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 kept mouthing a "oh, you know, North Korea's bluffing...", in other words kept singing the same old out of date tunes.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?

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