What Do They Really Want?: Obama's North Korea

Victor D. Cha
Content Type
Journal Article
The Washington Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
October 2009
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Negotiating with North Korea is all about contradictions. What can be important one day can become unimportant the next. A position they hold stubbornly for weeks and months can suddenly disappear. But these contradictions tell us a lot about core goals that may lie beneath Pyongyang's rhetoric and the provocative actions which culminated in a second nuclear test on May 25, 2009. Understanding these core goals, moreover, offers insights into how spectacularly unsuccessful North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been as he prepares to step down. What do the North Koreans ultimately want with their recent spate of provocative behavior? What is often stated through the mouths of their foreign ministry officials is only a part of the Pyongyang leadership's broader goals. The judgments that follow are also informed by the experiences and ‘‘gut instincts’’ of those who have negotiated with the regime over the past sixteen years.
International Relations, Bilateral Relations
Political Geography
United States, Washington, North Korea