As the U.S. tries to restart multiparty talks with North Korea, it may find that the rogue state suddenly sees greater value in keeping its nuclear arsenal
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sits during a meeting with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev at a Siberia military garrison / Reuters
The world watched in awe this Thursday as photos of Mummar Qaddafi's bludgeoned corpse marked the end of the Libyan dictator's 42-year rule. Libyans filled the streets in jubilation and leaders worldwide issued impassioned statements as the brutal regime came to an end. But 6,000 miles away in Pyongyang, North Korea, one leader was probably not celebrating. This gruesome end to Qaddafi's rule has likely confirmed what Kim Jong Il must have long been aware -- a dictator who wants to hold on to power should also hold onto his nuclear weapons.
MORE ON QADDAFI'S DEATH
Lois Farrow Parshley: The Life and Rule of Muammar Qaddafi
Max Fisher: How Qaddafi Fooled Libya and the World
Howard French: How Qaddafi Reshaped Africa
Alan Taylor: The End of Qaddafi
Peter Gwin: Former Qaddafi Mercenaries Describe Fighting in Libyan War
Libya once had the materials needed to make nuclear bombs: centrifuges, weapons designs, and fissile material. Finding their manufacture exceedingly difficult, the country gave up its program in 2003, under strong pressure from the U.S. and its allies. Enticed with an end to heavy sanctions it had endured since the 1980s, improved relations with the West, and a guarantee of security, Qaddafi ended his nuclear quest. Just 8 years later, his position was as far from secure as one could imagine.
The North Korean dictator has taken a very different nuclear path. No doubt understanding that his regime and his own survival are under constant threat, Kim has been quite unwilling to disarm. The last two decades have provided him with numerous cautionary tales of dictatorships defeated -- the Iraqi army was trounced in 1991, NATO triumphed over Milosevic in 1999, and the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. And just this March, as NATO operations in Libya began, a North Korean spokesperson announced the lesson that Kim's regime had learned: "It has been shown to the corners of the earth that Libya's giving up its nuclear arms. ... was used as an invasion tactic to disarm the country by sugarcoating it with words like 'the guaranteeing of security' and the 'bettering of relations.' Having one's own strength," the official continued, "was the only way to keep the peace."