How many times have we heard this?
North Korea calls for an end of hostile relations with the United States in a New Year's message pledging to make the Korean peninsula nuclear free.
Makes me wonder if the official issuing the statement carried by the government's Korean Central News Agency, state radio and television had celebrated too far into the early morning hours of the new year which I guess this one might be called "Liar, liar. Pants on fire."
Ever since a cease-fire was brokered ending the Korean War between 1950-53, the North Koreans have reneged on negotiated pledges to end their production of nuclear weapons. Each time they received millions of dollars in aid and relief only to throw the nuke inspectors out on their butts.
From a Westerner's point of view, the North Korean regime is paranoid. It reflects the short stature of the only leaders the country has known in Kim Jong Il and his father. The only bargaining chip they possess is their nuclear arsenal aimed at Japan and the U.S. and potential sales to rogue nations and terrorists.
So what's new this time around? On the surface, North Korea wants a formal peace treaty to replace the cease-fire agreement. They say they developed nuclear weapons to protect themselves from U.S. attack.
To the latter, there is a sliver of truth but a mighty stretch at that. During the Korean war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur suggested the U.S. bomb and perhaps atom bombs dropped on China's side of the Yalu River after the Chinese invaded in the pretense of helping the North Koreans. President Harry Truman nixed that idea in a New York minute.
The New Year statement brightened prospects for North Korea to rejoin stalled international talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for aid and other concessions. Washington has sought to coax it to return to the talks, which also include South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.
As for the concessions, the North Koreans want more than par value to swap nukes for nation building economic aid.
The stumbling block always has been the U.S. demand for verifiable denuclearization which the Clinton administration thought it accomplished but didn't. Bush tried and failed. Now it's Obama's turn.
I'm afraid it's deja vu all over again.