Not your average story on the eve of an election, but related to a key focus of this blog, being foreign policy. Anyway, in a guest editorial at the WaPo blog, USC Professor Chaibong Hahm discusses the schools of thought as to why the DPRK chose to return to the six-party talks.
Hahm agrees with me, in that the move is out of a perceived boost of negotiating power, rather than the coercive force of sanctions:
Currently, there are two schools of thought on why North Korea decided to re-engage 6-party talks. The first school contends that the sanctions regime of the UN and U.S. motivated Pyongyang...Previous entries on North Korea.
The second school of thought is more cynical. It argues that North Korea returned to talks because now it thinks it has a stronger hand to play. It has proven to the world that it has nuclear weapons...
It was probably a combination of sanctions (or a threat of more sanctions) and the sense that it is in a better bargaining position that prompted North Korea's decision. In the balance, however, I'm inclined toward the more cynical interpretation. [I]t is unlikely that pressure alone forced it to return to the talks this time around.