Via the Marmot’s Hole via Tom Coyner’s blog via Stratfor via God’s lips to our ears, interesting speculation that North Korea demonstrated its sincerity in denuclearization by revealing its list of buyers, presumably including Syria, to the United States, that Washington tipped off Tel Aviv, and Israel thereupon bombed the bejeezus out of some Nork-equipped nuclear facility in Syria.
I give this theory points for plausibility, as it would explain why the United States is not up in arms about purported North Korean nuclear proliferation to an anti-Israel Middle Eastern state—the ultimate red line of red lines.
I also like it because it would give credence to my own model of North Korean relations—that Kim Jung Il is trying to create a special relationship with the United States to increase his bargaining power vis a vis China.
However, Stratfor’s speculation is, I think, just that—speculation.
It seems an effort to adapt Libya’s denuclearization—during which it shopped the A.Q. Khan network to the IAEA, causing the good doctor some serious but apparently transitory embarrassment—as a template for the North Korean case.
But it’s not backed up by any sourcing, nor does it address the difficulties in squaring this version with the most categorical accounts of the mission, which all seem to agree that it was initiated by Israel, OK’d by the United States, and conducted after weeks of careful planning by Ehud Barak.
And it would be most surprising if U.S. hardliners would be unable to ferret out this secret and use the revelation of North Korean nukes in Syria—regardless of the mitigating factor of Dear Leader’s newly cooperative attitude—to torpedo the Six Party Agreement and the State Department moderates, and promote Syria to full Axis of Evil membership in the bargain.
Therefore, color me unconvinced for the time being.
I also take issue with Stratfor’s analysis:
More important will be the panic in China (if not also in South Korea, Japan and Russia) as it sees the United States and North Korea reshaping their relationship in spite of the other regional interests. This could strip Beijing of much of its negotiating leverage with Washington on other issues, leave Seoul off-balance as it tries to pursue its own path with regard to the upcoming inter-Korean summit and keep the outlying parties -- Moscow and Tokyo -- unsure of just what the United States will do next, or how that will affect Japan's attempts to take charge of shaping Northeast Asia and Russia's efforts to reassert itself in the region.
I don’t think China worries overmuch about Kim Jung Il falling into George W. Bush’s arms for some hot princeling-on-princeling action.
As long as North Korea is under the thumb of a Communist autocrat, even one enjoying an unlikely friendly relationship with Washington--and not conducting an uncontrolled experiment in political revolution that might result in the creation of an antagonistic front-line pro U.S. democracy on China’s northeastern border—Beijing will be satisfied.