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Analysis: As tensions remain high, China grows weary of its "spoiled child."
"We have full deterrence to destroy our enemies at once," said the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party, warning that this week’s military exercises risked ''driving the situation to an uncontrollable catastrophe'' in an attempt to ''impose a nuclear war disaster'' on the Korean peninsula.
The North’s attack on Yeonpyeong continued to stir anger in South Korea.
The president, Lee Myung Bak, described the barrage as an “inhumane crime,” but the rest of his nationally televised address on Monday had the feel of a mea culpa delivered by a humbled leader at a time of national crisis.
“As the president, I stand here with a deep feeling of responsibility for being unable to protect the lives and property of the people,” Lee said ''I am truly sorry, and express a feeling of regret for the loss of innocent people and destruction of property." And his vow to make North Korea “pay an appropriate price” applied only to future provocations.
Its rhetoric aside, Noth Korea today attempted to bolster its negotiating position by giving details of its “peaceful” uranium-enrichment program at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon, revealed earlier this month to a visiting U.S. scientist.
“Currently construction of a light-water reactor is in progress actively and a modern uranium enrichment plant equipped with several thousands of centrifuges, to secure the supply of fuels, is operating," the Rodong Sinmun said in an article carried by the state news agency KNCA. "Nuclear energy development projects will become more active for peaceful purpose in the future."
Gauging Pyongyang’s intentions is fraught with uncertainty so soon after it took the gamble of attacking civilians for the first time since the 1950-53 Korean War.
But some analysts believe recent provocations are a sign that Kim Jong Il is ready to talk. “If you look at the recent history of North Korean diplomacy, it is one of negotiating from a position of strength,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at Temple University in Tokyo.
“And from the North Korean perspective, the uranium-enrichment disclosures and the attack on Yeonpyeong show it is in a position of strength. The message is that they are interested in talking.”
We now know, courtesy of WikiLeaks, that some Chinese officials have become frustrated with North Korea’s behavior, even going as far as to accept the idea of a united Korea governed from Seoul, provided U.S. forces do not cross the current demilitarized zone. In one dispatch, a Chinese official likened its troublesome ally to a “spoiled child.”
With negotiations in the offing — and the only realistic alternative a further display of belligerence by Pyongyang — the coming days should tell us if Washington is willing to ditch its disciplinarian instincts and join Beijing in playing the role of indulgent parent.
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