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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

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Something for Nothing?
North Korea is getting good at bargaining hard
By LAXMI NAKARMI Seoul

September 15, 1999
Web posted at 12:30 p.m. Hong Kong time, 12:30 a.m. EDT


    INTELLIGENCE
Bank Fire Sale
As prices go lower, foreign institutions are buying into Asia
- Tuesday, Sept. 14, 1999

The Week Ahead
Can the Peacekeepers stabilize East Timor? If so, then what?
- Monday, Sept. 13, 1999

The Direct Route
Your modem is in Singapore, your data is in Shanghai. Why are you going through Seattle?
- Weekend, Sept. 11-12, 1999

Brierley Comes Home to Singapore
A New Zealand company moves to the Lion City, for very interesting reasons
- Weekend, Sept. 11-12, 1999

Recovery for Japan
And this time it just might be for real
- Friday, Sept. 10, 1999

Bangkok's Next Governor
A glimpse into the future of Thai politics
- Thursday, Sept. 9, 1999

Timor's Tragedy
Who's To Blame?
- Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1999

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Is lasting peace on the Korean peninsula finally a possibility? Don't bet on it, but the news that North Korea has agreed to freeze its missile-testing program in exchange for eventual normalization of ties with the U.S. is heartening. The quid pro quo was reached during talks in Berlin, Germany, between senior North Korean and U.S. diplomats. While the two sides have been negotiating in various venues worldwide for many months now, the impetus for the latest round was the strong suspicion that Pyongyang was about to test-fire yet another missile.

Such a move would have rattled Washington and Seoul as well as Tokyo. The U.S. has long been concerned about the proliferation of missile technology - Pyongyang supplying parts and know-how to such countries as Syria and Iran. Also, the Taepodong-2 missile that North Korea was planning to test-fire is believed to have a range up to Alaska, with the capability of carrying nuclear warheads. South Korea (especially President Kim Dae Jung) would have interpreted another North Korean test as evidence of Pyongyang's seeming disregard of Seoul's conciliatory "sunshine policy" toward the North. Japan would have regarded the test as a direct threat to its security, a worry that is already causing Tokyo to gradually upgrade its defenses.

But now, says U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, "some form of easing sanctions [imposed by Washington] might be appropriate." South Korea, for its part, might step up economic aid and investment. And Japan might renew humanitarian assistance and even consider war reparations for its harsh 35-year colonization of Korea.

North Korea is getting good at bargaining hard, while doing very little - or, in this case, doing nothing at all - in return. Remember when, in 1994, for discontinuing its nuclear program, Pyongyang won two light-water nuclear reactors, to be built by South Korea with Japanese help, plus nearly a million tons of heavy oil from the U.S. worth over $5 billion. At least Pyongyang, long known for its unpredictable behavior, seems finally to be responding like any other government would to a carrot-and-stick approach. On the long-bristling Korean peninsula, we have to be thankful even for small mercies.


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