North Korea to Begin Disabling Nuke Program on Monday

In the category of news accounts you hope are true is this one from the AP's Hiroko Taguchi:
TOKYO - A team of U.S. experts will begin disabling North Korea's nuclear facilities Monday, the top U.S. envoy to nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang said, marking the biggest step the communist country has ever taken to scale back its atomic program.

Christopher Hill also said North Korea - one of the world's most isolated countries - appeared to be opening up, and said efforts had begun towards removing the communist regime from Washington's list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

"By Monday morning, they will begin their work," Hill said, referring to the U.S. team that arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday. "It's a very big day because it's the first time it's actually going to start disabling its nuclear program," he said.
If it is, it is because this Administration rejected the Clinton plan of unilateral discussion in favor of multilateral efforts. And if it is, you can be sure this Administration will never be credited with this achievement and the failed efforts of the prior Administration will be little remarked on as its architects continue to be cited as experts in diplomacy and foreign affairs.

Thomas Lifson adds:

Kim Jong-il turns 66 early next year and succession issues loom. Nobody really knows anything about the real power dynamics, but there are circumstances suggesting the military in particular does not want to see the Kim Dynasty continue. The obvious dynastic candidate, Kim's eldest son Kim Jong-nam, embarrassed the regime by getting caught at Narita Airport in Tokyo traveling on a false passport on a planned visit to Tokyo Disneyland.

The extreme self-indulgence of Kim and his family, contrasted to the starvation level poverty of the rest of the country does not wear well. Even if Kim passes out Napoleon brandy, Rolex watches and a few Mercedes Benzes to the elite, it may not compensate for the relatives and acquaintances that perished in the 1990s famine, which may have taken as much as 10% of the population.

So the fact that North Korea shows signs of moving away from its extreme diplomatic isolation may be significant. China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the US all do not want the regime to implode. The nuclear arsenal aside, should the regime crack and implode into some kind of civil war, the refugee problem would be a nightmare for China and South Korea in particular. The five nations have a variety of sources of leverage, with China's control of energy having being the strongest immediate coercive potential. It is faintly possible that the regime is being nudged toward a more normal existence, and eventually greater interdependence with the rest of the world.
The North has opened or restored relations with five countries since July, and senior officials have visited Russia, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East - a rare burst of international activity by one of the world's most isolated nations.

"As they participate in the six-party process, I think there is a desire to overcome their isolation," Hill said. He warned, however, the process would be slow.
The Bush Administration stuck with its guns, insisting on multilateral talks with North Korea, and faced criticism from Democrats. But it has obviously been the key to what looks like it could be real progress. (Keep your fingers crossed.)
In the category of news accounts you hope are true is this one from the AP's Hiroko Taguchi:
TOKYO - A team of U.S. experts will begin disabling North Korea's nuclear facilities Monday, the top U.S. envoy to nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang said, marking the biggest step the communist country has ever taken to scale back its atomic program.

Christopher Hill also said North Korea - one of the world's most isolated countries - appeared to be opening up, and said efforts had begun towards removing the communist regime from Washington's list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

"By Monday morning, they will begin their work," Hill said, referring to the U.S. team that arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday. "It's a very big day because it's the first time it's actually going to start disabling its nuclear program," he said.
If it is, it is because this Administration rejected the Clinton plan of unilateral discussion in favor of multilateral efforts. And if it is, you can be sure this Administration will never be credited with this achievement and the failed efforts of the prior Administration will be little remarked on as its architects continue to be cited as experts in diplomacy and foreign affairs.

Thomas Lifson adds:

Kim Jong-il turns 66 early next year and succession issues loom. Nobody really knows anything about the real power dynamics, but there are circumstances suggesting the military in particular does not want to see the Kim Dynasty continue. The obvious dynastic candidate, Kim's eldest son Kim Jong-nam, embarrassed the regime by getting caught at Narita Airport in Tokyo traveling on a false passport on a planned visit to Tokyo Disneyland.

The extreme self-indulgence of Kim and his family, contrasted to the starvation level poverty of the rest of the country does not wear well. Even if Kim passes out Napoleon brandy, Rolex watches and a few Mercedes Benzes to the elite, it may not compensate for the relatives and acquaintances that perished in the 1990s famine, which may have taken as much as 10% of the population.

So the fact that North Korea shows signs of moving away from its extreme diplomatic isolation may be significant. China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, and the US all do not want the regime to implode. The nuclear arsenal aside, should the regime crack and implode into some kind of civil war, the refugee problem would be a nightmare for China and South Korea in particular. The five nations have a variety of sources of leverage, with China's control of energy having being the strongest immediate coercive potential. It is faintly possible that the regime is being nudged toward a more normal existence, and eventually greater interdependence with the rest of the world.
The North has opened or restored relations with five countries since July, and senior officials have visited Russia, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East - a rare burst of international activity by one of the world's most isolated nations.

"As they participate in the six-party process, I think there is a desire to overcome their isolation," Hill said. He warned, however, the process would be slow.
The Bush Administration stuck with its guns, insisting on multilateral talks with North Korea, and faced criticism from Democrats. But it has obviously been the key to what looks like it could be real progress. (Keep your fingers crossed.)