NORTH KOREA….What does North Korea want? Colin Powell says “something considerable” but declined to elaborate. The Chinese, however, in an apparently unusual gesture, briefed Western diplomats about the talks:

One envoy quoted the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s top North Korea expert as saying North Korea had sought “credible security assurances” from the United States during the talks.

….The first diplomat quoted the Chinese official as saying Pyongyang had demanded Washington negotiate “on the basis of equality and mutual sovereignty.”

North Korea also sought compensation for a delay in the completion of light water reactors under a 1994 pact in which Pyongyang agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for them, they said.

Publicly, at least, these negotiations always seem to get down to two things: money and security. Money, I assume, is not really a problem, which means the big issue now and always has been security.

I quite realize that nothing is what it seems when it come to negotiating with North Korea, but I sure wish I understood a little more about what they’re really after. Are they truly afraid we might attack them? Perhaps. People certainly talk about it often enough in the United States. So what would reassure them on this score? A final treaty? Withdrawal of troops from the DMZ? What?

A final peace treaty combined with diplomatic recognition seems pretty trivial to me if it were linked to some kind of genuine, verifiable dismantling of their nuclear program, so there must be a lot more to it than that. But what?

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