Monday, August 31, 2009

UAE confiscates consignment of North Korean weapons destined for Iran

A month or more after the UAE seized the cargo of the 'ANL Australia', flying the flag of the Bahamas, the story found its way into the global press. The vessel had in its hold weapons destined for Iran, and North Korean in origin. Yet, the lading of the grenade launchers and other materiel came from an Italian shipper with an office in Shanghai. As Guam Dairy previously reported, armed with UN resolution 1874 which allows the seizure of North Korean vessels and cargo, we wonder whether the removal of the arms bought and paid for by Iran ['The Financial Times of London's' article which first alerted us to this story, spoke of a UN diplomat whose country sits on the sanctions committee who alleges that the TSS or Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps had ordered the seized shipment. Iran, too, falls under UN sanctions. So, here, we find a double whammy, a 'coup de theatre' which thwarted Pyongyang's commerce, and stymies additions to Iran's arsenals.]
And yet the leaked story, which could not but have a US source, has hardly raised a hue and a cry from the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea].
Is a story that will make long fire, the more especially since the charm offensives initiated by the US, the DPRK, and the ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] are on the upswing? Or, as certain hard line circles ardently desire in Washington, will the UAE confiscation of the 'ANL Australia' derail the ongoing relaxation of tensions among the 3 countries?
Curiously, Guam Diary raises the question of legality. Since the exporter is an Italian national,it would seem that the sanctions nor the seizure apply, theoretically. But the destination is Iran so they would, but oddly enough UAE now holds the weapons of North Korean manufacture, but it does not know what to do with them. It has appealed to the UN sanctions committee for advice and further action. The ship has gone on its way.
Furthermore, the origin of the transaction occurred before Citizen Clinton's mission of mercy to the DPRK, so the leak has had to come from the intelligence community, mostly likely from American sources; South Korea shouldn't be ruled out. So the story told has many loose ends. Let's see if the incident is but a hiccup, or it has a longer tale.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mad cow hysteria in Malayasia

The latest outbreak of religious madness in Malayasia occurred when Malay residents protested the relocaation of Hindu temple in their neighbourhood even though it is 200 metres from anyone's house. To pour oil on the fires of racial and religious intolerance, they brought a cow head to trample outside the temple. No Malayasian leader nor prominent citizen or religious figure protested nor criticised the trampling of an animal which is sacred to Hinduism, thereby allowing these zealots much leave to commit more mayhem and rioting.
Malayasia allows a neighbourhood when it has a Malay [read Muslim] majority, any other religious institutions in its geographical boundaries, has to move elsewhere. Over the years, churches and Hindu temples or pagodas had to be rebuilt elsewhere since the custom and law forced them to remove to other neighbourhoods.
The irony in the case above, is that the temple moved to this new location for that very reason.

Recently the religious extremist's hand had to be stayed. It had sentenced a young Malay woman to be whipped for drinking beer. The ulemas forbade Malays from going to the Black Eyed Peas concert in Kuala Lumpur, not for woman bearing more flesh than these pious men would deem permissible but for who was sponsoring the musicale soiree. Guiness the Anglo Irish beer conglomerate!

Malayasia practises apartheid. It is based on race and religion. Malays have full rights, Chinese and Indians and Eurasians have little, and suffer from economic and social inequalities.
Malayasia is a showcase of zealotry over the years. Its roots can be traced to the student movement that the now reformer Anwar Ibrahim encouraged more than a generation ago, and to the xenophobic tack that long ruling prime minister Mahatir Mohammed inspired. The roots go even further, the Malay led riots against the Chinese in 1969, and before that the cynical use of racial division by the British colonial rulers. \

Saturday, August 29, 2009

UN resolution 1874, sanctions, North Korea, & the United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirate [UAE] has seized, the BBC announced, a ship carrying 10 containers of weapons and related items, including rocket launchers, grenades, and ammunition that the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] was sending to the Islamic Republic of Iran.Unlike the Bush administration's seizure of Scud missiles destined for Yemen in 1992, the US government had to send the ship on its way to Aden. The reason is simple enough, under the Law of the Seas, president George Bush had no binding international right under law, to confiscate the missiles, since Yemen had bought the missiles and expected contractually their dockside delivery. The UAE was armed with UN resolution 1874, which gave it the right to seize through international authority the DPRK arms which Iran had duly paid for. Guam Diary has yet to discover under which flag the vessel was sailing, nor the exact spot at which the UAE authorities boarded it, assuming that it was in UAE territorial waters. And for that matter who alerted them that the ship had weapons and the like. The Emirates authority clothed in the provisions of UN resolution 1874, took appropriate steps. UAE is at that point in which can and does keep track of shipments to and from Iran. The US has kept the pressure on the emirates to monitor and keep track of Iran's foreign trade and by extension the value of provisions declared for Iranian ports as well as the value of goods shipped from Iran abroad.
In spite of the softening of tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, the Obama [BHO] administration has shown no willingness to show a similar policy towards Tehran. How the confiscation of 10 containers of weaponry will play in BHO's new tack towards Kim Jong il, only time will tell. The US sanctions enforcer the State Department's Philip Goldberg is spreading his wings in Asia to pressure reluctant government to enforce the UN resolution on sanctions. Guam Diary knows of only two cases: one, India's seizure of 16,500 ton[n]es of sugar destined for the Persian Gulf, on the DPRK vessel 'MV Mu San' and the other, the UAE weapons haul.
Sanctions have a limited appeal since in trade, two or more parties are involved. And it is worth the risk to defy sanctions as they inhibit commerce and the ebb and flow of capital and profits.
Some countries like Singapore simply turn a blind eye. And the city state is not alone.
The UAE tour de force will add another layer of complexity to the shadow play of DPRK and US talks. Washington, lest we forget, is not always playing with a strong hand, and as the record clearly shows, that even when it does, it is less than a skillful player. Is the seizure of a shipment of weapons from the DPRK to Iran a Pyrrhic victory?

Peripatetic Bill Richardson

After hosting two senior DRPK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] at the governor's manision in Santa Fe, Bill Richardson suddenly appears to have gone on a trouble shooting assignment for the Obama [BHO] White House, to Havana Cuba.
The peripatetic governor has no 'authority' to negotiate on behalf of Mr. Obama, but the object all sublime of his talks has very much to do with BHO's strategy 'in voce sotto', and through 'private channels' to jump start and advance negotiations with the DPRK and Cuba, whilst at the same time speaking in a public hard line voice.
The White House in each case cannot without raising the monster of critics venture openly with softening America's going nowhere policy with the two countries. And so with a pinch of salt tack, it is preparing the way by donning a fig leap of 'privacy' in order to await the right moment that it can conduct diplomacy with a winning hand. And trouble shooter Bill Richardson has proven a useful hand. It is equally telling that the US president is deploying loyal team players from the Clinton White House.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Taiwan invites the Dalai Lama! Beijing gets a taste of its own medicine!

When Ma Ying jeou became president of Taiwan, thereby bringing once more back into power the KMT, he made it a point to bring the island republic closer into mainland China's orbit. Beijing received him with much fanfare; travel restrictions between the two Chinas dropped; and trade turned more brisk.
Mother Nature in her dark form of heavy rains and mudslides which destroyed many Taiwanese villages and buried alive thousands, has put a spin of Ma's rapproachement with the mainland regime. Like the US president George W. Bush and his 'benign neglect' in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mr. Ma's response to the destruction and loss of life and need of homeless survivors of the rains and the mudslide, was an echo of Mr. Bush's callousness to the plight of his own people.
Ma's poll numbers dropped so fast that as an act of utter frantic panic, he invited the Dalai Lama to come to Taiwan, to pray for the souls of those perished under the mud and in the torrents of rains, as well as offering the much needed solace of a revered religious figure, which the KMT in its neglect of duty, had forfeited in the eyes of Taiwanese.
Everyone in the world is not unaware of Beijing's utter contempt and hatred of the Dalai Lama, and what he represents to the Tibetans inside China who suffer under the harsh yoke of Han rule, and on whom it excoriates in feverish diatribes as a 'splittist' wanting to rend asunder mainland China; as a relic of the dark night of religious obscurantism because the Dalai Lama is a symbol of resistance to a corrupt Communist ruling class, amotng scores of other ills of China's own making that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) wishes to pin on him.
Ma's invitation does not require years of training as a shaman, a reader of cattle bones. He committed a major faux pas which risks to send him and the KMT back into the night of political exile. So, the curry the favour of the 'vox populi', he extended the hand of welcome and friendship to Dalai Lama.
Curiously enough, his calculated move to remain in office has two interesting effects. One, he has shown a side of independence from mainland China's assertion that Taiwan is a rogue or runaway province. His invitation is clearly the privilege and the right of a head of state. Secondly, southern Taiwan was the most heavily hit by the typhoon rains and the mudslides that followed. Now, it is precisely in Taiwan's south that the KMT's opposition, which it triumphed over at the last elections, is strong in numbers and influence and in its call for the declaration of Taiwanese independence. Ma's Machiavellian move has at one and the same time, put a chill in his opening towards the mainland, and what's more strengthened the hand of his opponents, who if the Dalai Lama comes, will roll the yellow carpet!
Is mainland China chastened by the 'dialectical' nature of politics? Hardly, it may seem. Mention Tibet and the Dalai Lama, and the rulers in Beijing go ballistic!

North Korea, Burma, Russia & nuclear technology

Guam Diary alerted its readers in early July of the wild goose chase the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] vessel 'Kang Nam 1' sent the USS John McCain merrily on, inn Washington's determined effort to enforce a sanctions provision of UN resolution 1854. Pyongyang never gave Washington the chance to board its ship either in a third party port or stop it on the high seas. At the time of this merry go round sailing in the South China Sea and the Pacific, the Obama [BHO] administration cranked up its propaganda machinery full force, by blaring out its message that one, the 'Kang Nam 1' was steaming for Burma, and two, in its hold, it had taken on a cargo consisting of nuclear technology, destined for the detested and detestable Burmese military junta.
Since the USS John McCain couldn't fulfill its mission, BHO's alert remains at best speculation, and at worst a total fabrication. No one will ever know. Or will he?
Now, with a carefully planned visit of Virginia's senator Jim Webb to Myanmar, in a change of Washington's tack towards Yangon , the truth has slowly seen the light of public scrutiny and belies somewhat Washington's war of words towards the DPRK.
BHO is engaged in a kiss and awkwardly making up with Pyongyang and Yangon. And here's where a small kitchen has been let out of the bag. The honourable Mr. Webb is n o stranger to Burma, nor a trumpeter of sanctions against the Burmese generals. Further more in an op ed piece in the reputable 'New York Times Online', he put tin black and what that 'Russia is assisting the Myanmar government on a nuclear project'. Now that is indeed a break through!
The good senator from the state of Virginia in 11 words, shone the spot light on Moscow's role in developing nuclear technology in Myanmar. He says nothing about North Korea. Which makes Guam Diary wonder aloud that the Obama administration drum beating on that rogue capitol Pyongyang is the spoiler in spreading nuclear technology abroad and to pariah regimes [read, aiding other states to arm themselves with nuclear weapons], turns out to be unsubstantiated noise. The US is first to admit that its knowledge of the DPRK is weak, and so it more oft than not, advances unsubstantiated claims or repeats the war messages emanating from the ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea].
Well it turns out that Moscow not Pyongyang is in the business of spreading nuclear technology in Myanmar for peaceful use? military use? the two? Mr. Webb doesn't say for sure; the Burmese generals are not talking, and the Russians are tight lipped.
BHO needs the good will of Russia, so it won't make a public outcry of its role in any Burmese nuclear project. The DPRK is an easier target of abuse, it goes without saying. Washington has much to explain, but it won't. So reader beware of US assertions against North Korea. Much may be sheer fantasy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Divided Korea: Negotiations Will the centre hold?

Two months ago, the money was on the falling apart of US policy towards the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea. US foreign policy managed by secretary of state Hillary Clinton had since April 2009 tilted to the hard, if not harsh, line adopted by the ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] and Japan.
But as Guam Diary has kept account, since the "privatisation" of US policy which was made spectacular by Citizen Bill Clinton's 'sudden mission of mercy' to free two US journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labour in the DPRK, the Barack Obama [BHO] administration has rushed quickly into the breach of its own failed policy of sanctions, threats, and 'I dare Kim Jong il to try something rash' kindergarten threat, to reverse oars, by seeking old fashioned diplomacy with Pyongyang. After another 'surprise mission of mercy' to the North, this time by Mme. Hyun Jeong un, CEO of the powerful Hyundai Group, implacable foe of Kim Jong il, ROC president Lee Myung bak began marching to the beat of the US drum.
Under the cover of the funeral of Kim Dae Jung on 23 August 2009 a thaw began between South and North after a 30 meeting with a high powered delegation of DPRK officials with Mr. Lee. Guam Diary has already pointed out the significance of Mme. Madeleine Albright representing the US at Mr. Kim's funeral, as well as the 'private talks' with New Mexico governor Bill Richardson with senior DPRK diplomats accredited to the UN, in Santa Fe.
The border at the 38 parallel is open again; talks with South Korea's Red Cross and its DPRK counterpart are going on, to begin anew the bringing together of families separated for the last 55 years, owing to the Korean war; it is also worth noting that tourism to 'Kumgang san' [Diamond mountain] will start once more, as will the acceleration of economic activity in the North's Kaesong industrial park, brought to a halt owing to aggressive moves by Seoul.
Thus, the prospects for renewed talks on North Korea's nuclear programme look promising. And relaxation of tensions on the divided Korean peninsula is noticeable.
Nonetheless, it has to be said that the BHO strategy of putting the maximum pressure on the DPRK through sanctions and crippling Pyongyang's access to foreign trade and hard currency, among other things, has borne 'small potatoes', albeit the policy is in its initial stages, one which has, it seems, dull prospects.
Moreover, it should not slip from one's radar that since the US has mounted the steed of sanctions, and rode into the joust of knocking the DPRK off its horse, Kim Jong il has put forth newer demands which the US & co. will have deal with. In brief, the DPRK has for now bailed out for good from the six party talks in Beijing, in favour of direct negotiations with Washington. Not only that Pyongyang has upped the ante by saying that it won't give up its nuclear 'warheads', about which little is known or how large a stockpile it has.
Already South Korea which turned off the spigot of funding, fertilizers, food, funds, etc. at the beginning of Mr. Lee's presidency in 2008, is proposing huge infusions of cash, if North Korea gives up its nuclear programme. Pyongyang has turned a cold shoulder to this suggestion for the time being.
Washington is keeping up the pretense of enforcing sanctions. Its hit man senior state department official Philip Goldberg is currently in Asia, trying to sign on countries to enforce UN resolution 1854. He is politely heard, but his hands remain empty. Sean Lavery at the US treasury has not fared well either, since the DPRK corporations or banks on his hit list are in Iran, which is sure fire signal how poorly the policy is faring.
So, where does all this leave the BHO administration since the logjam broke with DPRK after Citizen Clinton's 'mission of mercy'. Guam Diary would be harsh in saying it leave the US up the creek without a paddle. More to the point, it does point out the fact that Washington has to back pedal quickly, in order to come up with a new approach to discussions with Pyongyang, and ones which aren't all camouflaged as 'private'. What sticks in US foreign policy caw in dealing with the DPRK, it seems, has more to do with opening negotiating directing with North Korea, something the George Bush administration tried doing for 8 years, and with little success. Although Mme. Clinton will push for going back to the green carpeted table in Beijing, Kim Jong il will press for direct negotiations, which in the end the US will have to decide to do.
As Guam Diary in early August 2009 commented, the pooh bahs of expertise on the question of North Korea turn hawkish on allowing the DPRK to keep its 'nuclear weapons'. Senior diplomats and CIA analysts and well known scholars simply cannot see it. And this even before any negotiations are taking place! You wonder at times how the US can negotiate successfully?
The DPRK has a minimum and maximum programmes in negotiation. For it, everything is negotiable. Consider the 'visite eclaire' of Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang in 1993. Warmly welcomed, he broke through supposedly high barriers of discontent with Kim Il Sung. Returning to Washington with an agreement, which the Clinton White House begrudgingly latched on to, which ushered in a 'golden age' of talks with Pyongyang until the Bush administration sabotaged it through ideological blindness and spite.
Commonsense should tell us that at Foggy Bottom [state department], the White House, and the National Security Council, some people are burning the midnight oil, to come up with a strategy to take advantage of opportunities in negotiating with the DPRK. Yet the inertia of received wisdom and intransigence of the people who against the high tide of the Bush White House, might put a drag on any progress. Flexibility and looking at the issues from things on the ground and not in some spaceship thousands of kilometres in outer space, should be a guide. And above all, in the words of Tallyerand, that long lived opportunist, who survived the old regime in France, the Terror, the Republic, Napoleon, and unto the Restoration of Bourbon kings, should and must be a watch word, 'surtout pas de zele' [above all, play down zealousness]!
Finally, will the centre of negotiations hold? Let's wait and see. They should in the short and medium term. A caveat, as Guam Diary has already noted, the fly in the ointment is a hard line Japan in any regional discussions, and South Korea's attempt to put a satellite on long range missile into outer space. North Korea did, but was bitterly attack by the US, who seized the UN security council calling for sanctions; which it got after forceful arm twisting. Pyongyang is as endless commentators have noticed, is watching to see if and when Seoul does, will it too be on the receiving end of sanctions? [See, Guam Diary's 'Sanctions for South Korea. What's good for the goose is good for the gander? dated 17 August 2009]

Monday, August 24, 2009

Divided Korea: all discord, harmony misunderstood

Politics, to tweak 'Proverbs', 'do not profit in the day of wrath'. It needs be best cast in a rational light, with the absence of an excess of zeal, and a good pinch of cold reasoning.
Guam Diary thus begins with a doff of the hat to the 18 century English poet Alexander Pope, in whose 'Essay of Man' one finds this line: 'all discord, harmony misunderstood'. And it speaks to the mad dash of events occurring on the divided Korean peninsula.
The logjam blocking any understanding betweeen the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] and the US and the DPRK and the ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] broke during the mission of mercy of Citizen Bill Clinton. As Guam Diary observed, the former US president during whose presidency fostered civil relations with North Korea without diplomatic recognition, nor for that matter directing policy towards a peace treaty ending the Korean war [1950-1953], stopped in Seoul before flying off to Pyongyang.
Guam Diary dared suggest that Citizen Clinton who journeyed to the DPRK for the release of two US journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labour, during a 195 minute tete a tete with Kim Jong il must needs have verbally and perhaps in writing transmitted a message from US president Barack Obama [BHO]. Not only that, he had the time and the leisure to pass on a message from ROC president Lee Myung bak, who once in office in early 2008, squandered the good capital amassed during Kim Dae Jung's 'Sunshine policy' towards the North, d which his successor Roh Moo hyun pursued by a second North South summit in Pyongyang. Mr. Lee blocked out the sunshine, reverting to a cold war policy towards the DPRK.
On the heels of Citizen Clinton's trip, North Korea received on a private mission of mercy and in the interest of business and investment in the DPRK, Mme. Hyun Jeong un, the CEO of the Hyundai Group. She did not leave North Korea empty handed for she obtained the release of a Hyundai technician in the Kaesong industrial park under arrest for 137 for trying to persuade a North Korean female at Kaesong, with whom he was smitten, to flee to South Korea with him. Mme. Hyun obtained his release as well as the promise that 4 South Korean fisherman would soon be released.
Her visit lanced a boil which had almost brought work at Kaeson to a halt, thereby threatening Hyundai's investment there, among other South Korean 'chaebols'.
Yet, back channels met at the funeral of Kim Dae Jung. Kim Jong il dispatched a high powered delegation to Seoul to bow low at the altar erected in the former South Korean president's memory. Its presence allow Mr. Lee's ministry of unification to initiate talks for 80 minutes. This quickly led to a 30 minute session with president Lee Myung bak, who although he openly declares that he will not change one whit his tack towards the North, received a verbal message from Kim Jong il to which he responded.
Today [24 August 2009] 'Al Jazeera English's press release is full of a possible summit meeting between Kim Jong il and Lee Myung bak. Guam Diary will let that lay uncommented for the time being.

On the US side, it is becoming clearer and clearer that the BHO administration, ever true to its hard line stance towards the DPRK, touting sanctions and isolation, among other measures, is using former members of the Clinton White House in the pursuit of a larger, more flexible opening towards Pyongyang. New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson, Bill Clinton's ambassador to the UN and trouble shooter who has dealt with Pyongyang, is talking 'privately' in Santa Fe with high level senior DPRK at the North Korean mission to the UN, on matters dealing with nuclear issues and alternative energy options. Madeleine Albright, Clinton's secretary of state and close adviser and chum of BHO's secretary of state Hillary Clinton, represented the US at Kim Dae Jung's funeral. She had met Kim Jong il in Pyongyang in October 2000; a shrewd politician, she sized her time in the DPRK and more to point Kim Jong il in a positive light. She couldn't but 'run into' the mourners from the DPRK.

Therefore on two fronts public and private, events on divided Korea are moving fast, as though a dormant volcano had suddenly spewed hot gases of change and molten diplomatic lava was flowing.

On the other hand, secretary of state Hillary Clinton has not let up on her policy of enforcing UN resolutions calling for sanctions against the DPRK; urgently calling Pyongyang to take its seat at the six party talks on its nuclear policy, a venue which Kim Jong il repudiated 'once and for all' after Mr. Obama sought sanctions through the UN when the DPRK didn't obey his orders to cease and desist its launch of a satellite on a long range rocket in early April 2009.

At the same time of Kim Dae Jung's funeral, the state department's sanctions enforcer Philip Goldberg is on a tour of Asia, to encourage the region to abide by the terms of UN resolution 1854, to force the DPRK back to talks in Beijing. And in Washington, the US treasury's Sean Lavery is trying to apply sanctions by freezing DPRK bank accounts and block its business dealings with foreign partners.
So far sanctions have proven weak. India seized the North Korean 'MV Mu San', suspected of transporting nuclear technology, only to discover 16.500 ton[n]es in its hold. Singapore where it is rumoured to have put into port, kept no record of its docking there. As for freezing accounts and inhibiting business ventures abroad, the Treasury and the UN have come up with a poor list, since the businesses affected are domiciled in Iran. The US had its own problems with Tehran, so it cannot count on any cooperation there.

As for the media, lazy as usual, it simply repeats the myth that the sanctions are working, and of course any bit of rumour or gossip. As for the hard line think tank pooh bahs and rabid anti DPRK journalists, they call shout from the rooftops but change now is coming in approaches from Washington and Seoul towards Pyongyang. And Pyongyang is responding, out of necessity. What the hard liners have not grasped, nor the feckless politicians and policy makers spurned, was that the DPRK has for a long time called for direct negotiations on an equal footing, to solve outstanding issues going back almost 6 decades.

And so we leave the story here for now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Divided Korea: connecting dots

Repetition, it is said, is good for the soul. And putting together the disparate pieces of the noticeable incipient thaw in US DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] and DPRK ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] relations, to understand the diplomatic waltz and to discern of the patterns of the dance of statecraft, the story bears iteration.
The BBC in the small hours of 24 August 2009, broadcast the news that former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright was representing the US at the funeral of the late former ROC president and Nobel peace prize winner, Kim Dae Jung. The announcement in itself is hardly worthy of note but for one thing. The DPRK had sent a very senior delegation to Seoul, to pay to the memory of Mr. Kim. [Worth noting is the closeness of Mme. Albright to secretary of state Hillary Clinton, as friend and advisor.]

Lest memory fails us, Mme. Albright in her capacity as the senior most secretary of US diplomacy, had personally met with Kim Jong il in Pyongyang in October 2000. Upon her return, she had a good understanding the man who rules North Korea, one based on reality and serious discussions with a view of improving US North Korea relations. In a way, it was a trial balloon for a possible visit of then president Bill Clinton to the DPRK. Weakened by impeachment and the Lewinsky scandal, and nearing the end of his second mandate as president, Mr. Clinton was ill advised by the Korea lobby to scratch the visit. He did. Eight years turned a growing relationship with Pyongyang, a relationship without its tensions, disagreements, mutual distrust, but a cultivation of the ground of statecraft of both Pyongyang and Washington, which bore some results. The big fish was the seals and monitoring IAEA cameras on North Korea's nuclear site, thereby leaving its nuclear programme in a state of suspended animation. Mr. Bush reversed oars with the tragic consequences we know full well of, transforming through ideological blindness the DPRK into the world's 8 nuclear state!

US president Barack Obama [BHO] simply hardened the arteries of the Bush policy towards North Korea. His secretary of state Hillary Clinton did not spare the sulfuric rhetoric to stigmatise Pyongyang, nor was she any less enthusiastic in pursuing sanctions against the DPRK, thereby heightening tensions reminiscent of the days of the cold war.

But chance throw a curve. Two US journalists entered North Korean territory dumbly and without papers by fording a shallow Tuman river, in hot pursuit of a story. Caught they were, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. They provided the hook, after Mme. Clinton apologises, Citizen Bill Clinton, on a private mission of mercy flew to Pyongyang, obtainingg in the release of the two reporters. Before Mr. Clinton journeyed to Pyongyang, he landed in South Korea. There in as a private citizen he, Guam Diary suggests, conferred with officials of the ROC president Lee Myung bak, who had scrapped Kim Dae Jung's 'Sunshine Policty' to the North, thereby relaunching a cold war with no holds bared with North Korea. Someday, we might have wind of Citizen Clinton's discussions with the Lee government, but surely there could not but be serious discussions and a certain coordination of strategy, and possibly a suggestion that Mr. Lee was looking for a way to relax tensions with the North.

As we know, behind the fig leaf of a private visit, the BHO White House had choreographed Mr. Clinton's trip, which included former high ranking officials, and with the hand of a CIA anald yst who had experience negotiating with the DPRK.

Citizen Clinton was a welcome visit to North Korea. Kim Jong il's regime held him in warm esteem for the years of dealing with him when he was president, albeit the tensions and threats and missteps and misunderstanding of one side or the other. Mr. Clinton spent 195 minutes in talks with Kim Jong il, and they were more than a polite enquiry in Mr. Kim's health. It was bruited yet denied that he had orally and in written form passed on a message from BHO.

Suddenly, it seemed that Citizen Clinton, dare Guam Diary suggest, seemed born to break the ice on tensions in divided Korea. Within a relatively short time, there was movement, again cloaked in private visits, without a mandate to negotiate. And it was former members of the Clinton team involved in talking to North Koreans. In the US, troubleshooter and now Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson received in Santa Fe, two senior DPRK diplomats, who normally couldn't fly to the American southwest, without State Department authoritisaiton. Guam Diary won't say that Governor Richardson is a household name in North Korea, but he's a known quantity of familiarity. Now New Mexico is a state with alternate energy programmes which the North Koreans will visit. So you can put money on the fact that discussion of stalled talks on the DPRK's nuclear programme are being approached.

There is movement in the ROC, too. A private visit by Mme. Hyun Jeong un, ceo of the Hyundai group, which has heavily invested in the DPRK, say in Kaesong industrial park and tourism to Kumgang san [Diamond mountain]. Her presence in Pyongyang obtained the freeing of a Hyundai technician held in Kaesong for 137 on criminal charges of urging a North Korean woman worker he
fancied, to defect to the South with him. This countretemps, among other moves by South Korea which had but one goal, that is, to roil Pyongyang; it succeeded to such an extent that it occasioned loss of millions of Korean won in business and bringing to almost a stall to any activity in Kaesong. Kim Jong il promised Mme. Hyun that 4 South Korean fisherman who strayed during inclement weather into North Korean waters, would soon be set free. They aren't at this writing. u

The death of Kim Dae Jung, a man much revered in the DPRK, brought a very high ranking delegation to Seoul to mourn his loss. Ostensibly they would spurn contact with the much disliked Lee Myun bak. And suddenly, the North Koreans not only met with the current and a former ROC minister of unification, but had a 30 minute meeting with the 'dreaded' Mr. Lee. It is given to believe if we read between the lines, a message was transmitted from one side to the other, and from Seoul to Pyongyang as the DPRK delegation flew back to Pyongyang.

In brief, the dots are slowly being connected. The old team of Clinton hands have re emerged as players on divided Korea, as 'private' players...wink, wink, wink. And Citizen Clinton has found a role to play, one which allows the BHO White House, to blow hot and cold with North Korea, whilst laying the ground for substantive progress on outstanding matters with divided Korea, for the last 60 years. Citizen Clinton is proving a useful conduit to Pyongyang from Washington and from Seoul; as a private player, Washington can deny the import of his moves, yet keep a tight leash on his moves and Mme. Clinton's conduct of foreign policy as it affects the DPRK.

And there matters stand for the moment. To be the serial says...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Divided Korea--a reading of cow bones

Events are happening with a speed no dared think possible 75 days ago on the divided Korean peninsula.
The US and its South Korean ally are talking of the softening of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] hard nosed stance. Guam Diary, ever the gadfly, posits that a good case can be made that the US and the Republic of Korea [ROC aka South Korea] blinked first. That is a topic wChorthy of endless chitchat over a good, steamy cup of tea, so let's leave to the talking heads and scholars and Pyongyang watchers to unravel the scholastic filaments of the matter.

With the announcement today [22 August 2009] of a US China summit in mid November in Beijing, Guam Diary is willing to read the design of shaken ancient cow bones, to make out a pattern of the summits meeting. An important item of agenda will be the DPRK and its nuclear programme. Beijing is at most a two hour flight from Pyongyang, so it is worthwhile contemplating US president Obama's [BHO] surprise visit to North Korea's capital. Of course this will set BHO's detractors wailing and gnashing teeth, but for the likes of the hard liners, on North Korea, the winds are changing with less than a gale force intensity. Yet, changing towards more clement weather nonetheless.

Some will say that UN sanctions are forcing Pyongyang's gates. There is no proof that they are. More to the point the fig leaf of private missions of mercy to Pyongyang first by citizen Clinton then by Hyun Group's lady ceo Mme. Hyun Jeong un trip to Pyongyang helped blow up the dam in US and DPRK relations, and provide a softening of Pyongyang's dug in the dirt, no holds bared standpoint to Seoul. Again in small gestures, the railroad line connecting the South to the North and beyond into the Russian heartland is open; family visits and visits to the much revered Kumgang san [Diamond mountain] are on the books; and hope of a revived economic life in the Kaesong industrial zone is much awaited, to cite a few examples.

On the US side, by the cover of private missions and visits, high level talks are a foot say in New Mexico by Governor Bill Richardson, who as we are forewarned has no mandate to negotiate, but simply talk with two very senior diplomats from the DPRK mission to the UN. The discussions are circling the wagons of North Korea's nuclear programme, for Santa Fe is a show case in alternate energy development. Might they also revolve around the US promised, but never funded, 3 light water nuclear reactors which the Clinton administration approved during those 'halcyon' days and today possibly reconsidered for action, before George Bush baptised dumbly Pyongyang as an 'axis of evil', and everything thereafter in Washington's relations with Pyongyang hit the proverbial fan?

If the 6 man delegation from Pyongyang to honour the memory of Kim Dae Jung, currently in Seoul, and head by the secretary of the DPRK's Workers' Party perchance has a meeting with ROC's cold warrior president Lee Myung bak does take place at Mr. Kim's funeral, there will then be no doubt that a thaw in the cold war Mr. Lee began by scrapping Mr. Kim's opening to the North known as the 'Sunshine Policy' is beginning.

However,and there is a however in this rosy prospect of 'detente', the third party in the cold war common front, Japan, remains unmollified. Tokyo has broken off direct contact with Pyongyang demanding more substantive data of the Japanese that the North Koreans abducted decades ago. In fact, the LDP [Liberal Democratic Party] has used the issue to bang the war drums diplomatically against the DPRK, and has coupled its unmovable stance with North Korea's missile tests, by talking loudly and menacingly of overthrowing the US written and imposed 'Peace Constitution' thereby moving to reconstitute a standing army and everything military industrial that that army implies to its neighbours of an armed Japan.

And for the moment this is the big if in the equation of jump starting negotiations to denculearise the Korean peninsula and attend to outstanding matters of discord for the last 50 over years.

But prudence raises its finger to say no more than to slip in Bob Dylanese, is the answer blowing in the wind'?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Divided Korea...a moment of political warming?

Events are overtaking firm standpoints on North and South Korea. Taking a slight breather, it is useless to say who began this or that initiative. Consider US secretary of state Hillary Clinton offering an apology for the 'crimes' of two American journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. Consider, too, one of journalists in a telephone conversation, transmitting the message that Pyongyang would welcome a visit of former president Bill Clinton. And then the heat of political warming, closely monitored and manipulated by the Obama White House of Citizen Clinton's mission of mercy to seek the release of the two reporters. Following on the heels of Citizen Clinton came the chairwoman Mme. Hyun of Hyundai Group to Pyongyang as a private person, seeking the release of a Hyundai technician held for 137 days for encouraging a North Korean female worker at a Hyundai plant in the Kaesong free trade zone inside North Korea. The death of Kim Dae Jung has suddenly opened another door to relaxing the cold war between Pyongyang and Seoul.

Kim Jong il has dispatched Kim Ki-nam and Kim Yang-gon, two senior North Korean officials, to Seoul, to bow low before the special altar built in South Korea's parliament, to honour the memory and passing of former president and Nobel peace prize winner, Kim Dae Jung. You would think that South Korea's president Lee Myung bak might seize the opportunity to thaw arctic cold relations between Pyongyang and Seoul. Well, he didn't and he won't. And that remained common wisdom until a meeting of the North Koreans with the South Korean unification minister. Let's follow the scenario...
Mssrs Kim and Kim will express Kim Jong il's and the people of North Koreans condolences on Kim Dae Jung's passing, they won't stay more than 36 hours in Seoul, thereby missing the funeral on Sunday 23 August 2009, which Mr. Lee will attend.
It is useful, Guam Dairy thinks, to remember that when Mr. Lee assumed the powers ech Kim Dae Jung initiated in an opening to North Korea, and for which he was awarded the Nobel prize for peace; Mr. Lee furthermore cut off with a stroke of the pen needed fuel oil and fertilizer for Pyongyang's agriculture and the running of its industry, which he wouldn't renew until North Korea would end its nuclear programme, among other demands. He also allowed a campaign of vilification of Kim Jong il, which could have but one outcome, a steady roar of hot lava of rebuke from Pyongyang. In brief, knowingly, Mr. Lee calculatingly restarted a cold war with North Korea, which thrilled the hard liners in the Bush administration, and even skewed the new Obama administration review of US policies towards Pyongyang and roped the new American president to second Mr. Lee's moves towards North Korea.
Therefore in the eyes of North Korea, Mr. Lee has to 'repent' in a meaningful way, which he hasn't. He is at present 'persona non grata'.
It is also instructive to recall Kim Dae Jung's trip to Pyongyang where he and Kim Jong il met at a historic meeting of the North and the South. Mr. Kim was joyously welcomed. And for those familiar with Korean manners and traditions, Kim Jong il show Kim Dae Jung much face as he would an older brother, since the South Korean president was Kim Jong il's elder. This opening won the applause of the Clinton administration, beginning what came to be known as the 'Sunshine Policy', which lasted until Mr. Lee became president in early 2008.
Relaxation of tensions on a divided Korean peninsula, technically still at war, allowed visits of families which divided their members, some remaining in the North, others finding refuge in the South. It permitted the flow of food aid, technical knowledge, and the building of a free trade zone in Kaesong for South Korea's industries, employing mainly North Korean workers.

Suddenly with a which came first the chicken or the egg in the course of events, the two high ranking North Koreans who came to pay homage to the memory of Kim Dae Jung, after a meeting with the South Korean unification ministry, are now willing to extend their visit another day or possibly more. Translation, by staying another 24 hours, they will be on hand to attend the funeral of Kim Dae Jung, and thus South Korea's president Lee will have the face saving excuse of meeting Kim Jong il's representatives.

A meeting with the hard line Lee Myung bak is further proof of a softening of positions, a little? more? a lot?, no one can say for sure. Yet, it heralds a relaxation of tensions, to say the least.

And what about the two senior North Korean diplomats meeting Governor Bill Richardson in Santa Fe? A private initiative? More as though it were a smoke screen as Guam Diary contends. Total silence for the moment on those palabres.

And if all this is not enough, today [22 August 2009], the announcement of a Sino American summit in Beijing in mid November. US president Barack Obama [BHO] will among other agenda items discuss North Korea. Will, as Guam Diary reads the tea leaves at the bottom of his cup, this meeting occasion a quick trip by BHO to Pyongyang? Or a very senior delegation's meeting with him in Beijing? The questions are wide open and multiple as are the variation of the theme.

Now, as a thaw is evident in Pyongyang's dealings with Washington and Seoul, where does this leave Japan, the third eye of the hard line common front refusing to have anything to do with North Korea until Pyongyang has come across on further and more ample information of its kidnapping of Japanese citizens for North Korea's foreign skullduggery. Where is the face saving hook which will allow Tokyo to speak to Pyongyang? And on that hangs an interesting question.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No way to hide the charade of private diplomacy with the DPRK aka North Korea

US president Barack Obama [BHO]'s shadow 'privatised' conduct of negotiating with the DPRK Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea], has given birth to 'mouse'? As Guam Diary observed, New Mexico's Governor and former Clinton administration troubleshooter Bill Richardson, welcomed two senior DPRK diplomats to his mansion in Santa Fe. Mr. Richardson is not an unknown quantity to North Korea, and in his presence, although he denied any official line to the White House, he offered a friendly ear to Pyongyang's desires. At the end of the day's talks [19 August 2009], his spokeswoman told the press that they had just begun, and would touch on North Korea's nuclear policy', but her boss was not acting on behalf of the BHO administration nor was he a negotiator.
What's more at the end of discussions, Mr. Richardson will end up on a 'tour de horizon' on renewable energy technology being developed in New Mexico. Here it is useful to recall that the Clinton administration, after long negotiations with the DPRK, promised Kim Jong il that Washington would help construct light water reactors, to modernising the failing energy infrastructure in the DPRK. A pledge which went unfulfilled, mainly because the Clinton administration put its money on a horse which never came in, that is, the imminent collapse of North Korea. Thanks to the ineptitude of righteous George Bush donning his self serving crusade as an avenging angel, the DPRK became the world's 8th nuclear power!
Mr. Obama is playing with a poor hand. Publicly, he's pushing a hardline on the North Korean question; behind the scenes, like like Indonesia's 'way rang', he is engaging in ahe shadow play of private diplomacy. He is pushing for the DPRK to come back to the six party talks in Beijing. Is he not deaf to the speeches of Kim Jong il who once BHO strong armed the UN Security Council to vote unanimously to impose sanctions on Pyongyang in the wrong headed UN resolution 1854, the North Korean leader couldn't have put it more bluntly, the DPRK would never return to the Beijing talks. In late June 2009, Pyongyang put forth new conditions in response to the hard nosed Obama policy towards North Korea. The bottom line is, sweeping aside this and that, for direct negotiations with the US, something the Bush administration avoids as best as it could, with the calamitous results we all know.
And it is precisely this set of conditions, Governor Richardson and the two senior DPRK diplomats will be going to discuss. [Readers of Guam Diary will find it on the web.] And here for the moment stands what's happening in Santa Fe.
Strange as it may seem, the talks at the Governor's mansion fit the Merriam Webster dictionary's definition of negotiations. Shall we suspend belief as BHO wants us? And play the rest by ear?

Another shoe drops on India's detaining the North Korean vessel 'MV Mu San'

Slowly but surely everything about India's capture of the 'MV Mu San' is emerging in cyberspace. Briefly the Indian coast guard after a chase boarded the North Korean vessel in the Bay of Bengal off the Andaman and Nicobar islans which New Delhi considers of vital and strategica importance. Suffice to say, the 'MV Mu San' captain and crew did not anchor without a chase.
The DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] is subject to sanctions under the US inspired UN resolution 1854, which calls on the world body's member to stop and inspect DPRK ships, suspected of carrying nuclear technology.
To India fell the signal honour of capturing a North Korean vessel. The 'MV Mu San' skipper spoke of 'mechanical difficulties' for being in Indian waters. Indian authorities were wary of this story. What's more, upon inspection of untidy ship's log, the vessel had made runs to China in previous sailings. New Delhi's suspicions had been heightened by the proximity of the vessel to Myanmar, which US intelligence kept beating the hollow drum that Pyongyang was helping the Burmese military junta construct a nuclear facility, a rumour which remains to be proven.
India found in the ship's hold 16.500 tonnes of sugar bound for ports in the Persian Gulf, and no other cargo. Furthermore, it did discover that the 'MV Su Man' had docked or refueled in Singapore. The city state simply did not detain the ship or took cover by ignoring the existence of the ship, thereby avoiding a sack of trouble by applying sanctions.
It does not take a great deal of head scratching to figure out that the DPRK in pursuit of normal commercial life, sought to out run any sanctions. UN resolution 1854 would as its US sponsor hoped, turn the economic screws on Pyongyang's fragile economy, and thus deny it strong currency in the bank.
Nonetheless Indian sources talk of a 'government official' aboard the 'MV Mu San', without further clarification. Communist countries always had a 'political commissar' in units or crews, to keep an eye on their citizens. So the explanation might be as simple as that.
New Delhi has egg on its face in stopping 'MV Su Man'. Of course, it has rights to do so especially when the vessel is 'anchoring' unannounced in its territorial waters, but after days of diligent interrogations of captain and crew, it came up with nothing. And so, will have to allow the 'MV Mu Sun' to go on its way to its final destination.
By uncovering a cargo of sugar, the dramatic turn of events has made long fire, but did underscore the paranoia on which the US has built its cards of sanctions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Seoul scrubs the launch of KSLV 1

The ROC [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] aborted at the 11th hour the launch of its first long range missile KSLV 1 [Korea Space Launch Vehicle 1] on 19 August 2009.
Was its delay out of respect for national days of mourning for Kim Dae Jung? Hardly. The launch of South Korea's first space satellite would if anything be considered as a tribute to this respected old warrior who risked life and limb for brining democracy to his country.
Furthermore it was yet another delay to a lift off owing to technical problems. Testing KSLV 1 raises many red flags for South Korea among its neighbours in east and southeast Asia.
As Guam Diary noted in 'sanctions for South Korea, the KSLV 1 opens a can of worms for Seoul. It was developed with the generous help of Russian rocket technology, at a cost to Seoul of 500bn Won or us$400m. [According to South korea's science ministry, 160 Russian engineers are working at the Naro space centre off the southern coast of the ROC.] The ROC's nonetheless expose the double standards Washington applies in protecting an ally or client state, it is fair to say.
KSLV 1 long range missile opens a race to develop long range missiles in east and southeast Asia. Now we know, such missiles have peaceful and warlike uses.
Warlike for Pyongyang, pontificates Ralph Cossa, president of the Hawaii based Pacific Forum at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS], since it violated UN resolutions, thereby denying them the right to shoot such long range missile into outer space. Well, Mr Cossa's remarks are politically motivated and highly questionable. And objectively challenged, to boot.
Peaceful for Seoul, since it is our ally, if you follow Mr. Cossa train of thought.
One way or the other, Seoul's KSLV 1 will fire the opening shot for a race against time in east and southeast Asia, to amass missile arsenals, spike up the chances for war, nuclear or conventional with such sophisticated technology, open up a drain on Asian treasury for such 'toys', and hasten nuclear development in the region, and with long range missile increase the range of vunerability of countries thousands of kilometres away who until now had little to fear.

Another step in the 'Privatisation' of US foreign policy--DPRK diplomats in New Mexico!

DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] diplomats from its mission to the United Nations normally are restricted in travel in the US. Yet North Korea diplomats accredited to the international body are in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson will be on hand to welcome them.
Is this a sentimental journey to visit a governor who during the Clinton yearhs went to Pyongyang as an emissary of the then sitting president Bill Clinton? Perhaps not. Is the visit the result of Citizen Bill Clinton's surprise mission of mercy to Pyongyang where he spent 195 minutes with Kim Jong il? Yes.
The visit is private, says the Obama White House. The governor will not be negotiating nor representing US president Barack Obama [BHO]. It is good to rec all that Mr. Richardson played
a key trouble shooting role for Clinton in thorny issues with DPRK, Sudan, Iraq, and Cuba.
Yet we the public are asked to believe that the North Korea delegation including minister Kim Myong il and councilor Paek Jong ho, are dropping into the governor's mansion in Santa Fe, for old times sake? Wink, wink, wink!
If BHO wants us to believe that angels can dance on the head of a pin, Guam Diary thinks that it is a transparent fiction, in order to deflect any softening of BHO's failed policy to box in Pyongyang with sanctions and threats. So under the gossamer cover of 'private chats', BHO is moving quickly in talking directly to North Korea, even though he will swear on a stack of bibles, he is not.
The agenda. No one knows, but it is easy enough to come immediately to restarting negotiations, the DPRK nuclear programme, advanced solid liquid missiles, among other issues.
On the other hand, word is leaking out about Citizen Clinton's private flight to the DPRK. Again we are asked to swallow the whale that he asked the BHO White House, advised by his wife's State Department and General Jones' national security network, what to do, what to seek, whilst maintaining the fiction of a non government errand of mercy. Now, in today's 'New York Times' [19 August 2009] online edition, we discover that a US intelligence officer Joseph DeTrani played a major role in choreographing Citizen Clinton's trip, which included Joseph Podesta, a key player in BHO's transition team, and a senior State Department official familiar with Korean affairs.
As days go by, the veil of secrecy will slow lift on this 3 card monte game of BHO's strategy to hid a departure from his public policy towards North Korea and other 'rogue states', such as Burma.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The privitisation of US foreign policy

Washington's in your face foreign policy is going private? It looks as though it is! Actually it has taken on a fig leaf of 'private initiatives'. Consider Citizen Bill Clinton's mission of mercy to the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea], to free two American journalists Lisa Ling and Euna Lee, sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. Mr. Clinton spent 195 minutes with Kim Jong il. It is bruited that as a 'private citizen', he delivered a message from president Barack Obama [BHO], which the White House immediately denied, even though its hand tightly choregraphed Citizen Bill's visit. Consider, too, Senator Jim Webb's non governmental sponsored trip to Myumar [Burma]. Mr. Webb, chair of the US Senate foreign relations sub committe on southeast Asia and Pacific affairs, has long been a proponent against sanctions against the Burmese junta. He shows up in Yangun [Rangoon] right after the sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi to 18 more months of house arrest. Immediately he is shown into the presence of Genera l Than Shwah. Quickly, he obtains the release into his custody John Yettaw, the man responsibile for Mme. Aung's further imprisonment, and 'annus mirabile', the military junta's chief permits him to visit her, something not even the UN secretary general could do. Citizen Webb's third request of the freeing of Aung San Suu Kyi's release before the 2010 general elections was taken under advisement, but more likely than not will not see the light of day. And rest our woolly heads, if he didn't convey a personal greeting and message from Mr. Obama.
BHO's change of tack is easy to limn. Sanctions and threats have failed in dealing with North Korea and Myunmar. So America's soft power is cut to the cloth of the private. Wink, wink, wink. This game of charades may obtain short term results. In the DPRK's case, Seoul has attenuated the cold war it began in 2008 with Pyongyang, and now since Mme. Hyun's good will mission to Pyongyang, visits to Kumgangsan [Diamond Mountain] and family visits of South Koreans with relatives in the DPRK will start up soon again. Implicitly so will Kaesong industrial zone, too.
Citizen Clinton's trip has not borne much fruit now, but one thing is sure, back channels are opening, as well as more 'private' US citizens' trips to Pyongyang.
It is too much to say that the public can swallow whole such a charade. The ploy might work, but no one is fooled. At least one thing is certain, the new tilt to engagement and 'secret arrangements' won't settle well on the right in the case of the DPRK, and on the left in the case of Burma. Has BHO appreciated the wisdom of Henri IV that 'Paris vaut une messe' [Paris is worth a mass], in order to calm fevered brows and attain, good concrete results in foreign affairs? So far BHO has shown too much zeal in the pursuit of pie in the sky goals in diplomacy, relying more on ideology and wishful thinking than on the everyday reality of diplomacy. But one thing is certain if he continues this masquerade of 'privatising' diplomatic initiatives, whilst mouthing pious formula of the need to respect human rights, the rule of law, so on and on, he ain't fooling no one.

UN sanctions for South Korea? What's good for the Pyongyang goose is good for the Seoul gander?

The Republic of Korea [ROC aka South Korea] is positioning its first long range missile for blast off within a matter of days. The KSLV 1 is expected to put a satellite into space. Built with kiand assistance of Russia, after many delays in the delivery of the 33 metre rocket, the launch will take place from the Naro space centre off of South Korea's south coast.
Guam Diary muses on the possibility that Seoul's long range rocket will be the object of the UN Security Council's alert eye? It is useful to recall that after fair warning to the international community the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [DPRK aka North Korea] launched a similar home grown rocket with a satellite into outer space. Immediately the US seized the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against Pyongyang. Thanks to Washington's arm twisting, the vote for sanctions was unanimous, based on a dubious interpretation of resolution 1718. The DPRK responded swiftly by walking out of the six party talks in Beijing for good; by restarting its nuclear programme; by multiplying short and medium range rocket tests; and finally by tearing up the 1953 Armistice Accords. Tensions mounted, and the trip wire to war on the divided Korean peninsula became tauter than ever.
Consider that Seoul is a stalwart ally of the US, it is hardly probable that even say if the DPRK brings a resolution for sanctions against the ROC, it will not fly. More, Washington would cast a veto blocking any action.
Japan too is a big chum of South Korea, so you won't hear any fuss and muster from Tokyo. Sporadic protests perhaps but nothing really to write home about.
Russia cannot say much since it was Russian technology and cooperation that the KSLv 1 reached the launch pad.
China might raise a mild protest formally.
Yet, South Korea's long range missile test raises a curious eyebrow! Washington, so far as we now can discern, has not helped its long time ally Seoul from building the rocket. Even with Moscow's assistance, sharp differences with Seoul delayed the delivery of the missile till now.
Can the UN really sustain punitive sanctions against Pyongyang without applying the same yardstick against Seoul? It won't. Nor can it apply sanctions against Pyongyang with a straight face. ROC launch simply makes a mockery of US president Barack Obama's [BHO] hard line stance against the DPRK. The blantant hypocrisy is quite apparent and in the short term, the sanctions will fall into disuse, the more especially since the visit of Bill Clinton and Mme. Hyun Jeong un, chairwoman of the Hyundai Group with heavy economic and emotional ties to North Korea.
Washington's favouritism will like a big rock that it launched will land on its own toes.
Guam Diary finds a long silver thread of failure and misinformed and ill conceived policies in the US diplomatic effort to throw its wait around. And Washington has but itself to blame for its arrogance, laziness, and false pride, if not arrant obtuseness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

US hypocrisy: North Korea, India, sanctions & the bomb

The DRPK's [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] vessel 'MV San' is in India's custody. To New Delhi goes the dubious honour of boarding a North Korean vessel in Indian waters in the Bay of Benegal, off the shores of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands [which is famous for the Thuggies, Indians pirates]. Indian authorities boarded 'MV San' armed with the authority of UN Resolution 1758, and with the right to search the ship's cargo. New Delhi has kept a sleepless on Myunmar which it is bruited has 'louche' dealings with the DPRK in nuclear technology. India also had the right to challenge the vessel since it was anchored in its waters without permission. So since the ship was in proximity nautically speaking to Myunmar, and since the US inspired sanctions see Pyongyang's suspicious hand in fomenting nuclear hanky panky, and since India is in a tight contest with China to curry favour with the Burmese military junta, New Delhi putting North Korea + Myunmar + an unauthorised DPRK vessel three and three together, and came up with an ah ha, we caught the DPRK playing nuclear transfer with Myunmar. Not.
New Delhi seized the 'MV San's crew of 39, and began interrogating its captain, officers, and hands. It scoured the vessel for traces of nuclear material, but found only 16.000 ton[ne]s of sugar for the Middle East. How long ship and crew will be detained, remains a question.
In late June and early July, the US aircraft carrier 'The John McCain 2' followed hot on the heels
of the 'Kang Nam 1', which an American journalist described as 'a tub', with the US 'knowingly' claiming that its destination was Myunmar, and its cargo nuclear technology. Well the DPRK ship gave the US aircraft carrier a run for its money; it took the US naval vessel on a wild goose chase into the South China sea, then executed a 180 degree turn, heading back to the safety of North Korean waters in the China sea. Thus it robbed eager US hands of seizing and boarding the ship in a neutral port or on the high seas.
How does this square with the 'private' but highly controlled and choreographed White House, trip of Citizen Clinton to Pyongyang to rescue two imprisoned US journalist and his 195 minute tete a tete talk with Kim Jong il? A good question. So far no great protest from Pyongyang of New Delhi's seize of the 'MV San' and crew. Which might indicate new private channels of talks are opening with the DPRK. Yet, no one will or cannot say for sure.
Let's now turn to US hypocrisy on the nuclear issue. India has never signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; it built its own nuclear arsenal and carried out tests in the deserts of Rajastan. It steadfastly refused to sign the treaty; its gathering of nuclear warheads, brought into the nuclear club rival Pakistan who trained its nuclear devices towards India. New Delhi reciprocated by aiming its warheads on Islamabad. Now this has not stopped the BHO administration from signing an agreement with India in order to share nuclear technology with New Delhi. Translation, supposedly for peaceful purposes but this can turn deadly in developing military applications. Hardly a protest raised in the US; in India, thanks to stronger leftist parties, read the Communists, loud voices could be heard. But after the last elections which returned a stronger Congress party to power without Communist support, the stage was set for Washington's move which was eagerly agreed to by the Indian government. Thus we see the sheer hypocrisy of the US strategy on reining in the DPRK's nuclear programme. And we turn to this.
During the Clinton years, thanks to Jimmy Carter's face saving trip to the DPRK, the White House managed to put a damper on the DPRK's nuclear programme, with IAEA seals and inspections, and more, Pyongyang's signing of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. With George Bush in the White House, armed with the sword of righteous against 'evil', his administration and army of avenging angels in State and the White House scuttled the Clinton policy. This resulted in the DPRK opting out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, sending packing the IAEA inspectors and removing the IAEA seals, and started up its nuclear development once against. Mr. Bush never one step away from a policy bereft of logic, tried to lure the DPRK back to talks without really talking to Pyongyang through the charade of the six party talks in Beijing. To not put a fine point on it, the Bush strategy so backfired that to get Mr. Bush's attention, Kim Jong il & co. exploded a nuclear device, thereby by stupidity he brought the number of members of the nuclear club to 8 nations. And then the Bush White House backpaddled fast in its North Korean non policy but didn't do much thereafter.
We are now in the opening months of a new administration. President Barack Obama [BHO] has gone one better than Mr. Bush in a hard line tack towards the DPRK. He opted for sanctions against Pyongyang when it didn't postpone a much advertised satellite launch on a long range missile, by running to the UN Security Council for sanctions against the DPRK, which he got through much arm
twisting. And the proverbial sand ground things to a diplomatic halt. Swift and non nonsense replies can out of Pyongyang. One, the DPRK refused ever to return to the six party talks; two, it again ordered IAEA inspectors out of the country; three, it started up again, its nuclear reactor; four, it tore up the 1953 Armstice Agreement, technically turning the frozen Korean War into a hot war again. And to put icing on the cake, it set off an large non nuclear underground explosion and fired more short and medium range missiles. Tensions and temperatures rose according in Washington and Pyongyang. And were it not for two US journalists who in pursuit of a story on North Korea refuges in China, had not violated North Korean territory, who could guess the next steps in mindless escalation? The trial and condemnation of the two reporters gave Kim Jong il a hook to get Mr. Clinton to Pyongyang, to pitch the DPRK's new demands for direct talks, and not going back to the six party talks, brushing aside BHO's refrain for returning to these dead talks and endless mantra of living up to past agreements.
US hypocrisy becomes more glaring in this sense. It turned a willing and eager DPRK who for years had been anxious to talk directly to the US, to iron out outstanding issues since the Korean War, now almost 6 decades old; Washington did talk but in very strict,limited terms, which under Clinton's presidency got results [see above]. Today the BHO administration faces new challenges whilst clinging to outdated and trumped demands. An endless stream of visiting firemen and scholars and Russians and Chinese have brought back information that Pyongyang was open to discussions with the US, and what's more willing to sign off on the nuclear programme. But Mr. Bush and now BHO think that the US is in the cat bird's seat. Yet, the Clinton's presidency got results [see above]. And yet Kim Jong il is willing to negotiate broadly on many issues; since its a nuclear power, it wants that recognised, and who knows if might destroy its very limited and small stockpile, as did South Africa and Libya, for recognition and equal treatment as a member of the world community. If BHO had applied the same stringent terms on nuclear Israel, peace and a Palestinian state would have come about without a doubt!
US nuclear hypocrisy knows no bounds. Were it not for the US, the DPRK would never have explosed a nuclear device. Without US blindness to results, the DPRK's nuclear plants would have remained monitored and sealed, even with some cheating here and there. Without the US eagerness to partner nuclearly with India, and maintain a double standard as to who and who shouldn't sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the world would be on sure footing.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kim Jong il is in full control says US general. Quelle surprise!

US president Barack Obama [BHO]'s national security [NSC]advisor General James 'Jim' Jones likes to shun the public light. Would you say that he was almost as secretive as the DPRK's[Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea]Kim Jong il in this respect? Maybe. Maybe not. He did however choose to come out of the shadows yesterday, Sunday 9 August 2009, to appear not on one but three Sunday political affairs talk shows! This fact alone flashed across the pages of 'the Financial Times of London' pages and 'Al Jazeera English' website, but not in the authoritative 'New York Times'. You could hear the laughter across the globe at this startling news!
Citizen Clinton's 'surprise' visit to the DPRK brought the general before the tv cameras, to tell the American people that after 'debriefing' Mr. Clinton who spent some 195 minutes alone with Kim Jong il, discussing any number of issues undisclosed and publicly denied by the White House that he either handed over or recited a verbal message from BHO. What a piece of non news, excuse Guam Diary for saying so.
The photo flashed around of the world of Mr. Kim and Mr. Clinton sitting side by side, with the Clinton team standing behind them, told us as much.
General Jones' appearances did one thing: it put a break on the endless rumours mouthed by a complacent and lazy US media, punditocracy, and Korea hands in and out of government. Rumours fed by South Korean intelligence.
Now, it is no use denying Mr. Kim has recovered from a serious illness. He is much thinner, but he remains head of the DPRK. He's not dying of pancreatic cancer nor are his kidney failing him, as far as we know.
Consider the spin doctors in the US media who go off on a tear the moment they think for him and the networks or newspapers they are working for, will scoop the competitioChn. The sometimes lurid accounts might in some instances come out of Evelyn Waugh's 'Vile Bodies' or 'Scoop'. Make believe news. Fabricated News.
At times you wonder where US rate or taxpayers' monies have gone to train analysts, in Korean affairs. Consider the claims that we're dealing with an 'exotic' plant or beast or an unknowable state, a secretive, unchangeable society, an unfathomable danger to the west as though Kim Jong il's DPRK fits the description of Sax Rohmer's evil Dr. Fu Man Chu. Give us a break, fellows!
North Korea acts impulsively; there is no logic to its moves. Or the clever devils who play poker expertly that they outwit us, read the UES, at every turn. And so the easy, disingenuous crocodile tears flow uninterrupted.
Well for sure some ex CIA analysts do have a finger of a pulse in things North Koreans, and out of government have written articles which remain either unread or appear in journals with a limited readership; the Chinese and the Russians have a wealth of material on the DPRK. Some material is available in English, and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Centre has tapped into Soviet archives and is translating documents which graduate students are working on but hardly hardly for public consumption, and more oft than not, the material translated disappears into the black hole of US governmental agencies and departments.
But Guam Diary like others do plum the web and find material which the US media ignore or choose not to publish. Guam Diary like others, amateur 'sleuths' or pros, find a rationality in the DPRK's pronouncement, more likely reactive to outside powers and events. Guam Diary like others, read books by scholars many formerly residing in the USSR or eastern 'people's democracies' who studies in Pyongyang and who know North Korea. Appreciations vary from outright hostility to mildly critical. But the info is there for those who wish to see it.
So whither the US after Citizen Clinton's visit? Well Jones spoke from the White House script: no rewards till Pyongyang returns to the six party talks which it repudiated after the US got the UN to impose sanctions on North Korea; until it lives up to agreements on denuclearising North Korea. Nowhere did we hear of Kim Jong il's new positions, calling for direct talks, to discuss all issues on the table. And so the merry go round continues.
Actually since BHO plays his cards close to his chest, we're in the dark. And so it's more imperative than ever to read, ask questions, and delve the 'rational' mind of an administration which many before it, really haven't a policy towards the DPRK when faced with newer conditions and reality.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Solecism a l'americaine. Whither a new approach to North Korea?

Yesterday Guam Diary broached the matter of solecism in US' approach to the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea], by giving a rundown of the discussion at the Japan Society in New York. Theme: North Korea: the challenges for the US, Japan, and South Korea. A scholar on Korea, an ex CIA analyst, and a former senior diplomat now president of the New York based Korea Society discussed the topic for the scheduled time of 60 minutes. As Guam Diary observed, the former CIA analyst tersely summed up the issues by saying US policy towards North Korea is as though it had jumped out of an aeroplane without a parachute, and was in free fall, and nursing hope against hope for a soft landing somewhere, anywhere. In the glare of the DPRK's new standpoint towards the US, the scholar and the former senior diplomat dig heels into outdated positions, stating that North Korea had stepped over the line that the US had drawn in the sand, and that was a matter of very serious concern. Which when analysed boiled down to the nitty gritty, and stripped to its bare bones, we find a good example of American exceptionalism. The US had laid down terms of engagement, and North Korea was playing the game as planned. Books, doctoral theses, and endless articles have been written on the matter, To not put a finer point, it can be best summed up by referring to a quotation from the Bible: America can see the mote in the DPRK's eye, but not the speck of dust in its own eye.
For America, the chapter on Korea is hardly stellar. The armies of the DPRK and the Chinese volunteers fought the UN forces, actually commanded with full authority by the US with little UN control and imput, to a stalemate. Then the US had egg on its face with the 'Pueblo' incident; almost took up arms in the mid 1970's during the 'tree cutting incident' at the 38 parallel, and fast forward to the early years of the Clinton administration, itching for a fight, found itself outmaneuvered by the surprise visit of Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang, and an agreement with Kim Il Sung which provided what nostalgically looks like the opening and golden age of discussions and negotiations with the DPRK especially on the nuclear issue. The 8 years of George Bush torpedoed any progress made; Mr. Bush's missteps and ideologically driven policy towards the DPRK, turned Pyongyang into a nuclear power. This made Bush backpeddle and in a tack not to discuss anything face to face with North Korea, devised the six party talk which made any breakthroughs on outstanding and pressing issues long and arduous and laboriously without much headway. With BHO, positions hardened the more especially since Kim Jong il didn't put off the launch of a satellite on a long range rocket. His refusal gave wide berth to sanctions in the UN Security Council initiated by BHO & co., measures which Pyongyang labelled causes for war. And there the matter lay, doubled with the start up of the DPRK's nuclear programme which it had shut down, more short and medium rocket launches, and an underground explosion which no sensors would qualify as a nuclear explosion.
Fortuitously, two US journalists got nabbed for entering North Korea illegally; were tried and condemned to 12 years of hard labour. This was the hook on which the opportunity hung for relaxing a war of propaganda which heightened tensions between the US and the DPRK.
For Pyongyang watchers something was a foot when in early July, the US didn't condemn Pyongyang's launch of short and medium range missiles in early July, followed by an apology to North Korea on behalf of the two reporters, who openly and willingly acknowledged that they had entered the DPRK illegally, and after this came Citizen Bill Clinton's trip to Pyongyang and their release.
In the meantf ime, Kim Jong il had put forth new positions, calling for face to face talks with Washington, since it had since April 2009 walked out for good, it is noted, from the six party talks in Beijing; for the US' part, BHO had put South Korea under the US nuclear protection. Now, Pyongyang saw this as a restatement of a threat to its own survival and wanted to recognised as a nuclear power which the US refused to do. On the heels of a call for direct negotiations, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon announced that such talks, another avenue for defusing heightened tension, were indeed welcome. In fact, here we may see a modality to achieve denuclearisation of the divided Korean peninsula by Pyongyang agreeing to stop for good its nuclear programme and Washington removing nuclear cover over South Korea, which decompress a situation which by chance or design lead to nuclear war, and thus allow the DPRK's neighbours room to breathe a sigh of relief. Now back to the Japan Society panel.
But for the realism of the ex CIA speaker, the scholar and the former senior diplomat brushed aside discussion of North Korea's new position, falling back on returning to six party talks in Beijing, honouring past commitments, etc. They refused to consider Kim Jong il's call for recognition of the DPRK as a nuclear power who might like South Africa and Libya give up its weapons, or another process other than a return to Beijing which Pyongyang proclaimed a dead horse. Such demands were they loudly proclaimed, unacceptable, although the former diplomat to the sheer surprise of the scholar's arched eyebrows, thought there was something in toe to toe talks. But recognition of North Korea was hors de oquestion, pure and simple. No one raised the matter of Israel's undeclared nuclear stockpile, bu some would say, Israel neither denied nor confirmed that it was a nuclear power, which at the time of the Suez Crisis of 1956 the Socialist coalition of Guy Mollet transferred nuclear technology to Israel to allow it to join the nuclear club. Israel swears that it will never use first such weapons and at the same time not saying its a nuclear nation. Such a fiction could work in the case of North Korea, but even to think in this manner, we are treading don the thin ice of lese majeste for America's elite who have imput on elaborating US policy.
We are in the hallowed presence of sacred texts, set in stone. We see a stubbornness to think outside the box, as the Americans like to say. Which simply underscores the ex CIA analyst's remarks that the US has nothing new in its approach to North Korea.
Elaborators and commentators and thought merchants such as the scholar and the former diplomat, should know almost instinctively that in diplomacy the sands shift rapidly or slowly but nothing is in stasis. What the US is lacking is any meaningful contact with the DPRK, although as the ex CIA panelist pointed out that there is enough material and contacts with say the Chinese and the Russians, to glean a goodly amount of information about what's happening in the DPRK. For what we read in the mainstream US press is a lot of fanciful reporting of rumour and innuendo, which like the wind blow today in one direction, and two minutes later in another.
No one is going to defend the DPRK for its repressive internal policies, but on the diplomatic playing field it is an independent country which deserves equal treatment. Something which US policy makers and analysts and scholars hardly recognise.
No one knows what BHO & co will do next, hiding behind the fiction that Citizen Clinton's trip didn't originate with them, wink, wink, wink, nor on the basis of Clinton's discussions with Kim Jong il to whom he extended a written or verbal message. But for the moment, if we go by official pronouncement of the White House or State, or the ideas advanced at Japan Society, we come away with an typically American solecism...a view of the world that what the US ordains, the world should follow. But as the French expression goes, it is more as though the US policy wonks and elites and government myopic in view take the clock striking two o'clock as the noon hour. With such a distorted view, little wonder US policy towards North Korea blunders.

Citizen Clinton reporting for duty

Fresh from a 'triumphal' engagement in Pyongyang, Citizen Clinton has already met with the US National Security Council [NSC], the co ordinating body of all US intelligence agencies. Citizen Clinton, after what is advertised as a 'private visit', a mission of mercy, was 'debriefed'. He will soon meet with president Barack Obama [BHO], to give an account of the 195 minutes he spent with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea].
For the US public, no one has a klew whether it will be provided with a 'santised' version of Citizen Clinton's 'compte rendu' of his 20 hours in the DPRK, or any explanation at all.
For the time being, BHO continues reading from his administration's script that the USthey abide will not reward Kim Jong il & co. for their bad behaviour; that they return to the six party talks; and that abide by promises they agreed to concerning North Korea's nuclear programme.
And there we are, waiting for the other shoe to drop!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Solecism at New York Japan Society: North Korea: the US, Japan, and South Korea

On Thursday morning 6 August 2009 as part of Japan Society series of discussions in New York, a distinguished panel of experts me to discuss the challenges facing the US, Japan, and South Korea by North Korea. Sponsored in conjunction with Mansfield Foundation, Alicia Ogawa, former investment banker, director of the Foundation, chaired the 90 minute meeting. L. Gordon Flake of the Foundation, Robert Carlin formerly of KEDO, and analyst at the CIA, and Evans Revere, former senior State Department official and current president of the New York based Korea Society made up the panel.
Before looking at remarks of theirs, the turnout on such a hot ticket item of moment, wot, with Citizen Clinton's 20 hours visit to Pyongyang and his return to California with the two pardoned reporters sentenced to 12 years of hard labour, was rather disappointing. Not to lose face, Japan Society papered the session with students taking Japanese, who filled to capacity the room.
With such a high profile panel, the questions were straight forward. America's perception of Kim Jong il; the future of negotiations with the DPRK; in sum, the questions normally broached when talking about North Korea. Only at the end did it occur to Ogawa to ask about the view from Seoul, Tokyo, and yes, Beijing.
Flake and Revere more or less took a narrow view of the current state of affairs between the US and North Korea. Carlin, bless him, offered a breath of fresh air. He went straight to the heart of the matter by saying as things stand Washington's tack towards Pyongyang is as though it had leapt from an aeroplane without a parachute, and was in free fall, where it would land is anyone's guess. Yet, he was not in despair.
Flake and Revere read from the same script more or less. For Flake the more conventional of the panelists, the DPRK would never be recognised as a nuclear power; it had agreed to denuclearise, and what's more had to return to a multiparty venue to iron out differences, and more to the point never would the US agree to bilateral negotiations, which, to him, meant wiggling out of past obligations.
Revere in diplomatic speak kept referring to new positions of put forth by North Korea were 'unacceptable' and it should be told that up front, more or less. Revere's position is rather unsettling from a man who worked through back channels with the DPRK on Citizen Clinton's 'visite eclaire' to Pyongyang, and who heads an 'NGO' who favours engagement not confrontation with Pyongyang, and has helped arranged programmes for scholars and students from the DPRK to study in the US or the New York Philharmonic to go to Pyongyang. Old State Department habits die hard, it seems.
Revere has good contacts with North Koreans, so you would think he might have a more nuanced understanding of North Korea's new proposals for direct talks. Flake too is no stranger to talks with North Koreans, but he too is wired to older attitudes. And here the wise old analyst Carlin puts his finger into the puffery of received wisdom. Negotiations mean discussions and discussions mean setting forth positions and looking for common ground of understanding, to say the bare minimum. Flake and Revere do not see this at all. They are imbued with a sense that what the US says and thinks is right. And it is in this sense, Guam Diary can label the discussions as an exercise in solecism and yet another example of Uncle Sam throwing around its weight at the wrong time.
Since no one really talked of the unacceptability of North Korea's position. The three panelist thought the Obama administration's position was more reactive not proactive. Well it depends on which end of the telescope you're looking through, doesn't it? President Obama [BHO] & co's tack is a little of the two. Let's quickly review the 8 month history of the US and the DPRK. As is well know Pyongyang is not easy to deal with, but BOH played hardball when the DPRK after giving advanced warning of its long range missile launch of a satellite, found Washington's 'order' to call it off the moment. It didn't, and seemingly BOH & co. seeing this as a slap in the face, immediately seized the UN Security Council calling for sanctions against the DPRK, for violating on spurious grounds resolution 1718. Well, Kim Jong il's response was quick and immediate. Vote sanctions and we're going to restart our nuclear programme, test short, medium, and long range missiles. The US arm twisted the Council so that no one cast a veto and unanimously sanctions passed. Pyongyang upped the ante by saying that it had abandoned for good the six party confab in Beijing and as a slap in the face, tore up the 1953 Armistice agreement, potentially turning a frozen war into a hot one. To stick it to the US, the DPRK on 26 May 2009 set off a powerful underground explosion which according to 'Science' and 200 global sensors, including one in South Korea, bore no traces of radioactive fallout. This sent Washington back to the Security Conauncil for more sanctions, put forth in another resolution 1859[sic] calling for freezing North Korean assets abroad, boarding DPRK vessels on the high seas, etc. Pyongyang responded any attempt to stop its vessels in international waters, it regarded as a 'causus belli', grounds for war. aAnd thereafter the tensions between Washi ngton and Pyongyang grew more taut and menacing. Not only did Kim Jong il & co. reject returning to Beijing for multilateral talks, it called for direct negotiations, and recognition as a nuclear power. These new demands cut to the heart of BOH's strategy: relying on China to do its own dirty work, and isolling for sanctions against the DPRK, for violating on spurious grounds resolution 1718. Well, Kim Jong il's response was quick and immediate. Vote sanctions and we're going to restart our nuclear programme, test short, medium, and long range missiles. The US arm twisted the Council so that no one cast a veto and unanimously sanctions passed. Pyongyang upped the ante by saying that it had abandoned for good the six party confab in Beijing and as a slap in the face, tore up the 1953 Armistice agreement, potentially turning a frozen war into a hot one. To stick it to the US, the DPRK on 26 May 2009 set off a powerful underground explosion which according to 'Science' and 200 global sensors, including one in South Korea, bore no traces of radioactive fallout. This sent Washington back to the Security Conauncil for more sanctions, put forth in another resolution 1859[sic] calling for freezing North Korean assets abroad, boarding DPRK vessels on the high seas, etc. Pyongyang responded any attempt to stop its vessels in international waters, it regarded as a 'causus belli', grounds for war. And thereafter the tensions between Washington and Pyongyang grew more taut and menacing. Further mor the DPRK restated its demands, calling for direct talks with Washington and vowing never to return to multiparty talks in Beijing. In one stroke of a pen, it knocked pins out of BOH's strategy for relying on China to do its dirty work with Pyongyang, and challenged Washington's hard line common front with an agressive South Korea and Japan.
And yet the DPRK had a card to play which it did. Two US journalists violating North Korean territory in pursuit of a story on refugees, found themselves arrested, tried, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. Herein lies a tale of Citizen Clinton's unexpected trip to the DPRK.
And here BOH & co. take refuge in the myth, Clinton's trip was divorced from any ties to the White House, in spite of the fact that BOH's fingerprint was all over Mr Clinton's mission of mercy.
BOH & co. are insisting on a return to the disavowed six party talks in Beijing, repeating stern warnings, and ostensibly talking to Kim Jong il as though he were not the head of a sovereign country; a brief Pyongyang has with Washington about not being treated as an equal.
Which brings us back to Robert Carlin's spot on observation that BHO has no follow up strategy and is in free fall. Which means if the DPRK doesn't step back, we're in for a jolly war! Or so it seems. Flake and Revere and so imbued with a white streak of America's self righteous and exceptionalism, that it does come to their mind to find out and probe more about North Korea's thinking. Which again we come back to Carlin's clearsightedness, about the nature of negotiations, probing, so on and on. Both Flake and Revere violate, it seems to Guam Diary, the advice of Talleyrand who counselled 'pas trop de zele' in diplomacy.
And here Guam Diary will stop. Citizen Clinton did convery a message from BHO to Kim Jong il. For the moment everyone waits to see the results of Clinton's trip. But time is not on Washington's side.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Citizen Clinton brings home the bacon

Citizen Clinton has returned home triumphantly.Accompanied by journalist Laura Ling and Euna Lee, sentenced to 12 years of hard labour in a North Korean prison camp, Citizen Clinton's meeting with the DRPK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] leader Kim Jong il, secured the two women's freedom. Although Mr. Clinton is maintaining the fiction, his was a private visit; he, on a humanitarian mission, it is obvious that the Obama administration's fingerprints are everywhere to be found. Mr. Clinton travelled to Pyongyang with John Podesta, US president Barack Obama's [BOH] transition team hit man, but not a member of BOH's administration and David Staub, a former Korean specialist at the state department; however the other members who journeyed with Citizen Clinton remain unnamed in the mainstream press accounts.
Washington has a reputation for leaks. BOH is playing with his cards close to his chests, and has locked down tight the rumour millions in his administration. The fiction persists that Mr. Clinton acted on his own. It is probably true that he hand Kim Jong il a letter from BOH. Now, Citizen Clinton spent 195 minutes in discussions with the Korean leader. Take away the time to enquire about health, granting a pardon to the two reporters, agreed upon before hand, that still leaders say 180 minutes of unaccounted topics of discussions. [And speaking of health...Kim Jong il almost less stout than in 2008, looked slimmer but hardly fragile as newspapers say. He has recovered from his illness of last fall, and as the FEER [Far Eastern Economic Review]remarked, Mr. Kim is in less dire health than the global media reported.
Unlike Jimmy Carter's 'visite eclaire' to Pyongyang 15 years ago, a trip which earned him the Clinton White House's anger and displeasure, in spite of a breakthough with Kim Il Sung and then years of talks with Kim Jong il, Citizen Clinton's trip was heavily scripted; each step planned in advance. So, it is quite reasonable to believe that he broached the nuclear issues, relaxation of tensions on the divided Korean peninsula, the modalities for direct talks as Mr. Kim's recent pronouncements seek, so on and on and on.
Citizen Clinton's success brought immediate cheers from the mainstream press and politicians and instant relief for the Liang and Lee families. It met with general popular approval from the US public. Thus, it kept the naysayers and the hardliners quiet for the moment. Had they attacked Clinton or even BOH, they would run a backlash and a setback. They prefer instead to await for a more propitious moment to draw their daggers. And BOH is not giving them an inch. The White House remains mum until such time that it can make more political hay out of Citizen Clinton's tour de force.
Mr. Clinton's visit cleared the air for further direct discussions with the DPRK. The naysayers however are stirring, but they're aiming at the wrong targets: Bill Clinton and his wife US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Mme. Clinton has not tempered her hardline towards Pyongyang nor has she stopped lecturing on what it should do to gain US and international favour.
Nevertheless BOH & co. will stick to its cover story that Citizen Clinton was on a purely humanitarian mission. Wink, wink, wink!
Judging by the initial reaction of the mainstream media, Charlie Rose will serve as an instructive sample. In a 15 minute segment, especially added for his 4 August 2009 programme, he interviewed Glenn Kessler of 'the Washington Post' and strategic arms analyst Joseph Cirincione of the Plowshare Fund. All three were upbeat. A win for America! At times Rose had to prompt Kessler who less than enthusiastic. Cirincione was buoyant, adding that Bill Clinton wasn't a naeme that first came to BHO, but it did to Kim Jong il. Mr. Clinton is respected for his moderate tone towards the DPRK in contrast to the George Bush's mean spirited and deleterious approach towards North Korea.Al Gore's name was bruited but the two imprisoned journalist worked for him. Mr.Kim knew what he was doing when he asked for Citizen Clinton, and flash, BOH signed on but held the ebullient Bill Clinton on a tight lease and well rehearsed lines. All three men repeated in one form or another that it was a big win for the US, Cirercione putting it rather crudely 'for peanuts'. And this from a man who graduated from Georgetown School of Diplomacy! And yet, neither Rose nor Kessler nor Cirincione nor Kessler even bother to mention that BOH after his own fashion was responding to Kim Jong il's call for direct negotiations within the last 10 days.
Citizen Clinton's image emerges enhance. The ball now lies in BOH's court on how to proceed from here. Kim Jong il has opened the door, BOH has only to walk through it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Citizen Clinton in Pyongyang

Former US president Bill Clinton has come to Pyongyang on a mission of mercy. He arrived in an unmarked aeroplane in the capital of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] on Tuesday 4 August 2009. Ostensibly he came to seek the release of two American journalist Laura Lin and Euna Lee, sentenced to 12 years of hard labour for entering the DPRK illegally. At first, the White House denied that he was carrying a personal message from president Obama [BHO], but finally US authorities admitted he was Citizen Clinton was immediately met with the DRPK's Kim Jong il, to hand deliver BOH's greetings.
North Koreans know Citizen Clinton well. They dealt with him for almost his full 8 years in office, especially after the startling and unannounced visit by Jimmy Carter to Pyongyang in 1993. Farmer Carter met with Kim Il Sung, and that meeting relaxed Mr. Clinton's finger on the nuclear trigger and opened years of negotiations with the DPRK; negotiations which put a hold of sorts on Pyongyang's nuclear programme. The high point during Clinton's time in office occurred late in his presidency with the visit of his secretary of state Madeleine Albright. She returned with a good assessment of lead Kim Jong il, and an invitation for her boss to visit the DPRK. Weakened by the Lewinsky scandal and bad advice from Korean experts, Clinton decided not to go. A serious blunder as the 8 years of George Bush proved. Now 8 years and 8 months later, we find Citizen Clinton in the DPRK with a message from BOH whose administrnation had squared off menacingly with Kim Jong il, making a rash show of temper into a taunt and serious situation capable of military action through sanctions, UN Security Council resolutions, and threats to board outbound North Korean vessels on international waters. Hyper nationalist North Korea never shies away from threats; as a response to sanctions, threats, and taunting by Citizen Clinton's own wife US secretary Hillary Clinton, herself a hardliner up and down the line on North Korea, Mr. Kim reactivated the quiescent nuclear programme, exploded a powerful non nuclear underground bomb, launched medium and short range rockets, and tore up the 1953 Armistice agreement turning the Korean War into a potentially hot war again.
On top of this, North Korean courts tried two US journalists who knowingly violated DPRK territory without proper documentation, and who tried to flee when caught, thereby adding another layer of tension between Pyongyang and Washington. At the same time, the arrest of Lin and Lee opened a way to reestablish talking points with Washington. And so, by way of background, we see Citizen Clinton on his mission of mercy to Pyongyang. There he hopes Kim Jong il will allow him to accompany the two reporters home as a sign of his country's good will. Maybe yes, maybe no. Chances are Mr. Kim will seize the opportunity to unfreeze Washington's ice age diplomacy, the more especially since he recently called for direct discussions with the US.
Guam Diary is not the only one to scratch its head over America's penchant for making a bad situation worse or to turn an opportunity into a crisis. BOH took a hizzy fit when in fair warning Pyongyang gave advanced warning that it was going to launch a satellite on a long range rocket. BOH counselled delay; Pyongyang proceed with its plans. Then BOH & co. seized the UN Security Council for sanctions against the DPRK on shaky juridical grounds. And thus the ball of string began unraveling. Such a prescription by the US made little sense in respecting the practices of good diplomacy. It stifled at one fell swoop any chance for valuable conversation; it quashed any initiatives to work out issues on the table at the six party talks in Beijing. The DPRK has abandoned these talks. By this fiat, Pyongyang has knocked the pins out Washington's strategy to used China as a surrogate to wring concession from North Korea, and at the same time, it shows the hollowness of BOH's alignment with the rigid, renewed Cold War strategy towards the DPRK of South Korea and Japan.
As the saying goes, you don't send a boy to do a man's job. The US for many reasons has been loath under Bush's 8 years in office to talk directly with the DPRK. It was willing and BOH, too, adopting the Bush strategy with his hard line secretary of state Mme. Clinton, to out do Bush in mindless stubbornness, to talk to Pyongyang on the sidelines without nary a breakthrough. In brief, the US has to do its own 'dirty work', straw men won't do. The DPRK called BOH's bluff. So seeking Mr. Kim's clemency in releasing two journalist, it is hoped that a new chapter will begin in talks between the DPRK and the US.
American critics will cry 'sellout', but it is the chronic illness of US policy to pay the pound of cure rather than take the ounce of prevention in the beginning.
It is time that Washington end the Korean War once and for all, and expand useful policies which will avoid the endemic pratfalls and errors that it so loves to commit in the conduct of its foreign policy. It's time American diplomats act as diplomats and not like warriors.