News from the Associated Press may be signs of a door opening between the United States and that dangerous and secretive country.
We are used to bluster from Dear Leader Kim Jong Un and the North Korean media, but this news is amazing if only for the calm and reasonable “sounding" way it was delivered by Foreign Minister Ri Su Yung. Whether sanctions have actually worked or not, and I suspect they have taken a great toll of this backwards country, is besides the point. Ri said that if the United States stops what he called our “nuclear” war exercises on the Korean Peninsula, they would cease development of nuclear weapons. This comes on the heels of the North claiming to have successfully tested a submarine launched ballistic missile.
Ri told the Associated Press: "A country as small as the DPRK cannot actually be a threat to the U.S. or to the world… How great would it be if the world were to say to the United States and the American government not to conduct any more military exercises in the Korean Peninsula ... But there is not a single country that says this to the U.S. These big countries alone or together are telling us that we should calm down… For us this is like a sentence, that we should accept our death and refuse our right to sovereignty."
My layman’s view of geopolitical gamesmanship is that there’s almost always a large element of “show" in military exercises like the one North Korea is saying they are so concerned about. We put on an intimidating show and the North Koreans respond. But it has previously been with bluster and bravado. They know that at any given time one nearby carrier strike group with a nuclear submarine the United States could rain destruction on North Korea.
For the time being at least, the United States is, wisely I think, avoiding any public sign of hopefulness.
From the A.P: "In response to Ri's remarks, a U.S. State Department official defended the military exercises as demonstrating the U.S. commitment to its alliance with the South and said they enhance the combat readiness, flexibility and capabilities of the alliance.”
"We call again on North Korea to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations," said Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the State Department's Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs.
On a political note, the message to Republicans forever damning Obama’s foreign policy, especially our deal with Iran and opening relations with Cuba, it must be noted that if we can begin to talk constructively with this most paranoid and secretive country, it will have been on Obama’s watch.
How much of this news is generated by North Korea without any back-channel conversations with the United States is speculative. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry know, but they aren’t saying.