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Could North Korea be sincere?

亚洲专栏:朝鲜有诚意吗?

The nuclear negotiations may end up as usual, but it is tantalising to think of other possibilities

朝核谈判可能还是以往的结局,但不禁让人联想其他的可能性



LAST month Moon Jae-in, erstwhile puppet of American imperialists, stood in the May Day stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, and promised a new era of shared prosperity as 150,000 North Koreans cheered. The next day he and Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator, climbed (well, were driven) to the top of Mount Paektu, the Korean peninsula’s sacred peak, where they put together the tips of their thumbs and index fingers to form a heart-shape in a gesture more commonly used by K-pop stars to show appreciation for their fans.

上个月,美帝的昔日傀儡文在寅站在朝鲜首都平壤的五一体育馆,承诺开创朝韩共荣新时代,现场15万朝鲜人欢呼雀跃。第二天,文在寅与朝鲜独裁者金正恩爬上(好吧,开车上去的)朝鲜半岛的圣峰“白头山”,他们使用拇指和食指尖摆出心形手势,韩国流行音乐明星时常用该手势向粉丝表达谢意。

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Yet the odds of a dramatic “peace declaration” are rising. Mr Trump seems to see such a step as a means to a Nobel peace prize. Mr Moon has spent much of his political career pursuing a peace deal with the North. And Mr Kim could present one to his citizens as an American climbdown.

但是,朝鲜半岛达成“和平宣言”的可能性越来越大。特朗普似乎想借此荣获诺贝尔和平奖,文在寅的大部分政治生涯都在谋求与朝鲜达成和平协议,金正恩可以向朝鲜公民展示和平协议,标志着美国做出让步。

This is alarming to hawks on North Korea. No security guarantees will be enough for Mr Kim to give up his nukes, they say. Instead, the North will try to shake down the outside world for concessions, as it has done countless times. Mr Kim, they point out, is already dragging his feet over the commitment he made in Singapore to disarm, having failed to provide any inventory of his nuclear capabilities. That fits the pattern of alternating bonhomie and recalcitrance established by his father.

朝鲜鹰派对此感到恐慌。他们表示任何安全承诺都不足以让金正恩放弃核武器。朝鲜将一如既往地不断敲诈外部世界做出让步。他们指出,金正恩在新加坡做出解除核武装的承诺使他无法储备任何核力量,他正在拖延兑现承诺。这符合他父亲建立的友好与顽抗交替模式。

Yet Mr Kim’s summit diplomacy this year (including three meetings with President Xi Jinping of China) has reshaped the political dynamics of north-east Asia. No one, certainly not the sceptics, predicted the sudden change of tone. So it is worth considering whether they might be wrong about Mr Kim’s ultimate intentions, too.

然而,金正恩在今年开展的峰会外交(包括与中国主席三次会晤)改变了东北亚的政治格局。没有人料到朝鲜半岛的气氛会突然生变,当然不包括怀疑者。因此值得思考的是,朝鲜鹰派对金正恩的最终意图的判断是否失误。

Could the dictator really be thinking of giving up nukes in favour of economic development? They cost a fortune. He might be able to trade them for an American commitment to withdraw its forces from the South. After all, Mr Trump hates keeping troops there. Meanwhile, Mr Moon’s dream of a Korean confederation, with no bad word said about the gulags, would suit Mr Kim very well.

这名独裁者真的考虑放弃核武器来支持经济发展吗?核武器是一笔巨大财富,金正恩可能用核武器换取美国从韩国撤军的承诺,毕竟特朗普不喜欢在那里驻军。与此同时,文在寅的梦想是建立朝鲜联邦,消灭饱受诟病的劳改营,这非常适合金正恩。

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Which of these scenarios seems the likeliest? In raising nuclear tensions last year and in embracing his summitry in 2018, Mr Kim has proved himself a gambler. But is he overplaying his hand? Outsiders have consistently underestimated the Kims, risk-takers all. But bear in mind that no one has ever lost money betting that they will sell the same big bag of nothing again and again.

哪些情况最有可能发生?去年加剧了核紧张局势,2018年接受峰会外交,金正恩证明自己是个赌徒。但他是否高估了自身的实力?外界一直低估了金氏家族,他们都是冒险者。但是别忘了,他们反复地空手套白狼却从未输钱。