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Author`s name Michael Simpson

Kim Jong Il Isn't a Korean Saddam

Kim Jong Il wants to feel on a par with the world's only superpower
The process of settling the North Korean crisis seems to have gotten off the ground. At least, negotiations between the United States and North Korea are becoming reality. But it will be clear only after April 23, on which two days of negations in Beijing are to begin, to what extent this dialogue will be effective. The negotiations will be begun and held with the participation of China, although authorities of this Asian country say they won't assume the functions of mediator.

It is important to mention that, at the very beginning, Pyongyang insisted on bilateral negotiations with Washington without the participation of any third parties. The reason for this is quite clear: Kim Jong Il wants like he is an equal to the world’s only superpower, and it flatters his self-esteem that the leader of his outcast country may have tete-a-tete negotiations with the leader of the world politics.

Of course, North Korea's request to have bilateral negotiations with the United States is caused not only by vanity: Pyongyang wants to have guarantees of security proven with documents (should some kind of non-aggression treaty). Kim and people in his administration think that only the United States that can give these guarantees.

The United States, in its turn, insists that the number of countries participating in the negotiations must be maximally large. Washington believes that all the countries of the region — Russia, Japan, China and South Korea — must participate in the process of crisis settlement. In this case, the problem is the support of the international community, for which the North Korean problem poses a threat. Before the war in Iraq, neither of the parties managed to achieve any success in a solution of the problem. Pyongyang and Washington kept on blaming each other for escalation of the conflict, and neither party did much in reality.

Kim dropped out of the sight of the international community for several weeks. Japanese journalists even conjectured that he was suffering from deep depression after he saw TV broadcasts of U.S. tanks freely driving across the Iraqi desert — but this is just journalistic imagination.

Whatever the case may be, the ending of the Iraq war may result in the launching of negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. The parties have reached a compromise and agreed that China would participate in the negotiations, but that no further countries would. It was said that, probably, other countries would be allowed to participate in the negotiations later.

It is highly likely that recommencement of dialogue between the United States and North Korea was not only due to the end of the Iraq war. North Korea has been on the verge of starvation for some years, and Pyongyang has already appealed to South Korea for aid, rice and fertilizer. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that 70,000 North Korean children will be on the brink of starvation by this summer. The North Korean food reserves will only last until October — and only if they are used sparingly.

Kim is now in a desperate situation — which is hardly a novel experience for him. One thing is perfectly clear now: That the North Korean leader would not like to share Saddam's fate.

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