Mock­ing de­mands from Py­ongyang

The U.S. must an­swer North Korea in a way it will un­der­stand

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Learn­ing to read so­cial cues that say a red line has been crossed is a valu­able skill, and some despots never learn it. Like the abra­sive oaf with a rep­u­ta­tion as an equal op­por­tu­nity of­fender, North Korea has sig­naled it wants to strike a deal with the United States. Hav­ing just sent home a young Amer­i­can vis­i­tor with fa­tal in­juries, the regime is in no po­si­tion to ap­proach the U.S. with any­thing but an ab­ject apol­ogy — and the re­lease of the other three Amer­i­cans still be­ing held hostage.

The deal-mak­ing gam­bit was opened Wed­nes­day in the form of a query from North Korea’s am­bas­sador to In­dia, Kye Chun-yong, in which he an­nounced Py­ongyang would con­di­tion­ally sus­pend its nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests in re­turn for U.S. agree­ment to bi­lat­eral talks. In re­turn, the North Korean despot Kim Jong-un wants Amer­i­can forces to cease its pe­ri­odic joint ex­er­cises with the South Korea mil­i­tary, which he says is a cover for prepa­ra­tion for an in­va­sion of his her­mit king­dom. “If our de­mands are met,” says the am­bas­sador, “we can ne­go­ti­ate in terms of the mora­to­rium of such as weapons test­ing.”

It would be nat­u­ral to laugh at such bravado, but North Korea never in­vites a laugh, not even at Sen. John Mc­Cain’s de­scrip­tion of Kim Jong-un as “the crazy fat kid.” The treat­ment of Otto Warm­bier, the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia stu­dent im­pris­oned for tak­ing a poster from his ho­tel, tells the world ev­ery­thing about the na­ture of the regime in Py­ongyang, and why the West must deal with it as deal­ing with a ven­omous ser­pent.

Un­der the rule of Mr. Kim since 2012, Py­ongyang has la­bored to build nu­clear bombs and is now on the verge of per­fect­ing bal­lis­tic mis­siles with which to de­liver them across oceans that would no longer be a bar­rier. The North has viewed Amer­ica as an im­pla­ca­ble en­emy for its role in de­fend­ing the South dur­ing the Korean War more than six decades ago, and for its 28,000-man de­fen­sive force ever since, ready to stop an­other com­mu­nist in­va­sion. The North’s in­ces­sant saber-rat­tling has prompted Pres­i­dent Trump to order a show of force by dis­patch­ing Navy bat­tle groups to Asian wa­ters — the likely cause of the crazy fat kid’s feeler for talks.

U.S. con­sid­er­a­tion of talks should only fol­low Py­ongyang’s im­me­di­ate re­lease of Amer­i­cans Tony Kim, Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong-chul, all im­pris­oned on bo­gus charges. Re­al­is­tic chances of some de­gree of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion are slim. In the early 1990s, the North used bi­lat­eral talks with the United States to win heat­ing oil in ex­change for agree­ing to halt nu­clear weapons re­search. Af­ter break­ing off the ne­go­ti­a­tions, North Korea boasted that it played the Amer­i­cans for fools, with no in­ten­tion of aban­don­ing its quest for the bomb.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son met his Chi­nese coun­ter­part in Wash­ing­ton last week, telling him in no un­cer­tain terms that the onus is on Beijing to rein the despot. For far too long, China has looked the other way while its client state dis­rupted the neigh­bor­hood. Now that North Korea is bran­dish­ing its nu­clear weapons at the wider world, Mr. Trump has made clear that if China doesn’t act, he will. For the first time China en­dorsed the U.S. de­mand that North Korea should aban­don its nu­clear-weapons dream. That’s a good first step. China must take the next step.

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