relations are being touted as nothing short of "epoch-making."

North Korea experts read this as laying the psychological groundwork either for improving relations with the U.S. or for economic development through attracting massive foreign investment. [...]
Then there is this Reuters report from earlier in the month:
China has reduced rail freight traffic to North Korea in recent weeks, holding up some shipments of humanitarian aid to the impoverished country, an aid agency and rail authorities said on Friday. The move was apparently taken in anger over Chinese rail cars going missing in North Korea, where analysts say they are sometimes disassembled and sold as scrap metal.

“A lot of Chinese rail cars have piled up in North Korea and have not come back,” said an official in the cargo division of China’s Railways Bureau in Dandong, the Chinese border city through which most freight to North Korea passes. “So on this side, we reduced the number of rail cars going to North Korea,” said the official, who declined to be identified.
This is not the first time Chinese transport for food aid has gone missing in North Korea. Korea expert Joshua Stanton tries to make sense of the latest absurd case of hand-biting:
It would be easy to read too much into this. After all, this is probably more the result of Kim Jong Il losing control over his own society and economy than a scheme to rip the Chinese off for the price of scrap metal. Still, it’s hard to imagine how Kim Jong Il, who presumably has enough manpower to guard large steel objects, let things get to this point. Nor can we rule out any course of North Korean action merely because it happens to be irrational. It may be time for a few more us to simply admit that we aren’t equipped with the mentality required to understand or predict North Korean behavior. [...]
So now, we wait on events.

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