- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

SEOUL With the Bush administration contemplating direct talks with North Korea, diplomats were looking at a 1955 book in which U.S. Adm. C. Turner Joy described how a North Korean negotiator tried to intimidate him by letting flies crawl across his own face.
That tightly controlled behavior during armistice talks to end the 1950-53 Korean War was apparently just one of many tactics aimed at intimidating the Americans, Adm. Joy wrote in "How Communists Negotiate."
"I concluded he was simply accustomed to having flies on his person," Adm. Joy wrote wryly.
Fifty years later, Adm. Joy's book is required reading for U.S. military officials who meet every week with communist officers at the border post of Panmunjom to discuss reducing tension.
A new generation of North Korean negotiators is in place, but the bluster, stalling, stiff cordiality and other tactics are the same, say senior U.S. military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The admiral's observations will be even more important if and when more senior U.S. officials meet North Korean diplomats to discuss that country's resumption of operations at its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, "We're going to have to have direct talks with the North Koreans, there's no question about it."
Washington still prefers that the talks take place in a multilateral setting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said later on "Fox News Sunday."
"We should not let North Korea dictate the terms under which these conversations take place," he said. "I think there will ultimately be conversations, but I think other nations have a role to play."
It took two years for the Korean War armistice talks to end, and Adm. Joy eventually was replaced as chief negotiator. In the current nuclear crisis, the North Koreans may not have that kind of time, particularly if Washington wins a war against Iraq and focuses more intently on the standoff.
"They're not going to want to bluff and delay and not get to the negotiating table with the United States in the next month or so," said Bruce Bennett, an analyst at the Rand Corp. But he said it isn't certain that North Korea is willing to give up its nuclear programs.
Negotiations offer a level playing field of sorts, where North Korean officials can probe for weaknesses in delegates of the world's only superpower.
U.S. military officials, all students of Adm. Joy's book, say North Korean tactics include setting arbitrary deadlines and agreeing in principle but not in practice. They make preconditions as prerequisites to a deal, though the preconditions are the real goal.
Another North Korean strategy, officials say, is to generate a crisis and create momentum that leads to a breakthrough in talks. Since last month, North Korea has expelled U.N. inspectors, reactivated a nuclear facility and withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
For all its swagger, isolated North Korea wants to avoid the fate of the Soviet Union and communist allies in Eastern Europe that collapsed at the end of the Cold War. The execution of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in a bloody insurrection in 1989 is believed to have shocked the North.
In a sign of eagerness to make a deal, North Korea eased its opposition to a plan to reconnect cross-border roads and railways.
The reconciliation project stalled after the North said the U.N. Command, which oversees the southern half of the demilitarized zone, did not have jurisdiction in the transportation corridors. The North said the United States was trying to block progress on the project.
But North Korea has dropped its objection, and the project is back on track, for now.
"North Korea seems to want to show both to Koreans and to the outside world that inter-Korean reconciliation projects are going well" despite the nuclear issue, said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
The North also may have decided that economic benefits that could flow northward along roads and railways outweigh the cost of delaying construction for political ends.
Staff writer Ellen Sorokin contributed to this report.

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