As US secretary of state Hillary Clinton sweeps through south and southeast Asia, tastefully fitted in an upmarket pants suit as though she was dispensing guidance and received wisdom to America's allies in the region, she did take out time to send warnings of thunder and lightning to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK aka North Korea] and the Islamic Republic of Iran and the generals in Myunmar. Guam Diary will only look at her stern words as it applies to the DPRK.
As captain of the good ship Foggy Bottom [the headquarters in Washington, DC, of the department of state, Mme. Clinton has donned the wraps of John Bolton's approach to Pyongyang.
Briefly, let's summarize the Obama administration very hard line towards North Korea. Warned a goodly time in advance of a long range rocket launch of a satellite, the 45 US president requested without diplomatic niceties that it be postponed. Kim Jong il didn't see it this way, and the launch went ahead. Mr. Obama like a spurned suitor immediately seized the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against the DPRK on the questionable grounds that it had violated the Council's resolutions. Piqued, Pyongyang swiftly replied by announcing one, it wasn't returning to the six power talks in Beijing; two, it was restarting its nuclear programme which he had put seals on; three, it sent IASA observers packing; four, it repeated that it would continue its advanced rocketry tests; and fifth, it 'tore up' the 1953 Armistice Agreement on freezing the Korean War till a treaty replaced it. From North Korea's vantage point, sanctions raised the ghosts of renewed war on a divided Korean peninsula.
The US got the Security Council to unanimously pass a resolution with sanctions. Not only that Mr. Obama embraced the intransigent positions of South Korea and Japan, adding to fuel to the fire of a hot war of words and sanction that South Korean president Lee Myung bak began the moment he took the oath of office in 2008 and immediately tossed on the dust heap the 'Sunshine Policy' of his two predecessors which brought a detente between North and South Korea.
Washington sought more and more to increase the weight of sanctions through not only diplomatic but military means. And after an underground test on 26 May, which the US called 'nuclear' but a recent issue in 'Science' with strong evidence from global atomic test sensors, proves that it bore no traces of nuclear fallout, and came to the conclusion that it wasn't a nuclear device tested, the US once again brought another resolution to the Security Council, further condemning the DPRK for violations, but this time it reenforced sanctions with provisions calling for freezing of bank accounts, boarding North Korea vessels on the high seas, pressuring countries to not do business with Pyongyang. The long and the short of all this was for North Korea to declare that any boarding of its ship was a cause for war; with heated words, it threatened the US by saying it would launch long range missiles capable of reaching America's Hawaiian Islands if not California. So on and on.
The USS John McCain tailed the 'Kang Nam 1' as it steamed alledged towards Myunmar; but the vessel led the Americans on a wild goose chase by returning to North Korean waters. The UN announced the names of 5 North Korea companies and banks and 5 North Koreans for sanctions and restricted travel. The only problem is that the companies in the main operate in Iran or in North Korea which means the long arm of the US let alone the UN has no reach. So far, according to the Italian newspaper 'il Libero', in the city of Viaregggio, in the province of Lucca, the Italian authorities have seized two yachts which Kim Jong il ordered.
Now let's look at Mme. Clinton's hell fire warning to North Korea. Boiled down to its meaning, we see that it is a cease and desist command from a US administration which for all its hype about multilateral cooperation, is back on the Bush unilateral train. Pyongyang has but one alternative, and of course that is, submit to US demands, which cloaks in saying that they are on the side of the angels. Mme. Clinton is in a word, asking the DPRK to wage the white flag of surrender, no more, no less.
Translation: a collective opinion shared by Tokyo, Seoul, Washington, and Beijing.
Well China has but one clear cut purpose with the US, and no surprise here, is to avoid war breaking out again on the Korean peninsula. On sanctions, it remains cool, and will go its own way. As for South Korea and Japan, as Guam Diary noted, they have taken up what we call a 'Syngman Rhee' irredentist approach to the DPRK.
Stripping Mme. Clinton's words to the bare minimum, they leave the DPRK with one and only one choice...total surrender and humiliation, otherwise, it faces total isolation, boycotts, and blockades.
Before looking at Pyongyang's side of the coin, South Korea who's cut off aid and foodstuffs and much needed fertizler to North Korea for the last 18 months, has now come up with a carrot to go along with Washington's big stick. In sum, a us$40bn to entice Pyongyang back to the Beijing talks and stop its nuclear and missile programmes.
Mme. Clinton has revived the old Truman MacArthur punch towards the DPRK, tarted up as we said above in John Bolton's dress. Once again, Washington by siding with surrogates in Tokyo and Seoul, has increased its difficulties with reaching any meeting of minds with Pyongyang. It is quick to play the drums of war, rather than seek a diplomatic solution.
As for the DPRK, it is used to being boycotted, verbally threatend and abused for 60 over years. So, you wonder how much sanctions will affect them. It is quite good in playing poker with the US, a game Mme. Clinton comes off at most second best.s
Today, after a brief illness, Kim Jong il is back in reasonably good health, and has, according to Russian sources, full control of his country. He has taken up his guidance tours through out the DPRK, for first hand knowledge of its economic development. In fact, North Korea's economy, with some reforms, is doing quite well, they say. More, between July and October foreign visitors will be streaming into Pyongyang for the Korean Games with 100.000 participants. Saying this, the DPRK is not a country waiting for war. Rather it is confident that it can ride out the American bad weather reports, and knows full well, that in the end Washington has to make the first gesture of detente and offer a pipe of peace of sorts.
Two more things, South Korea has floated the rumour that Kim Jong il is suffering from the fatal and virulent form of pancreatic cancer. It has not caught on. It also warned the world against Pyongyang's invasion of its and US sensitive computer programmes. The two rumours caught headlines then fell flat like deflated balloons. The Korean Communications Commission of South Korean issued a report that hackers in US allied countries broke into South Korean and American computers. And French medical reports dismiss the pancreatic cancer theory.
Lest Mme. Clinton forgets, two US journalists are currently under detention, in a dacha, but sentenced to 12 years of hard labour, for violating North Korea's territory and laws. The two women have acknowledged this to family members. Mme. Clinton has appealed to Pyongyang for their release and amnesty. Well what does the bold, fearless American secretary of state expect? Put this on a Santa Claus wish list at the very same time you calling for destablising the North Korean government through sanctions and military threats!
If proof there be, the US has learnt nothing in dealing with the DPRK for the last 15 years, from the first Clinton administration today. Since the US remains wedded to failure, it won't succeed in dealing with Pyongyang until it wakes up and begins smelling the aroma of a diplomatic solutions.