The event was covered extensively by the world-wide media and touted by some as a resurgence of the type of ping-pong diplomacy in the 1970's that helped de-ice relations between the U.S. and China.
The White House, however, has played down the importance of the cultural exchange. While North Korea welcomes world-class orchestra, it continues to turn a deaf-ear to international efforts to quell its nuclear capabilities.
As reported by the Los-Angeles Times, a six-nation deal reached last February offered the North a million tons of fuel oil, normalized ties with the United States and Japan and a formal peace treaty, if it scrapped all nuclear programs and material.
The North had agreed to disable its atomic plants and fully declare all nuclear programs by January 2007. But it missed the deadline amid a dispute with the United States over the declaration.
Naturally, the current spat about North Korea's nuclear status is weakened by the U.S.'s lack of venom. The international community is opposed to Kim Jong Il's possession of nuclear weapons, as well it should be, but is painfully equivocal when it comes to sanctioning his actions. North Korea is playing a protracted game of cat-and-mouse with the Atomic Energy Commission. When the AEC suspects North Korea has gone too far, stolen the cheese, and pushed the boundaries, it grabs a hold. North Korea, under the infinite wisdom of the "great leader" then backs down, promises to abide by the rules, and sends a wave of eager-eyed diplomats to discuss possible compromises.
Of course, North Korea has no intention of playing by the rules. It wants international carrots, without the risk of sticks. It wants oboes to drown out the screams of anguish from millions of impoverished, starving North Koreans. And it doesn't stop there.
After hosting the New York Philharmonic, North Korean officials have invited Eric Clapton to play next year. Ping-pong diplomacy meet snare-drum detente. She sure don't like cocaine, and I'm guessing she don't like nuclear-armed lunatics either.