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'?

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