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Editorial: New tactics might convince N. Korea to change

Nov. 16, 2010

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

North Korea, the last Stalinist state in the world, has been at war literally and figuratively with the West since 1950.

The United States' impasse with North Korea has seemed never ending since the end of the Korean War in 1953. The U.S., adamantly against the North Korean dictatorship and its nuclear program, has imposed various economic and political sanctions against North Korea to force North Korean's hand.

But these demands never seem to work.

The U.S. demands an end to North Korea's nuclear program, and North Korea tests long-rage missiles.

The U.S. imposes more economic sanctions and North Korea further isolates itself from

the world.

The U.S. tries to vote against North Korea in the United Nations' Security Council and China vetoes it.

The U.S. measures against North Korea haven't exactly been effective -- at least not yet.

President Barack Obama, however, may be trying a different tactic. He announced last week a decision to soften against North Korea, including offers to reopen the six-nation talks and provide humanitarian aid if North Korea gives up its nuclear program.

And it appears this softer stance against the North Korean regime may be working.

The current North Korean president, Kim Jong-il, is on the verge of relinquishing power to his son, Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-un has expressed interest in resuming the six-nation talks, which include the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

But while North Korea seems open to change, Obama's different attitude cannot take full credit for their change. There are a plethora of contributing factors, one of the most important coming from Russia and China.

Russia and China, North Korea's strongest allies, have expressed an interest in working with the U.S. to convince North Korea to seek peace.

Both China and Russia have said they are tired of the continued struggle in the region and want the six-nation talks to resume. China, having agreed to host the talks, has also said it will use its influence to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.

In addition, South Korea has softened its attitude toward North Korea. South Korea retracted a demand that North Korea take responsibility for and apologize for the sinking of a warship in March, which killed 46 South Korean sailors. South Korea now only wants North Korea to express a genuine interest in pursuing peace. South Korea has also offered humanitarian aid if North Korea gives up its nuclear programs.

This news could not come at a more perfect time for North Korean citizens, fleeing to South Korea at an exponential rate.

On Monday, a woman and her two sons fled to South Korea, marking the 20,000th person to defect to South Korea since the end of the war in 1953, with most people leaving because of economic hardships and harsh human rights violations.

The 20,000 people forced to escape the utter poverty of North Korea had little hope for changes, but those who remain behind may find a glimmer of hope on the horizon -- hope that the economic shortcomings of their currency could be restored, hope that a new government will seek help from other nations, hope that their basic survival needs are met.

While exact numbers are unknown, in a country where the poverty rate is estimated to be quite high, a change in government and assistance from the U.S. and South Korea could mean the different between life and death for thousands of people.

The combination of factors, from Russia and China's hardened influenced to Obama's softened stance, hopefully means the death of poverty, the death of Stalinism and the death of a rogue

nuclear program.