One quick update for all of you North Korea followers:
President Barack Obama’s first-ever trip to Myanmar (Burma) shows he is still taking a two pronged approach on North Korea by sending two explicit messages: 1. the door is still open for cooperation if North Korea is serious about surrendering its nuclear ambitions, and 2. sanctions against the North will continue in the meantime to cut off the cash flow to its military.
Evidence of the open door can be seen in his speech given at the Yangon University in Myanmar:
“We don’t need to be defined by the prisons of the past. We need to look forward to the future. To the leadership of North Korea, I have offered a choice: let go of your nuclear weapons and choose the path of peace and progress. If you do, you will find an extended hand from the United States of America.”
“… the United States will work with any nation, large or small, that will contribute to a world that is more peaceful and more prosperous, and more just and more free. And the United States will be a friend to any nation that respects the rights of its citizens and the responsibilities of international law.”
Recall that President Obama came into office in his first term with an extended hand, but that door quickly shut after Pyongyang tested missiles and a nuclear device in 2009, and shut again after the regime violated a bilateral February 2012 deal (“Leap Day Deal”) with Washington by firing a long-range rocket.
As for sanctions, diplomatic sources, reported by Korea’s Kyunghyang newspaper, say President Obama urged Myanmar to shut down all North Korean bank accounts associated with conventional weapons trade and halt all military cooperation with Pyongyang.
Many voices here have called on North Korea to follow the Myanmar model but there is skepticism due to the level of Pyongyang’s isolation and relationship with Beijing that has remained a key lifeline for the impoverished country.
In others news, Myanmar has accepted the IAEA Additional Protocol. North Korea and Myanmar have been suspected of cooperating on the nuclear front.
More to come on what the second Obama administration should do on North Korea, stay tuned.