N. Korea flexes muscles ahead of nuclear summit

North Korea is back in the spotlight. On Wednesday, it launched a verbal assault at South Korea for its scheduled hosting of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit slated for March 26 and 27. The North’s Central News Agency characterized the global gathering as a grave threat to the Stalinist state, threatening that “it won’t sit back.”

The state-controlled media called South Korea the nuclear outpost of the United States as well as the world’s most volatile country. Having said that, the North claimed, it was ridiculous for the South to host such a gathering where world leaders are going to discuss ways to prevent the trafficking of nuclear materials.

It also reported that leader Kim Jong-un inspected a military unit in charge of the operation of nuclear weapons and mid-to-long range missiles.

This was unprecedented as the state-controlled media never made such a visit public when the late Kim Jong-il ruled the country.

North Korea’s show of anger coincided with South Korea’s campaign season ahead of the April 11 National Assembly elections.

Some analysts here speculated that the North’s target audience could be South Korean voters. The North might attempt to rally support from South Koreans to join the anti-nuclear summit campaign, they said.

During a news conference held Wednesday to mark his fourth year in office, President Lee Myung-bak expressed a similar concern.

Lee said North Korea has used several tactics to divide public opinion in the South ahead of the Assembly elections. The North should bear in mind though that it has nothing to gain if it goes ahead with the malicious tactic, Lee warned.

‘Berlin proposal’ in retrospect

Meanwhile, North Korea’s inflammatory, irrational reaction to the summit reminded this reporter of President Lee Myung-bak’s conditional offer to North Korea made in Berlin last year.

In May, President Lee said he was willing to invite then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il _ who died of heart failure last December _ to the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit if the North took measures for denuclearization.

Lee made the offer during a joint press conference held in Berlin after a summit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In retrospect, it was a proposal for the sake of proposing at best.

All conditional offers, whether those who make them are business executives or government negotiators, are called such, only when they met key conditions.

To make conditional offers valid, a person asks its counterpart to give something up and suggest how they are going to benefit from their sacrifice. If a player sacrifices something for mutually beneficial purposes, the counterpart will reward them with a carrot.

The Berlin proposal goes like this. If North Korea takes necessary measures for denuclearization, South Korea will invite its leader to the global gathering where world leaders are going to discuss ways to contain troubled countries such as the North.

South Korea called for the North’s giving up the nuclear program but didn’t elaborate how it could benefit from the move.

The Berlin proposal was an invitation purposed to be neglected.

The leaders of 50 nations will gather in Seoul in March to discuss ways to prevent the worst-case scenario of the transfer of nuclear materials to dangerous non-state actors, such as terrorists. If given nuclear materials, terrorists could attempt to build crude bombs with the material to destroy their target. If this becomes a reality, the consequences for the international community will be disastrous.

North Korea is one of a few nations under criticism for the trafficking of nuclear materials to dangerous regimes or countries. It reportedly helped some nations build nuclear bombs and exported its technology to some countries to make hard currency.

According to Wikileaks, a man identified as the financial advisor to the late Osama bin Laden purchased ground-to-air missiles from North Korea in 2005. “On 19 November 2005, Hezb-Islami party leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Dr. Amin, bin Laden’s financial advisor, both flew to North Korea departing from Iran. While in North Korea, the two confirmed a deal with the North Korean government for remote controlled rockets for use against American and coalition aircraft,” the undated report said.

North Korea’s inflammatory reaction to the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit ― its belated turning down of Lee’s Berlin proposal ― this week was no surprise at all. It was simply overdue. <Korea Times/Kang Hyun-kyung>

news@theasian.asia

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