Saturday, April 25, 2009

Obama's road not taken with North Korea

US president Barack Obama usually reflects before acting. On the matter of North Korea's launch of a telecommunication satellite on a long range rocket, he at first waffled, and then plonged his hot iron of anger into political oil, by pushing for sanctions before the UN Security Council, accusing Pyongyang of violating Article 1718, a debatable interpretation. Let's look at the sequence of his decision: the US position initially held neutral ground, labelling the launch as a rocket. Then the rocket turned into a long range missile with a trajectory to reach the US. Suddenly the distance the rocket might cover became in the heat of stoked ideological passions, an inter continental ballistic missile with the capability of carrying a nuclear warhead, and not a instrument for putting a satellite into outer space. So panic took hold of the White House, forcing Mr Obama to side with intransigeant Tokyo and hardline Seoul, both governments on the eve of decisive elections which may put a check on the cold war governments of premier Aso of Japan and president Lee Myung bak of South Korea. Ill advised by hold overs in the department of state and his military advisors, president Obama opted to close all options, by turning the clock back to those muscular posturing days of an arrogant George Bush, playing to the galleries of retrograde political opinion, calling North Korea, among others, an 'axis of evil' state. To make matters worse, and despite endless pre launch announcements out of Pyongyang,US President Barack Obama, by pushing for sanctions, has endangered the six-party talks and precipitated a potential crisis which would make China lose face. Not only that, Kim Jong il's government in one fell swoop withdrew 'sine dia' from the six party talks, ordered IEAE observers out of the country, and began steps towards re activating its nuclear facilities. And what makes the matter more dicey, two silly American journalist allowed themselves to be caught entering illegally from China into North Korea. These two women, Lee and Ling, are not naive; they've reported from inside Pyongyang, so it makes you wonder as to why they thought in doing a story on North Korea from the outside, they could brave thumbing their noses at North Korea's border security. The motives remain unknown. They will stand trial and spend time in uninviting Pyongyang prison.
Mr. Obama is left supporting sanctions based on questionable grounds, and without the means to enforce them. Additionally, along with his hardline allies in Seoul and Tokyo, he's trying to box Pyongyang tightly in a strait jacket called the 'Proliferation Security Initiative', again a move which has pushed North Korea into its protective shell.
Mr. Obama's decision also focuses on the hardliners who have learnt nothing in dealing with Pyongyang at the department of state principally. And that includes secretary of state Hillary Clinton whose husband long engaged North Korea. She, too, has a very short memory. The American president does not need another headache, but this time, it is a huge migraine of his own choice. He's shut all doors now.
His choice has revived dumbly the old Washington, Seoul, Tokyo axis against North Korea. An other sign that Mr. Obama has wittingly revived a cold war strategy which belongs on the dustbin of history. For one thing, China won't play, nor will Russia.
The times look gloomy, the more especially since the return of Russia's foreign minister Lankov's statement after meeting North Korea's high ranking officials in Pyongyang. Pyongyang is in no mood for listening. So the stalemate continues, and the weight of Kim Jong il's intransigeance lies at the doorstep of Mr. Obama and his advisors.

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