A US envoy flew to Seoul yesterday in an attempt to regain the initiative in the standoff with North Korea. At a news conference today, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly reiterated the US offer to open talks with North Korea and acknowledged the country’s deepening energy crisis.
The diplomatic crisis has severely escalated in recent days. On Friday, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That same day, Pyongyang warned the US that a new Korean War would lead to World War Three. And yesterday the government newspaper said: "If the United States evades its responsibility and challenges us, we’ll turn the citadel of imperialists into a sea of fire."
The US press is widely reporting that North Korea started the crisis this fall, when it admitted it is pursuing a nuclear program in violation of a 1994 agreement.
But from North Korea’s perspective, President Bush started the crisis. The official statement North Korea issued when it pulled out of the Nonproliferation Treaty reads: "After the appearance of the Bush administration, the United States listed [North Korea] as part of an 'axis of evil' . . . and singled it out as a target of pre-emptive nuclear attack, openly declaring a nuclear war."
A million people rallied in Pyongyang on Saturday to support President Kim Jong Il’s withdrawal from the treaty. The New York Times buried a photograph of the rally on page A14, and placed a rare pro-American rally in South Korea of 30,000 on the front page.
A South Korean official told the London Guardian, "Pyongyang believes the US wants war with the North after war with Iraq. "They think delay works only to the US advantage, so they want to bring things to a head."
- Bruce Cumings, Professor of History at the University of Chicago and author of ’Korea’s Place in the Sun: a Modern History.’