Friday, May 29, 2009

Korea expert Aidan Foster Carter's hack job

Aidan Foster Carter is a long time Korea watcher. For the past 40 years he has written and commented on matters Korean. His thinking is much sought after, especially in parlous times as today's. Surfacing the web, Guamdiary came across Foster Carter's ingenuous thoughts in Singapore's 'Straits Times', entitled 'Pyongyang's many faces of menace'. It is not worthy of Aidan Foster Carter. He has dragged up every accusation against that 'evil Kim Korean dynasty' for the last century. It is the work of a hack who should have known better since it avoids dealing with the facts.
North Korea's a 'rouge state', says he. Well how different is it from George Bush's US in invading under false pretenses and well laid lies Iraq? But that's much the point. Nowhere does Foster Carter deals with the causes of the current standoff between Pyongyang and the US & co. Nowhere does he lay the blame where it belongs in the White House's Oval office. President Barack Obama reacted badly to Pyongyang's launch of a telecommunication satellite in early April 2009, even though North Korea had announced in advance its intentions.
The US then seized the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against Pyongyang in violation of Resolution 1718. Mr. Obama's interpretation is open to question and legally challengeable. Nonetheless, the US was able to ramrod through the call for sanctions unanimously, with Pyongyang's ally Beijing voting for sanctions!
Kim Jong il reacted swiftly. North Korea did three things immediately. It slammed the door on the six party talks in Beijing; it reactivated its nuclear programme; and it pushed for development and testing its sophisticated short, medium, and long range missiles. Lo and behold, it lived up to its words. No one thought it would, but it did. And there was little Mr. Obama & co company could do but wail and gnash teeth and come up with threats of more sanctions.
Now as Aidan Foster Carter full well knows Pyongyang sees the world through a prism of menaces. It remembers all too vividly the massive destruction the US military under the UN flag did to destroy much of North Korea during the Korean War. He is also aware that North Korea is fiercely nationalistic and has a beseiged fortress mentality. Mr. Obama's call for sanctions simply revived old memories and re enforced North Korea's long isolation from the world community.
None of this is found in Foster Carter's musings. In fact, he goes over the top in bundling Kim Jong il with the lies of Muammar Qaddafi and Nicolaie Ceausescu...and by the way why not Hitler or Stalin or any other dictator for that matter?
Missing from Foster Carter's scold is Mr. Kim's tearing up the 1953 Armistice Agreement, thereby potentially turning a frozen Korean War into a hot war which no one really wants.
Korea expert Aidan Foster Carter goes one better. Instead of looking to cool hot tempers and lower anxiety attacks, he is calling for more sanctions and restrictions against Pyongyang. Which in effect is simply asking for an escalation of threats and meances. And before Guamdiary forget, expert Foster Carter says, ah, the key to all this is Beijing. Wrong. Although China is protecting in its own way its ally North Korea, the key to unlock the crisis is the US. Washington has to talk directly to Pyongyang, there is no two ways about it.
Mr. Kim's shredding the Armistice Agreement, allows President Obama with an opening to do a Richard Nixon like gambit with the question of the Koreas, by calling for a reconvening of a Geneva Conference on a 2 party, 4 party, and 6 party formulae which would settle once and for all more than a half century problems unresolved and begging for resolution.
Well gentle readers you won't find this in Korea expert Aidan Carter's contribution in 30 May 2009's edition of Singapore's 'Straits Times'. On the contrary, you will find him grand standing and mouthing the same old claptrap the curious reader would if he had the inclination to go through endless 'opinions' on or about or against North Korea for the last 50 years.
Aidan Foster Carter you may have won Girl Guide points for being a hack, but you certainly did a disservice for trying to use your long experience by trying to see away to easing of tensions on a divided Korean peninsula. Let your friends in high places reward you for hackery, but quite honestly, no one really can rely on you when push comes to shove.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Obama's Korea folly

US president Barack Obama, badly advised on how to deal with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK aka North Korea] has set off a time bomb that he little suspected when he rushed head long into calling an emergency session of the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against North Korea for violating Resolution 1718 after Pyongyang launched a telecommunication satellite on a long range rocket in early April 2009. Mr. Obama is a man who believes in rules and laws, but his reading of Article 1718 is specious; the DPRK violated neither its letter nor its spirit, yet the American president was so intent in teaching Kim Jong il a lesson for not heeding his call to delay or abort the launch, he set off a series of events which have today turned the divided Korean peninsula into a theatre set for war.
Mr. Obama managed to twist the arms of all members of the Security Council, including the DPRK's neighbour and ally China, into a unanimous vote. Until that time, Pyongyang had done what it thought the right thing, in order to make a breakthrough with Washington on the nuclear issue and to ignore a renewed cold war which the conservative, right wing government in Seoul launched. It also tried ignoring the steadfast boycott by Tokyo, but to little avail. In other words, the DPRK did not hide from the world community its plans to launch a long range rocket. It played by the rules of the international community. And what did it get for its pains? A slap in the face at the UN Security, and the usual bad press it always gets from the US and its allies.
From that moment on, North Korea has reversed course. It has girded its loins for battle. Mr. Kim's government promised three things: it walked away from the six party talks in Beijing, swearing never to return; it reactivated its nuclear programme; and it promised more testing of its rocketry. Nobody thought much of Pyongyang's threats. The US slipped into harsh criticism and its Pyongyangologists gave bad advice to Mr. Obama. Everyone fell into the old rut of not trying to "understand" from whence was coming the DPRK; the hand tailored suited politicians and diplomats & co. kept mouthing a "oh, you know, North Korea's bluffing...", in other words kept singing the same old out of date tunes.
Well how wrong they were. For all intents and purposes, the six party talks are "lettre[s] morte[s]. Which when you come down to it, China has suffered a serious loss of face by hosting a conference that is going nowhere. Pyongyang exploded another more powerful nuclear devise. And then it set off a long range missile capable of travelling 6700km, followed by testing of short range missile covering a 130km.
Scrambling to save face, the US president sent warships to patrol the East Sea, in order to interdict ships with WMD[Weapons of mass destruction]. Does this silliness recall the bad behaviour of another American president? South Korea's president Lee Myung bak signed on. Mr. Obama's response is irresponsible; instead of trying to calm turbulent waters, he simply stirred up another tempest.
Pyongyang threatened to invade South Korea if its ships were interdicted. Not only that it tore up the 1953 Armistice Agreement which put a hot war into cold abeyance.
And that's how the situation stands today! And Mr. Obama has only himself to blame for his mindless decision.
Still, the DPRK's withdrawal from the Armistice, opens a new door to solve more than 59 years of outstanding problems with Washington. If Mr. Obama had the political testicles, he would seize upon the moment to call for a reconvened Geneva Conference, to end the Korean War, establish diplomatic relations with Pyongyang; he would enlarge the conference in such a way as to have a 2 party, 4 party, and 6 party discussions, treating US DPRK matters; US, China, North and South Korea to negotiate a peace treaty, and a 6 party talk to deal with the nuclear and rocketry issues of the now failed six party talks in Beijing.
Will the American president have the courage, to seize the time and the issues? Or will he muddle poorly through the mess that he created, fearing that hostilities will break out on the morrow?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pyongyang won't talk, Mr. Obama!

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] says what it means. George Bush, jr. got his comeinuppannce when he thought Pyongyang was bluffing about exploding a nuclear device. It wasn't he soon found at to his great chagrin. Now it's Mr. Obama turn to eat crow. His badly advised move to armtwist the UN Security Council to call for sanctions against the DPRK after it launched a satellite on a long range rocket in early April 2009, and on a faulty interpretation of UN resolution 1817, got a firm 'non recevoir' from Pyongyang. Not only that, North Korea immediately riposted with a start up of its nuclear programme which it had shut down and add insult to Obama's injury, it slammed the door on the six party talks in Beijing.
Washington now learns that true to its word, Pyongyang sees little use in restarting talks owing to the US' hard line which isn't from yesterday. Rocket science is not necessary to understand Pyongyang's standpoint. Guamdiary, an observer of things Asian, from the Mediterrean to the Pacific, has consistently argued that as long as the US treats the DPRK as a stepchild in matters of diplomacy, trade, and technology, so on and on, it cannot expect less than what it tries to do. Which amounts to creating tempests in teapots, and ends up drinking large bowls of bitter tea for not well thought policies.
Consider today's demarche from the DPRK. It absolutely sees no value in talking with the US. Now, US special envoy Stephen Botsworth had come to Seoul the other day after what he described as good talks with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on getting the six party talks moving again. Well Pyongyang has poured cold water on that cheery assessment. Here we see a splinter in the finger of US policy towards the DPRK. It is relying on China to do its own dirty work. Washington has directly to engage the DPRK which it steadfastly refuses to do. And as long as the US treats contemptously the DPRK and considers not an equal partner in negotiations, matters will remain at 'point mort'! It does take much thought to come to that conclusion. Mention the DPRK and Washington goes gaga. It reacts in the same manner when you mention Tibet to Beijing. Atomic explosions of rage occur...rational thinking is thrown out the window, and what you get is scenes of madness. A tripwire sprung which lets all the repressed hostile feelings emerge like a windstorm.
Well, Pyongyang won't talk until Washington calms down and recognises it in a manner it expects any member of the UN does towards a fellow member. And that a cultural revolution of sort takes place among Obama's hardline advisers on the National Security Council and in the corridors of the department of state.
Pyongyang is willing to brave a loss of face to China by refusing to come back to the conference table. China as we know, foots the food and basic needs of the DPRK. So if the six party talks look as though they're dead in the water, Mr. Obama if he's as fine a politician as the newspapers say he is, he would seize the opportunity by calling for the reconvening of a Geneva Conference which once and for all would deal on a 2-, 4-, and 6-nation agenda the settling of differences with the DPRK which remain as open sores from the Korean war. Yet we cannot help wondering if the Washington crowd doesn't favour exercises in self flagellation in dealing with the DPRK. The record, despite snail steps of progress over more than a half century, bears this out.
As long as the US persists in its 'irrational abuse' of matters with the DPRK, it is simply pouring more salt on wounds of its making!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Netenyahu's pipedream of Palestinians' economic security

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netenyahu is sending his extreme right wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman on a mission to Europe, to ally fears of Israeli's neglect of its obligations to a two state solution and neglect of Palestinians' economic well being. Even before his aeroplane takes off from the ground, Lieberman is beating Netenyahu's hollow drum that Jerusalem repudiates the Annapolis Accords, whereby Israel would work with the Palestinians on sculpting out a two state solution. Instead, Lieberman is offering up the puny donkey prize of working towards improving Palestinians' economic condition...[pause]...on condition that it doesn't compromise Israel's security. So behind this sham off of butter for an end to Palestinian resistance, passive or active, Jerusalem is re iterating the law of the jungle of its own making where it is king. This charade will allow Israel to illegally gobble up more and more of land on the west bank, impose a draconian embargo on allowing Gaza to feed and rebuild itself after Israel's 22 day blitzkrieg, punishing war, to destablise the lawful Hamas government. The Israeli wolf in sheep's clothing fools no one. The Europeans are weary of supporting Netenyahu's poisoned apple, and US president Obama won't bite.
Israel is simply stating more boldly and with complete contempt for international and its own laws. It is behaving like dictators who strutted across the world's scene in the 1930's.
Israel can exist but barely without the utter generosity of the US taxpayer and its supporters in the US. And president Obama's security team is also growing short on patience and wanting to put behind it Washington total support for anything Israel does. So, time is not on Netenyahu's side. He knows it. Lieberman is on a promotional tour which will produce long fire, and ultimately fizzle out. The geopolitical tide is withdrawing from Israel's shore, and the sooner it realises it the sooner the two states of Israel and Palestine can coexist, albeit in an abbreviated territory for the later.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Mrs Clinton growls at North Korea

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has put her Prada shod foot down. She won't deal with North Korea as long as Pyongyang refuses to play her game. So, North Korea don't expect food in the amount of US$100m this year. Or next. Mrs Clinton is talking tough. She is walking the walk that George Bush trod. She has picked up the dropped stitch of a policy which is best described as 'paranoid', and which make Mr. Bush retreat with his tail between his legs. Remember, North Korea's testing a nuclear device when the Bush administration played tin horn sheriff? Well, Mrs. Clinton has put on that badge, and North Korea won't be any less pliant than it was when it became the 8 member of the world's nuclear club.
Faced with a US backed initiative calling for sanctions against Pyongyang for launching a telecommunication satellite on a long range rocket, North Korea hit back hard. It won't returned to the six power talks in Beijing; it reactivated its nuclear facility; and it threatened to go ahead with the production of more nuclear devices. It also in a burst of conflated rhetoric demanded that the UN Security Council apologise for its resolution on sanctions. It won't. So, here we're not exactly at an Hollywood style meeting at 'OK Corral', but at a 'Mexican standoff'.
'Guamdiary' has thought that the Obama administration's reading of UN resolution 1781 question[n]able, and that it had drawn too soon its gun when it called for the meeting of the UN Security Council after a rocket launch.
Scratching the surface, we find a big power throwing its weight against what it sees as a 'reprehensible regime', which in the longer run, has to ply to its will. And Mrs. Clinton's latest pronouncement is worded in that vein. You would think that after 15 years of on again off again negotiations--directly, through back channels, or in multilateral meetings--Washington would have learnt a thing or two in dealing with Pyongyang. Apparently it hasn't...more out of arrogance than lack of intelligence. Simply put, North Korea is a step child from Washington's standpoint. And like an unwanted child, it thinks that a drop of honey and a large dose of vinaigre, the child will lovingly or out of fear kiss the hem of the US. Well, experience should have taught the US otherwise. Its actions simply fly in the face of history. So here we are, once again, we've a secretary of state who has adopted the worst timing and manners of the Bush administration. In fact, she continues to surround herself with the same hardline, neocon advisors from the last administration. It would do her a world of good to read Mike Chinoy's 'Meltdown' or fit him in a busy schedule, if she is in Hong Kong. Besides Chinoy, endless former diplomats who have written books on failed US policy towards North Korea are available. Are they consulted? It seems not.
North Korea won't bend, nor will the US for the foreseeable moment. Does Mrs. Clinton really think that Beijing will do the US' dirty work? Or Russia? Probably not. The US has put itself in another bind of its own making.
Mrs. Clinton should listen to George Mitchell her envoy to the Middle East and negotiator of the Irish accords. Mitchell posits that a good negotiator should put himself in the shoes of his adversary. Sound advice since it broads perspectives and opens avenues of possible outcomes.
Well, it seems Mrs. Clinton hasn't. It also appears that the Obama administration has put the North Korea issue on a back burner whilst it wrestles with two wars in Asia and the possible collapse of a Taliban ridden Pakistan.
Instead of putting out fires, Mrs. Clinton has poured more oil on the fire. Thus, the divided Korean peninsula has returned to a state whereby it is as dangerous as before, and maybe more so, owing to the blindness of the US>