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  May 29, 2009

Mr. Obama, do we have your attention?

North Korea wants to be accepted by the US as a nuclear power
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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.

North Korea has conducted its second underground nuclear test, and also tested short-range missiles. Predictably, the UN Security Council is still debating how to react. China, North Korea's window to the world, basically wants to maintain the current status quo. Pepe Escobar argues going nuclear is the only way North Korea's Great Leader Kim Jong-Il, 67, and not in very good health, knows when it comes to calling for Washington's attention. Demonizing North Korea is counter-productive; as soon as North Korea is recognized as a nuclear power, negotiations can really advance, and the regime will cease to be so idiosyncratic.


Mr. Obama, do we have your attention?

PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: This is North Korea's Central News Agency, in their inimitable style, announcing their latest underground nuclear tests earlier this week, followed by five short-range missile tests a few hours later. This was their second nuclear test, much bigger than the first one in October 2006. Then all hell broke loose. Pyongyang announced that we are all back to 1953. The Korean War was still on. The rhetoric, well, was apocalyptic. I quote: "Those who have provoked us will face unimaginable merciless punishment." [Statement on Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)] If anyone didn't get it, this headline spelled out the obvious.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs pose a grave threat to the peace and security of the world, and I strongly condemn their reckless action.

ESCOBAR: Pyongyang threatening the world? Not really. Already a month ago, a South Korean newspaper—this is a French translation—unveiled what this was all about. Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, he'll only talk to Barak Obama. So no six-party talks, because South Korea and Japan, they will block detailed negotiations, according to Pyongyang. The only player that really matters is Washington. There's a myth in the West that China can influence North Korea. Well, it's a little more complicated than that. Geography, of course, is destiny. They share an 850 mile long border, of course. Mao Zedong, seen in this Soviet newsreel meeting Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il's father, used to say their relationship was like, I quote, "lips and teeth." The DMZ (demilitarized zone) between North and South Korea remains the last frontier of the Cold War. So North Korea's window to the world has to be China. Everything in North Korea is made in China. But it's not trade; its aid, actually. Pyongyang, they cannot pay the bills. China President Hu Jintao was not very excited by this nuclear test, to say the least. But the message from both Beijing and Moscow to the US is very, very clear: take it easy. As the South Korean expert points out, China and Russia want stability, the status quo, basically. But what about South Korea? Seoul, now with a very conservative government in power, will follow Washington. This means UN Security Council talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, more sanctions. Bad idea. So how to deal with Dear Leader Kim? This test was equivalent to the bomb that flattened Nagasaki in 1945 from the US point of view. This has to be packaged into a bomb that has to be shrunk down and carried by a missile. This breaks down to North Korea still being years away from a deliverable nuclear weapon. Kim's strategy is to test, to wait, and then be accepted by the international community. India did it in 1998, and it worked. Obama's advisers told him to ignore North Korea, unlike the overtures towards Iran. Big mistake. Now Kim's got Obama's attention. Joseph Cirincione, he illustrates the consensus in the US at the moment. He recommends a mix of carrots and sticks. But that's still more or less what this man used to propose.

GEORGE BUSH, US PRESIDENT: If North Korea continues to make the right choices, it can repair its relationship with the international community, much as Libya has done over the past few years. If North Korea makes the wrong choices, the United States and our partners in the six party talks will respond accordingly. Kim is now 67. He's frail. No public appearances. Dynasty is now in play in Pyongyang. South Korean analysts point out that last month his brother-in-law joined the National Defense Commission—that's the elite of the government in North Korea. They see it as Kim getting as cozy with the military as possible. The next leader is supposed to be—who else? Kim's son Kim Jong-un, now in his mid-20s. So the test is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. The regime and the dynasty's survival are at stake. But the [inaudible] message: we are a nuclear power, we are not Iraq, and no one will mess with us. Very curious, but the North Koreans thought they had been recognized already has a nuclear power way back in December 2008. Meanwhile, in Washington, this man should be in charge of talking to North Korea as assistant secretary of state for East Asia, but he has not been confirmed yet. So what to do? It's time to hit Pyongyang and talk. North Korea, snuggled up to Japan, Russia, and China is not strategically essential to the US. The US made it matter because it always prevented the unification of the Koreas and kept US military forces in South Korea. Is anyone thinking outside the box, like let's push for the unification of the Koreas? Forget it. Of course not. So the world is left with this. [illustration] And Washington, Washington cannot nuke North Korea—China and Russia would never allow it. The Russian Ria Novosti news agency nailed it.

TEXT ON SCREEN: North Korea poses no real threat to the world

ESCOBAR: So, if he's no threat, why offer not offer him membership to this exclusive nuclear club of guardians of international peace and morality? Hit it!

Korean People's Army choir

Song of General Kim Jong-il


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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