Saturday, September 25, 2010

Seoul and Washington hold divided Korean families reunions hostage

The sunken 'Cheonan' is casting its long shadow on reuniting Koreans separated by the Korean War.
The DPRK suggested beginning again such reunions after their suspension two years ago.
Kim Dae Jung's 'Sunshine Policy' paved the wayly for family reunions. In 2008, the new elected Lee Myung bek scrapped the program. The shift in South Korea's approach towards the North took on a hard tone.
With the damper on the 'Sunshine Policy' the good will between Seoul and Pyongyang lost its power. The mystery of a common Korean will toward eventual reunification departed on the wings of a revived Cold War on the divided peninsula.
Scenes of teary reunions of mothers and sons, fathers and daughters separated 60 years from one another gave way to renewed tensions between the DPRK and ROK.
Divided families once again became hostage to mutual recriminations and search for scapegoats, but the South's contempt for Kim Jong il far outweighed the North's need to assert feelings of hurt prestige and authority. The downward spiral could continue the separation and uncertain hopes of families ever seeing families again.
According to the Red Cross, 'about 80.000 South Koreans have yet to be reunited with their relatives in the North, and about 40 per cent of them are 80 or older'. So the longer reunions are delayed, the more death will claim them.
With the failure of the US' and South Korea's war of propaganda to condemn North Korea for sinking the ROK courvette 'Cheonan' in March 2010 in the court of world opinion, Pyongyang in a gesture to diminish recriminations offered to resume the family unions under the auspices of the Red Cross.
South Korea agreed. It couldn't do otherwise for fear that he would alienate a strong current in the ROK to reunite families. Lee Myung bek couldn't risk looking as though he was casting out of South Korea, Northerners who sought the safety of the South during the Korean War, specially not during an election year.
Thus, Kim Jong il's willingness to resume family reunions immediately ran aground. It foundered at present as to where they would take place.
South Korea wants them to be at Kumgang-san [Diamond Mountain], renowned for its beauty and tourism, but North Korea demurred. Pyongyang had put the site off limits for the last two years. In 2008, a South Korean woman tourist wandered close to an area the North considered out of bounds; a guard shot and killed her.
Seoul put a break on tourism there and the North responded by severely limited activity at the Kaesong Industrial Zone, a free trade zone for South Korean industries. And here the matter rests.
The opportunity for unspoiled negotiations becomes hazier yet by a third round of joint military exercises by the US and ROK since the sunken 'Cheonan'. They add a new and for the North a seemingly threatening dimension; they involve a 5 day 'anti submarine exercises' close to DPRK waters. The American military authority let it be known that these manoeuvres are 'designed to send a clear message of deterrence to North Korea'.
Pyongyang responded with threats as it always does. It cannot do otherwise, the more especially since the Korean Workers Party will soon be meeting to rubber stamp the successor to Kim Jong il.
But as GuamDiary has noted, North Korea, in spite of menacing words and the twist and turns in US and South Korean policy, has always looked for the chance to 'reconnect' with Washington and Seoul.
Joint military exercises seem to overtake a commonsense approach to thaw relations.
And although family reunions are not put off to the Greek kalends, it is surely the elderly and frail South Koreans and North Koreans who suffer, never knowing whether before they journey to the other side of the mountain, whether they will ever see long separated family.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Doesn't anyone but former president Jimmy Carter want a new Korea policy?

In the 16 September 2010 edition of 'The New York Times' [NYT], Jimmy Carter's 'North Korea wants to deal' was prominently displayed on its op-ed page.
The former US president based his piece on recent conversations he had with senior DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea]official during his two days in Pyongyang. He had gone to North Korea on a mission of mercy, in order to seek the release of the American Ajialon Gomes sentenced to 8 years of hard labour and fined millions of US dollars.
[It is interesting to note that 8 days after Mr. Carter's op ed appeared, the 'NYT's'Letters to the Editor has kept a frozen silence as if to turn a deaf ear to the former president's appeal.
Kim Jong il, it seemed, requested the mediating role of Mr. Carter, in an unexpressed hope that he might cut yet another knot in US DPRK relations.]
Before going any further, let's have some background on Jimmy Carter's standpoint on North Korea.
In 1977 when he became America's 39 president, Mr. Carter called for a new policy towards the divided Korean peninsula, including reduction of US troops. [We must needs recall here that this was happening as a consequence of the South Korea's president Park Chung hee had tried to subvert members of the US Congress through bribery. Short hand, this is referred to 'Koreagate'. US relations between Seoul and Washington had cooled to subzero temperatures.]
Mr. Carter failed to carry out his new policy, owing to strong pressure within and out of his government.
Zoom to June 1994,when Mr. Carter flew to Pyongyang to the displeasure of the Clinton White House. We must not forget Bill Clinton had threatened North Korea with a nuclear riposte were it to continue its own nuclear programme. Jimmy Carter met with Kim Il Sung. He returned with a document of good intentions, and thus began 6 years of negotiations, fruitful contacts, and ultimately the visit of secretary of state Madelaine Albright. She met with Kim Jong il and her conversations proved positive. [GuamDiary suggests reading Marion Creekmore's 'Moment of Crisis: Jimmy Carter, the power of a peace maker, and North Korea's nuclear ambitions'.]
On the heels of Mme. Albright's trip, it was thought that she had paved the way for a visit to Pyongyang by Bill Clinton. Such was the muck and mire the White House was in after the impeachment and the marshaling of America's North Korean clerisy that it would be a serious mistake to confer the mantle of normalcy in relations with Kim Jong il.
With George W. Bush an arctic wind froze any promising negotiations with the DPRK. Mr. Bush went as far as labeling North Korea as an 'axis of evil' state. What's more, the Bush White House went out of its way to snub the Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo hyun governments in Seoul who continued the 'Sunshine Policy', by broadening and deepening relations with Pyongyang. GuamDiary also suggest reading Mike Chinoy's 'Meltdown: the inside story of the North Korean crisis'.
The Bush administration refused to deal face to face with the DPRK. It found its own face saving strategy by calling for a six party talks in Beijing of North Korea's neighbours--South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia joined by the US--to negotiate a solution to North Korea's nuclear programme. The talks have had a bumpy history and are now stalemated. The election of the Lee Myung bek government in South Korea in 2008 added more oil to the fire of doing everything but talking to North Korea on an equal and even playing field. In fact, Mr. Lee scrapped the 'Sunshine Policy'; he proceeded to revive a cold war with North Korea. Coupled to the Bush administration's hostile and aggressive approach to Pyongyang, his stance effectively split the six party talks into two factions: the US, South Korea, and Japan on one side, and on the other, Russia, North Korea, and China. Beijing had the thankless task of trying to bring the two 'factions' together with diminishing success.
Mr. Bush's tone deaf and rather crude diplomacy had an unintended result: the DPRK tested an underground nuclear device, thereby becoming a member of the global nuclear club! The US immediately reversed its combative posture, and agreed to talks in Beijing and to send its special envoys to Pyongyang.
This seeming 'thaw' bought small beer in negotiations.
In good times and bad, Kim Jong il kept signaling that he was willing to 'deal' with the US. The Bush White House had deliberately piled on a high barrier of conditions so crafted that Mr. Kim would have to turn them down.
With Barack Obama in the White House, it would be hoped that it would take new steps towards the DPRK. He did but in a direction that surprised many: he not only continued a hard line policy towards North Korea, characterised by a new harshness and more stringent conditions. This approach reached its apotheosis during the sinking of the South Korean courvette 'Cheonan' in March 2010. [GuamDiary directs its readers attention to its many commentaries on the matter.]
Yet in July 2010 hopes ran high of a instance to change in relations when Bill Clinton went to Pyongyang to obtain the release of two journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. There he met with Kim Jong il. But that hope was dashed by the Obama White House.
It is not unreasonable to posit that upon his return Mr. Clinton relayed verbally or in writing or both a message from Mr. Kim calling for direct talks and a deal to end the Korean War and the settling of outstanding issues plaguing the two countries for the last 60 years.
But US secretary of state Hillary Clinton echoed Mr. Obama's lack of enthusiasm for a deal of any kind.
And so, we arrive back at Jimmy Carter's op ed contribution in the 'NYT'. To his credit, he appealed to his fellow citizens by relating his talks with senior North Korean officials; they once again and without a sense of futility called for a deal with the US. And once more, the US has let the ball drop.
It would be wrong to not note the small steps of crafted punishment towards the DPRK. The war of propaganda and joint US ROK military exercises have yielded small potatoes.
In fact, North Korea has turned the situation to its own advantage: it has offered to return to the six party talks in Beijing after more than a year's absence. It was willing to review the South's dossier on the sunken 'Cheonan'. It also called for restarting visits by families separated by the Korean War. Pressure of voters in an election year in South Korea has forced the hand of Lee Myung bek whose popularity has suffered by his government's corruption and mismanagement. He broke his own embargo on diminished food supplies to the North by offering an increase in shipments. He agreed to talks on family visits.
But on the other hand, the US and ROK eager to see the DPRK take its rightful seat at the six party talks, hold to the common position that the North is responsible for sinking the South Korea ship and the loss of 46 lives. This is something that Pyongyang has rejected out of hand. As GuamDiary has reported, it has submitted its own dossier on the events. We have also pointed out the serious chinks in the ROK investigation--compromising evidence, the drunkedness of the 'Cheonan's' officers at the time of the sinking, so on. We equally reported the breaking of ranks by Donald Gregg, former CIA operative and ambassador to South Korea, who absolved North Korea of any blame in the sunken 'Cheonan'. We have not scanted in pointing out China's response to the joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea by conducting its own as a warning that China will not let the DPRK be intimidated nor tolerate a miscalculation the US and ROK might make resulting in hostilities.
The US might have opened back channels to the DPRK but GuamDiary doesn't expect any productive outcome. The Obama administration is hell bent on having North Korea to cry 'Uncle!' and repent its ways. That ain't going to happen!
GuamDiary, too, wrote of America's North Korean clerisy exhorting the US to adopt a reactionary policy of 'rolling back' North Korea. So we come to a point that the US is chasing its own tail with little hope of breaking out of a prison it built for itself.
Jimmy Carter deserves a sustained applause for not being hoodwinked by US policy towards North Korea. As a Nobel peace prize winner, he knows better. It would do the Obama administration well to listen to his words and adopt a new policy towards the divided Korean peninsula.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bazinga! North Korea fooled the Pyongyang spotters

The DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea] did it again. It pulled the wool over its spotters in the ROK [Republic of Korea aka South Korea], the US, and elsewhere.
It blew out the 62 candles on its birthday cake. Kim Jong il was much honoured, it goes without saying. The grand pooh bahs who cast a hard eye on what they think will happen in the DPRK or pretend with 'authority' they can read the intentions of its leaders, came up empty.
Much was made of Kim Jong il's two recent visits to China, to inform Beijing of the 'imminent' proclamation of the 'Dear Leader's' youngest son, Kim Jong eun as his successor.
'The FT' [Financial Times of London] carried an 'opinion piece' by the hawks Robert Kaplan and Abraham Denmark. 'A power transfer that will shake Pyongyang' [8 September 2010]regurgitated banal observations: change of leaders demands an assertion of the right to lead; the youthfulness of 'twenty something'Kim Jong eun highlights his lack of experience and authority; inexperienced, he will be the cat's paw of his uncle and senior military and party officials, 'whose ambitions, wealth, and safety will not be under his personal control as they were under his father [and his grandfather]'.
Untested, in other words, he is a 'figurehead', and what's more, should Kim Jong eun fail to impose himself, Kaplan and Denmark anticipate the long awaited collapse of North Korea.
Wrong. Kim Jong il is still very much in charge. Kim Jong eun is already being initiated in the practical application of the wheels of power. According to a former South Korean minister of reunification, the younger Kim has for some time been in learning the ropes of leadership from the ground floor up. His guides and instructors, although long in the tooth,are the ones who put his own father through his paces. So, we can surmise that the 'Dear General' is being well schooled in the art of governing. In other words, he is cutting his teeth in the same way his father did. Still, the elder Kim is in shaky health so his training may take a quicker path with 'guidance'.
Everyone talks of Kim Jong eun's schooling in Switzerland, which remains shrouded in uncertainty. Assuming he went to school there, he is well versed in English and French at least; he is acquainted with things and tastes western. Schooling the DPRK has also prepared him for a leadership role which his birth guarantees.
Kaplan and Denmark are wrong again. They seemingly know very little of DPRK history, the role of the KWP [Korean Workers Party] and the military. It is a long history, older than the formal beginnings of North Korea in 1948. It has root and branch in the anti colonial struggle against Japan in the 1930's, and the imposing figure of Kim Il Sung and the ideology which he and his party and military forged to survive a brutal war. It lay the broad outline of authority and collective decision making based on 'democratic centralism'. Thus, its history is almost 80 years old.
Let's now consider the 'lingusitic' debate going on in the ROK. Pyongyang announced that it would hold the founding of the DPRK in early ['sangsun'in Korean]September.
It did but in South Korea, yet it came as a surprise below the 38 parallel. Why? As the 'NYT' [New York Times]correspondent in Seoul Choe Sang hun reported,'sangsun'aignify a fortnight or the first 15 days of the month. In South Korea, everyone or at least everyone knows that the DPRK was proclaimed on 9 September 1948, and surprise, surprise, surprise, the 62 anniversary of its creation took place on 9 September 2010. Nothing to write home about! And yet even the South Korean DPRK watchers should have known better. This raises an interesting question: if the ROK and DPRK speak the same languague, it stands to reason that words have the same meaning. Not so. Take for example capitalism. It means one thing in capitalist South Korea and another in socialist North Korea. This is not a trivial matter. It poses a serious problem as to the reliability of ROK sources since analysts outside of Korea rely on ROK translations and reporting on what they do know and what they suspect is going on in the DPRK. The same lesson equally applies to America's North Korean clerisy.
[For those scholars, analysts, researchers, and diplomats and spooks who are out of the 'circle of consensus'otherwise known as received wisdom, they are beyond the pale of the accepted. They tend to treat the DPRK not as an aberration, but a rational state, and to deal with it on its own terms. Furthermore, google will point you to their articles, books, and the like, but rarely will you find them in the main stream media nor in publications of those who have the imprimatur of having been accepted by the elite.]
Choe Sang hun, the 'NYT' man in Seoul also lets us in on a secret: the reason Kim Jong il plays with his cards close to his chest. 'Kim Jong il appears to prize the mystery surrounding his government. When he met [ROK] president Kim Dae jung...he was delighted to learn that the outside world regarded him as a hermit and his government as an enigma'. His secrecy feeds the never dampened western blast furnaces of speculation producing the 'sure thing' about Mr. Kim's leadership and his 'personal quirks'.
Really! Mr. Kim may have been amused by the story his 'elder brother' from the South told him. Still. Of course US style of journalism treats everything thing as though it were 'born yesterday'. As such, the longer view is lost or ignored. In a quick glance backwards, we do find that the DPRK is 'irrational' since no one can make head or tail of what they are doing for it falls outside of what the analysts define as normal. Again, a little scratching of the surface would bring forth a history of the KWP [Korean Workers Party] in the pattern was set in the 1930's as to how decisions are made. [As a practical matter, no government bruits the nuts and bolts of how decisions are reached!]
What's more, since from its creation, the DPRK has been held at arm's length by the non communist world. It has been vilified especially from the Korean War [1950-1953]forwards; its name put on the index; it was and is the object of a war of words; its proclamation of intentions are not to be trusted, so on and on. Little wonder then that the heir to the 'hermit kingdom' retires from ordinary discourse and ways of doing things; the government compensates by stressing that the DPRK is 'sui generis' in all its undertakings, in the its ideology, in the way it has built a state and takes care of its people. It has honed its defence mechanisms to a sophisticated point.
Consequently, its behaviour pose a problem based on a conjectual hypothesis which proves faulty. And has sprouted like mushrooms an army of tea leave readers.
But America's North Korean clerisy do follow events in DPRK to a very fine degree.
Look at the right wing Petersen Institute's Marcus Noland. A frequent traveller to the DPRK, he can and does tease out trends representing an orientation to newer directions in North Korean publications. Look at an example he announced inadvertently as a boast:in September 2009 he read in the Korean an article signed by Kim Jong il's sister hinting at currency reform. He shared this with his other clerics but not with the general public. ['Knowledge is power' after all, isn't it? The magician does reveal his secrets only within his confraternity and even then with a trusted few!]In November the re evaluation of the won went into effect causing untold hardship among the small people and even hit the 'core cadre' which are the backbone of the North Korean state.
Kim Jong il & co. put a break on this reform but it did take its toll and seemingly crippled the opening towards market reform and a budding market economy on a limited basis.
Dr. Noland published a paper evaluating this 'bold' move. He condemned it for the personal suffering it engendered, but more than that, he took Kim Jong il & co. to task for not fully understanding and embracing the capitalist mechanisms of a market economy.. Specifically in his analysis, he based it on the acceptance of the Pareto curve. Well that is all well and good for Mr. Noland who is born and bred to capitalist economics, but in studying the ins and outs of the DPRK's economic standpoint, it makes little or no sense, since North Korean economic is not a study in capitalist tools of analysis. So, although we can understand his moral outrage,his analysis is besides the point.
It turns out that North Korea did not put a break on economic reform. A brief article in the 'NYT' alerted us to the fact that Pak Pong ju, a former North Korean prime minister banished these last three years for 'pushing market reforms', has 'returned to the centre of the country's economic policy'. Which means that Kim Jong il is giving economic reform another chance!
What is not said is that the DPRK does things its own way. It owes nothing to anyone its official line says. It will study and adopt reforms but the new wine has to fill old bottles with labels long known and accepted with the weight of tradition and old truths. What emerges as the DPRK inches towards say economic reform, is a step which is by nature and kind purely North Korean.
Almost 20 years ago when famine hit the DPRK hard and the state no longer receiving loans from the collapsed Soviet Union, the German economist Rudiger Frank, trained at East Germany's Humbolt University, who lived and studied at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, wrote an interesting article in which he showed on the information he could cull that the DPRK had a savvy economist or a coterie of economists who knew their trade, that were not only looking out for the survival of the tottering state but had begun tracing a path for future development and reform.
North Korea is not so closed off from the outside world. We cannot and should not dismiss its cadres as boorish or out of the loop. Its 'core' is not unfamiliar with western ways and economics and politics. They know how to exploit contradictions in say US positions when bargaining with Washington. They can and do strike hard bargains in trade. And when it comes to state of the art in rocketry and nuclear technology they are no slackers.
Bazinga! Kim Jong il & co. are not without a few surprises. It seems foolhardy not to deal with them on a state to state relations.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two can play the same game: China's military exercises in the Yellow Sea

If the US thought that China was going to do its dirty work in dealing with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea], let US president Barack Obama & co. think again.
It might not have fully sunk into the minds of America's North Korean clerisy, career diplomats and military and analysts that China has purchase on the survival of North Korea. [See, Obama's flat footed approach to North Korea]
Kim Jong il's second trip this year should have sent a sharp message to Washington. But as we know, the US thinks it knows best in spreading its gospel of the righteous of global power.
Joint US and ROK [Republic of Korea aka South Korea]military exercises in the Yellow Sea, China's backyard, does not make for good neighbourly relations, even though they are a way of non verbally communicating to the DPRK: keep a low profile and to think twice about engaging in risky, provocative activities towards South Korea and reopening old wounds of the Korean War on the divided Korean peninsula.
This year's US ROK military exercises take on another dark colouring in the wake of the sinking in March 2010 of the ROK corvette 'Cheonan', with is of 46 crew.
Rushing to judgment, South Korea's president Lee Myung bek tarred North Korea with the brush of blame. North Korea firmly denied responsibility. Cooler heads were not to be found in Washington either. The Obama team pointed the finger of culpability at Pyongyang. America and South Korea jump started the rusty machinery of a war in words which may have failed at the UN Security Council but not in the display of military prowess in the air and sea in South Korea in the Yellow Sea and close to the NLL [Northern Line Limit] near the DPRK territorial waters where the 'Cheonan' sank.
Beijing showed its displeasure during the first round of US' and South Korea's sabre rattling by conducting air exercises.
You may wonder why China wanted to answer in kind? In an ostentious display of military power when in the past a note of protest to Seoul and Washington would have sufficed?
Let's roll the cameras back to the conference of South East Asian nations in Hanoi in late spring 2010. At that time, to tweak the Chinese dragon's tail, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton put the fly in China's ointment. In her school marmish way she lectured Beijing on Vietnam's claim to islands in the South China sea.
China has claimed sovereignty of the Spratley and Paracel islands in the South China sea, to China a 'mare nostrum'.
Vietnam sorely contests China's claim. Under these islands is a fountain of natural gas and the sea offers a barrier towards invasion. China fought a brief war over these islands. Vietnam routed the Chinese army on land but lacked sufficient naval power to repulse China's navy. A shaky truce holds.
Mme. Clinton's sticking her nose into what China considers its domestic affairs has found a reply in the Yellow Sea.
It is a day or two before the second volley of joint US ROK manoeuvres, Beijing is carrying out drills involving mainly shipboard artillery off of Qingdao. It's China's way of shooting a warning across the US' and the ROK's bow. It carries a bald message to Mr. Obama & co. that two can play the same game.
Nonetheless, by staging its own naval exercises days before the US ROK's, China is exercising proverbial caution.
Nonetheless their import is clear as one's nose on one's face. And what's more, in spite of US economic sanctions and Washington and Seoul playing tin horn admirals and generals, the DPRK is able to marshal the full weight and baggage of its neighbour and ally China to mate any move by America and South Korea seeking to destablise it.
If anything the plans of the US to 'use' China has wilted in the heat of historical, geographical, and political reality. The Obama administration forgets that the sword cuts both ways.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The autumn of South Korea's Lee Myung bek's discontent!

Things of late are not going ROK [Republic of Korea aka South Korea] president Lee Myung bek's way. The autumn of Mr. Lee's discount is not cocking a snout at Shakespeare, but a description of the unraveling of his power.
In a reshuffle of his cabinet, two prominent GNP politicians had to recuse themselves owing to 'stick its' of corruption and abuse of power. And then the president's foreign minister Yu Myung hwan offered his resignation because of nepotism and abuse of power. Mr. Lee refused it. Mr. Yu in true Korean fashion apologised and a hint of 'repentence'.
Lee Myung bek's path to the Blue House--the seat of the ROK presidency--was paved with the promise to challenge his predecessors' approach to North Korea. He trumpted his will to lead the nation in a crusade of sorts to save from itself and 'transform' relations with Pyongyang. He would show Kim Jong il his mettle and his determined purpose to in the long run 'reunify' a broken peninsula in his cowboy image. Alas, like all proudful plans, things did not go his way.
Even though he got the full support of two US presidents--George W. Bush and Barack Obama--he did not count on a challenge to his war of propaganda aimed at Kim Jong il & co. by a stalwart friend of the ROK Ambassador Donald Gregg. As we shall see, this builder of bridges with South Korea, in the hoopla of blame of North Korea's black hand in the sinking of the 'Cheonan' broke ranks and dared to criticise Seoul's docket and suggest that the Kim Jong il regime played no role in it.
Riding on the crest of the popular vote which brought him and his Grand National Park [GNP] to seize the reins of power and full control of parliament in 2008, Mr. Lee set out to undo the 'Sunshine Policy' of Nobel peace prize winner Kim Dae Jung and continued by Roh Moo hyun. A policy with a long view towards reducing tensions on the divided Korean peninsula, with an opening to the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea aka North Korea]. A policy which equally spoke to the heartfelt desire of reunification of a fractured land, not only in geographical space but also in reuniting families separated by the Korean War [1950-1953].
Lee Myung bek ran on a platform to teach Kim Jong il & co. for taking advantage of South Korea's largesse without rendering the proper respect owed a generous donor. And once in power, he put a dark menancing cloud to block out any sunshine: he sharply curtailed food to the North, cut off shipment of fertilisers which would help improve food production, and kept to a minimum business ties yet without scrapping the thriving Kaesong Industrial Park where ROK 'chaebols'profitted from cheap North Korean labour in order to further boost fat bottom lines.
Mr. Lee found a willing able partner in the person of George W. Bush who like his ROK ally, had raised the black banner to bell the DPRK which he dubbed an 'axis of evil' state.
Known in the business world as 'Bulldozer', Mr. Lee revved up his brutal blunt instrument of state power to show Pyongyang who was 'the boss'.
But Pyongyang was not impressed. It was intimidated by Mr. Lee's encouraging right wing Evangelical Christian groups to carry out a campaign of utter contempt of Kim Jong il; to launch balloons of propaganda of political fliers and bibles from the DMZ dividing the South from the North; and to embolden missionary work among North Korean refugees in China; and to manipulate the 'willing' Christian to illegally enter North Korea to witness for the recovering of DPRK to its vocation as a 'Second Jerusalem'.
Bulldozer Lee donned the armour of a St. George to slay the North Korean dragon. Of course with the full support of his US ally and the US led UNC [United Nations Command] through strangling economic measures, joing military exercises, active diplomacy to further isolate the DPRK, and whipping up a war of words with a Cold War weariness and nostalgia. A Cold War short of results.
And into Mr. Lee's lap feel the plum of the sinking of the ROK courvette 'Cheonan' near the NLL [Northern Limit Line]close to North Korean territorial waters, and a loss of 46 crew in March 2010.
Immediately Mr. Lee and the US president Barack Obama seized on this loss of life and limb to brand the DPRK the culprit. North Korea cried its innocence and even went so far as to issue its own dossier on the sunken ship and expressed an interest to go to Seoul to jointly review the evidence. Negative the reply.
GuamDiary has many times spoken of the US ROK war of words which failed to elicit condemnation in the UN Security Council. This in spite of a 150 [other accounts say 250] page report, bolstered by the support of international 'experts', pinning the tail of blame on the DPRK. A report which both the US and South Korea refused to publish in full in June 2010 [It remains unavailable even though the ROK issued a press release that full disclosure was imminent in late August 2010.]
The US and ROK brief remained full of holes and questions. And in mid summer 2010 South Korean naval experts raised questions as to South Korea's docket against North Korea. They saw in the sunken 'Cheonan' a simple accident which resulted from buried torpedo[e]s in waters in and around the NLL from the time of the Korean War and may be earlier during Japanese colonisation.
And now into the 'Cheonan' contraversy a strong American voice enters the debate in the person of the 80 ish Donald Gregg. Mr. Gregg is a 31 year cold warrior and a senior CIA officier. He spent his career in Asia in Japan and South Korea. He carried a rifle and a shadowy role during the Vietnam war. Mr. Gregg has close ties to the Bushes; he served as US ambassador to Seoul where he was favourably received and accepted; and then as National Security Advisor to Bush pere the 41 American president.
After government service, he took up the post of president then CEO of the New York based Korea Society which he helped turn into an NGO of distinction and respect until 2007. And into the 'Cheonan' fray, he challenged the idea of DPRK's guilt. In fact he found great merit in a Russian report that the ROK corvette dredged up a mine which blew it up. A conceit which hardly any US media outlet reported.
Gregg's voice has the weight and baggage of authority. It is also a challenge to the US Foggy Bottom types and the smug US North Korean clerisy.
Ambassador Gregg's position remains outside the hallowed circle of published and received opinion. It is attacked by the journalist Donald Kirk who has covered Korean affairs for more than 30 years and who is very close to the Pentagon and CIA, as well as to right wing elements in South Korea. Palgrave macmillan has published in 2009 his 'Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae Jung and Sunshine'. The book's title explicitly states Mr. Kirk's optique.
Mr. Gregg's position will further encourage challenges in the US and the ROK and elsewhere as to the underlying issues in the 'Cheonan' war of words. The former CIA officier comes at a time when Mr. Obama has hardened the US sanctions against the DPRK [See, Obama's flat footed policy towards North Korea] and a second round of joint naval exercises in the vicinity of the NLL.
The former ambassador's intervention, late as it is, in the Madison Avenue campaign to further isolate and push the DPRK to the brink of collapse. Mr. Gregg has not taken this step lightly. He dared break the consensus of the right thinking clerics. But his tack cannot be easily dismissed as a 'crackpot'. For his reputation challenges any such charge.
Obviously Mr. Gregg will no longer have easy entrance to the Blue House, and might be snubbed by his powerful friends and acquaintances in the ROK or in Washington. He would not have broken ranks were he not convinced of the politically and morally justifiable basis of his pronouncement on the sunken 'Cheonan'.
Lee Myung bek hardly cracks a smile nor shows publicly emotions. Yet in private he must needs be wearing his worry beans thin. And he has much to worry about.