In this weird crisis, the weirdest turn had to come this week when the North Korean diplomats got permission to fly to New Mexico and talk with the state's new governor, Bill Richardson.
Not the usual tack, but actually a good sign, I think, in a week when there were not many. Good because North Korea has always done its business through unofficial channels, and Richardson has dealt with them in the past as a trouble-shooting congressman.
Good because it's a sign the North Koreans realize their extortion demands weren't working. Extortion is the centerpiece of their foreign policy. They don't want war; they want money. They're just cruder about it than most.
Now they say they want guarantees we won't attack them. Fine, we can do that, with some guarantees from them. Right after we make sure they understand that we can turn their country into the world's largest bomb crater if they make one move to harm their neighbors or us.
But with the right kind of guarantees from them, we could help them feed their people, so many of whom now subsist on boiled grass and tree bark.
This sort of thing is best discussed in the back channels, which is why the New Mexico meetings could be the start of untangling this mess, even though some New Mexico residents were apparently worried their governor was neglecting state business to deal with the Koreans.
Clifford Keen, a New Mexico real estate investor, told the New York Times, "Who's minding the store while he's making sure we're not getting nuked by the North Koreans?"
I don't know, but I'd guess avoiding nuclear war would be good for a lot of things, even New Mexico real estate.
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