Saturday, June 27, 2009

A call for a Geneva conference on Korea

As the Barack Obama administration has appointed Philip Goldberg as enforcer and co ordinator of sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK aka North Korea], the tempo and tone of martial music grows in Pyongyang. Had US president Obama had to smarts that everyone says that he has, he would seize the moment to call for a conference on Korea in Geneva. The moment is ripe, the more especially since Kim Jong il has "torn up the Armistice Agreement of 1953".
By calling for such a conference, neither Pyongyang, nor Seoul, nor Beijing can say no. And by expanding it to include Tokyo and Moscow, Mr. Obama would set the stage for discussions and negotiations on a 2, 4, and 6 party level. China, the US, the DPRK and the Republic of Korea [ROK or South Korea] would hold 'pourparleurs' on ending the war in Korea now in its 59 year. [Since the ROK refused the original Armistice Agreement, conditions and times have so changed, that opinion leans in its inclusion in the talks.]As for the 6 party talks, well, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the agenda, since the themes are the same of the failed and very dead six party talks in Beijing. In other words, the denuclearisation of the divided Korean peninsula and other matters dealing with Pyongyang and its neighbours. As the the 2 party talks, Washington and Pyongyang will have eye to eye meetings on diplomatic relations, trade, foreign aid and investment, so on and on.
Talks won't be easy, but at least you have a good framework to begin unraveling the ravages of 60 odd years of isolating the DPRK. The current exhibition of muscular diplomacy only heightens tensions and risks military confrontation. It's time for a measured and an adult approach to solving the longest standing issue of the immediate post world war 2. What does it profit Washington let alone Pyongyang, Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo, or Moscow, when president Obama boasts that he's 'crossed the t's and dotted the i's' on dealing with Pyongyang. It's a sure sign that the cool and reasoned American president is much annoyed, and in his displeasure, he has initiated steps which will heat up an already contentious atmosphere. It's is time to say 'time out', take the measure of the moment, and look for a solution. Guam Diary has always thought that the answer lies in a call for a Geneva conference on Korea. It won't be the first time nor the last. Consider the first Geneva Conference brought us an Armistice Agreement, it is well hoped that another will give birth to a peace agreement, and a framework on a bi and multi lateral basis to gnaw out the bones of contention arising from the current standoff between the US and the DPRK. It is time to take a new tack...and boy is the time ripe!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama just doesn't get it when it comes to North Korea

US president Barack Obama sort of gets Iran. He has taken the high moral ground on the post election demonstrations there. He preaches caution and patience. [Of course in the corridors of Washington, rumour has it, the US and Iran are already in discussions on the nuclear issue. So, it matters little, who wins the current struggle for power in Tehran, it seems.]
When it comes to North Korea, Mr. Obama sees red. He has little patience for the likes of Kim Jong il; he is looking for his pound of flesh from Pyongyang. Now, using the UN Security Council resolution 1758, the US navy is tracking a North Korean vessel 'suspected' of holding in its hold nuclear technology or advanced rocketry components, without a shred of proof.
Additionally secretary of defence Robert Gates has upped the colour of danger for the islands of Hawaii after Pyongyang announced a forthcoming launch of a long range missile. [Washington forgets that Pyongyang gives a tit for a tat. As Guam Diary has long argued the current standoff between the US and North Korea stems from Mr. Obama's moves to sanction Pyongyang for the launch of a telecommunication satellite on a long range rocket in early April 2009. And everything things since then can be traced back to the American president poor judgment on dealing with North Korea. In fact, he brushed aside China's whispered words of caution and advice. Which plainly is to go piano piano. In other words, use patience. He didn't. And so....]
Aided and abetted by the media, Mr. Obama, leaning on the advice of his military and political advisors for a strong stance towards North Korea, has allowed the drums of war to beat strong and stronger warnings of a possible confrontation.
Hawaii is not in danger of an attack from North Korea. The cargo on the North Korean vessel probably doesn't hold WMD [weapons of mass destruction...again that red herring from the Bush days], yet armed with the UN resolution Mr. Obama is intent on intimidating North Korea. North Korea won't blink.
So here we are, we've yet another American president looking for a fight. He's not content in waging two in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan...which look open ended and a sieve of men, materiel, and money longing to bankrupt the US economy...he's now itching to open a third front.
Guam Diary scratches its head. How blind can Mr. Obama be? Well in a way Coleridge's 'Ozimandias' [sic] tells it all...the desert sands are the graveyard for national hubris. Is there no one in Mr. Obama's circle with commonsense to say this emperor wears no clothes when it comes to dealing with North Korea?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Obama's folly

US president Barack Obama & co. can crow. They succeeded in forcing through the UN Security Council Resolution 1847 with 'strong sanctions' against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK or North Korea]. Mr. Obama's critics on his right cry foul. For them, a tighter squeeze on access to global capital markets, encouraging the world community to board DPRK vessels in ports and on the high sea on the shakiest of suspicions that they are carrying or concealing nuclear technology or other weapons of mass destruction [WMD], is a weak response to what they consider the nuclear pretensions of a rouge if not failed state which deserves invasion. Mr. Obama managed to 'persuade' China and Russia to follow his lead in the hope that Beijing and Moscow will pressure Pyongyang to back off. How little does the American president know North Korea. He like other presidents before him, is tone deaf and blind to the reality on the divided Korean peninsula. He like his predecessors, are ignorant as cabbages when it comes to history. Consequently he like other occupants of the Oval office, will repeat ad nauseum the mistakes of the past. Call it 'arrogance'? Call it 'inertia'? Call it anything you like, for the US is unwilling to take that much hated step: deal directly with Kim Jong il, to resolve long standing issues and grievances going back to the Korean war and before.
Mr. Obama has opened a can of worms which he cannot hope to dominate. Beijing and Moscow may have wanted to send Pyongyang a stern warning about its behaviour, but will they back up words with force? Hardly. So Mr. Obama's wing flapping at the UN Security Council is an exercise taming the seas and the winds.
As a savvy scholar in Seoul observed: the DPRK is so used to weathering the high dudgeon and threats of and threats from the US and the west for 60 over years, it won't fold nor collapse nor quietly disappear into the network.
What Mr Obama's latest folly will do is set teeth on edge in northeast Asia and foster a noxious atmosphere where the slightest spark may ignite war. Smart!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Washington pours more hot oil on North Korea

The US continues making move bad move after another when it comes to North Korea. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is now using a fine tooth comb to judicially undo former US president George W. Bush's decision to remove Pyongyong from America's list of terrorist nations. T'won't be easy. Furthermore president Barack Obama is talking up the idea of interdicting North Korea vessels suspected of carry WMD [weapons of mass destruction]on the high sea. [Well we know about Washington's history of finding WMD. It is a ploy to go to war as Bush did in Iraq!] North Korea views such loose talk as a 'causus belli', and it ain't kidding. More, Kim Jong il tore up the 1953 Armistice Agreement putting the hot Korean War on the back burner yea these 56 years, so technically speaking, the US and North Korea are in an 'active state of war'. Is the 44 American president willing to should yet another war which it is certain short of using nuclear bombs, it cannot win? And if we judge from the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan America's record leaves much to be desired.
Mr. Obama may seduce his audience with his calculated rhetoric and oratory but Pyongyang ain't buying.
Mr. Obama's call for sanctions, demostrations of hard love, and dumb escalating threats against North Korea, delays any relaxation of tensions or a diplomatic resolution of the current standoff.
On top of this, North Korea's high court has condemned the two hapless journalists Ling and Lee to 12 years of hard labour. From the way things look now, they're going to split a lot rocks before Washington is going to be able to obtain their release.
Objectively, Washington has been dealing with Pyongyang directly or indirectly for the last 16 years. Apparently, it has learnt little, but forgotten much.
The US has never quite gotten over the fact that the Korean War put an end to its imperial swagger in 1953. It simply couldn't roll back the Red menace to the Yalu river. Triumphant in World War 2, America broke its front teeth in Korea. Hence the contempt and condescension it harbours for North Korea. [And lest we forget, it went on to fail badly in Vietnam!] So the burden of old chains of memory weigh heavily on America's mindset towards North Korea.
North Korea much to Mr. Obama's chagrin, means what it says. It puts its money where its mouth is. And the US president misjudged Mr. Kim. Leaning heavily on the bad advise of his military and diplomatic advisors, Mr. Obama has gone, as Guam Diary calls it, from one poor exercise in 'wishful non thinking' to another.
Until Mr. Obama in a face saving Canossa, the tensions, the threats, and instability with obtain in east Asia. The ball is in Mr. Obama's court. It has hit his own net and so he has to learn how to play better diplomatic tennis. Hot air and king of the dung heap rhetoric won't achieve anything much. It is a formula for trouble. And the hot oil that he is pouring on North Korea is splashing back and scalding the US badly.
And so the bad political posturing and theatre of an angry US president will go on and on and push the envelope to the limit of a mishap which may make him regret the fight he started by calling for sanctions when in early April 2009, North Korea in the peaceful use of a long range rocket launched a telecommunication satellite.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wishful non thinking--Obama's standpoint on North Korea

US president Barack Obama has flashed angry lightning blots at North Korea. At Omaha Beach he sternly warned Pyongyang that the US won't handle North Korea with kid gloves. In fact, he's cobbling together a consensus of opinion among Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea to turn the screws on Kim Jong il. Will a common front work better in lassoing Pyongyang more tightly than the six power meetings in Beijing? Hardly. Although Beijing and Moscow might go along with modest demands sanctioning North Korea, it is geopolitically not in their commun interest to twist Pyongyang's arm too tightly.
Mr. Obama's position is an example of what Guam Diary calls 'wishful non thinking'. He has a wish list of how to bell the Pyongyang cat. It is deja vu all over again. Talking the talk is not exactly walking the walk, as the US & co's dealings with North Korea have long proven.
The American president has a golden opportunity to breakout of the bind he finds himself in. Guam Diary has long thought that a reconvening of a Geneva Conference would with a full stroke of the diplomatic sword cut the Gordian knot on the matter of a divided Korea. Pyongyang cannot not agree. Furthermore such a conference could on a 2 party, 4 party, and 6 party level deal with more than a half century of outstanding problems.
It would mean savvy horse trading but in the end it would be worth the candle. It would end once and for all the Korean War; it would open direct channels with Pyongyang; and it would rapidly advance the denuclearisation of a divided Korean peninsula.
Of course, a conference in Geneva means that Washington would have to call to heel its allies in Seoul and Tokyo, quashing shortsided blockage of any progress in dealing with North Korea. Mr. Obama has the means and clout of his office to accomplish this.
For the time being, he's stuck in a quagmire of his own making. Will he exhibit the courage that he can muster on other issues? That is the big question!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Obama speaks to the Muslim world

US president Barack Obama knows how to make a speech. No doubt about it. He did a star turn at Cairo University. He knowingly sprinked his speech with a common greeting in Arabic, referred to one liners from the Koran, and spoke with an authority which had but one goal: to seduce his listeners. In that he exceeded. He touched the right buttons on Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Palestine, Iran, global terrorism, to loud applause. His speech does signal a shift from past US administrations, especially the foul 8 years of George W. Bush's. It tapped Israel's knuckles on illegal settlements in the West Bank. He did 'reach out' to Hamas with conditions, and to Iran. Furthermore, like the wily politico that he is, Obama was short on details. Words mean a lot in the Arab and Muslim worlds, but deeds mean even more. Let's see if Obama can match his high mindedness with plonking his money down on the barrel head...or as a man from Missouri would say: 'Show me!'