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Why Any Nuke Deal with North Korea May Be 'Cash for Clunkers'

05-02-2018

Before the Nobel Peace Prize Committee reaches for poison after listening to Donald Trump's acceptance speech (imagine the sad faces as Trump talks about 'Winning'), a closer look at what is really happening on the Korean peninsula shows there might not be as much to rejoice over as some had hoped.
 
The whole media narrative that the North Korean despot Kim Jong-un suddenly wants peace should make everyone suspicious.  It could be true, most of all because so many have prayed for North Korea, and history has surprised us over and over with sudden ends to communist regimes:  The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the revolution in Romania come to mind.
 
But as Ronald Reagan used to say in negotiations with the lying, thieving Soviets, 'Doveryai, no proveryai,'  or 'Trust but check.'
 
And what Kim has to offer in nuclear arms negotiations may amount to very little.
 
There are reports that Kim's nuclear program came to a dead stop when the mountain where he was testing his bombs collapsed in an environmental catastrophe.
 
Chinese geologists reported that Mt. Mantap, above the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, collapsed in September last year, making the area unsafe for any further testing because of the risk of radiation leaks. (There is currently a dispute over how bad the collapse was.)
 
If Kim needs time to revive his program, he has just parlayed a peace overture into a delaying tactic and a public relations coup at the same time.
 
But if Kim is sincere, another explanation for this miraculous transformation is that he truly believes he is about to be killed.
 
After 40 years of successfully conning the West into sending money and food and fuel in return for broken promises, the North is now looking across at Donald Trump, who has threatened Pyongyang with 'Fire and Fury.'
 
China has also turned off the economic spigot. North Korea's foreign cash reserves are reported to be seriously depleted, and there are indications Kim can no longer feed his armed forces.

Hungry soldiers represent a grave existential threat to tin-pot dictators.
 
Whatever the reason for Kim's sudden change, American and South Korean negotiators should view any nuclear deal with him as a version of 'cash for clunkers;'  our generous concessions in return for the shuttering of a possibly crippled nuclear weapons program, with a cunning leader desperate to stay alive and in power.
 
But if this is just another North Korean shakedown attempt, it looks like a brilliant one.

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