Sunday, October 24, 2010

The US has created China as its Frankenstein monster

China is a US foreign policy created Frankenstein monster. This seemingly unlikely assertion is nowhere better exemplied than in America's approach to North Korea.
Under George W. Bush, Washington came up with a cheap way to hem in Pyongyang so that Kim Jong il could not escape its pressure to primarily abandon North Korea's nuclear programme.
Instead of talking to North Korea, Mr. Bush came up with the idea of letting China do America's dirty work. It didn't dawn on the US president that he had weakened America's dominant position in east Asia with this move.
Today, it is China who calling the shots, and the US jumping through its hoops.
Consider the US's decision to call off joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea. They would be the fourth in a determined series of naval drills as a show of force following the sinking of the South Korean corvette 'Cheonan' in March 2010.
North Korea disclaimed any responsibility and threatened retaliation. It staged its own drills on its own territory. And China rejected the US suggestion that it condemn Pyongyang.
The US and South Korean manoeuvres close to North Korea's territorial waters spilt into the Yellow Sea, which China considered too close for comfort.
Consequently, in September, Beijing undertook live fire naval drills and air exercises as a warning to Washington and Seoul days before another US South Korean display of sabre rattling.
The lesson was not missed in the White House and South Korea's Blue House. To make the point sharper on the eve of the October drills, China has sent a delegation of senior military offficers on a four day visit to North Korea. This display of 'traditional friendship' is a shot across the US and South Korean ostentious displays of military prowess.
Washington and Seoul got the message. They cancelled the planned exercises, and, what's more, Seoul announced that there won't be any more for the rest of 2010.
And thus we see the result of the Bush 'North Korea doctrine'. It is clever by half, and in the end, has diminished Washington's ability to constrain or influence North Korea.

Perfidious Netenyahu

Israel's prime minister Binjamin Netenyahu leads with his right in 'negotiations' with the Palestian Authority. He preaches 'do as I say, not as I do'.
Now, he is calling on the PA to be 'realistic':instead of appealing to the international community, PA president Mahmud Abbas should put life into a moribund peace process which Netenyahu has effectively buried without much fanfare.
The reason is easy to understand. Abbas & co. realise that talking to perfidious Netenyahu won't result in a state called 'Palestine'. Recognition of a Palestinian state by the almost 200 members of the United Nations give the PA strong leverage on Israel to abandon plans to illegally colonise the West Bank that it has continued to colonise since 1967.
The right wing and nationalist Likud government have bargained in bad faith, the more especially since it refuses to continue a freeze on construction of illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.
It is the height of hypocrisy for Netenyahu to ask the PA to live up to its public statements whilst he violates his own.
What is clear: the US is a weak, ineffective midwife to deliver a two state solution. It is obvious that Israeli illegal possession of Palestinian land renders impossible the creation of a viable Palestine. Simply, if you look at a map, the eye immediately seizes on the fact that there is no contiguous Palestinian territory. Palestine is nothing but a patchwork of isolated islands in a Jewish sea of colonisers.
The late Tony Judt thought that the two state solution would end up on the dustheap. In its place, an Israel more Arab and Muslim than Jewish. In one sense, he saw correctly.
On the other hand, he missed what Noam Chomsky sees: this MIT emeritus professor has long felt that Israel wouldn't absorb a population which would overwhelm a Jewish majority. The eminent linguist assumed that Israel would isolate the disjointed Palistinain territory in Bantustan fashion. And unfortunately, he may be right.
[The living mummy Ariel Sharon first publicly used the term; for him, the isolated islands of Palestinians as Bantustans would render them forever to Israeli control and dependency, without recourse to Israeli courts for redress or appeal to international right historical wrongs.]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gilad Shalit: is Netenyahu seriously seeking his release?

Israeli prime minister Binjamin Netenyahu has grabbed headlines again. This time, he announced that new efforts are underway to seek the release Gilad Shalit from his 'Hamas captivity'.
Is Mr. Netenyahu of good faith in reopening negotiations after months of deadlock?
He may be. And then again, he may be up to his old tricks.
The right wing prime minister is in a pickle. He is caught between the rock of peace negotiations which are going nowhere and the hard place of securing the release of a 'Tsahal' soldier captured by Hamas four years ago.
The games Mr. Netenyahu plays have over time become shopworn and easy to spot.
Let's face it, he is in a close fight with his more extreme foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman for the control of ruling Israeli coalition government.
Mr. Netenyahu is struggling from a weak position: he won't freeze unlawful Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank nor in Arab East Jerusalem. If further proof is needed of his giving up more political ground to the more extremist elements in his Likud led coalition, he has come out in full support of a law requiring anyone seeking Israeli citizenship must swear allegiance to Israel as a 'Jewish and democratic state'.
Straightaway, it is clear that the law does not cover Jews. They have immediate right to citizenship under the 'Law of Return'. It is a way to force, for example, a Palestinian Arab who marries an Israeli Arab citizen to recognise Israel as a state for Jews. (Twenty per cent of Israelis are Arab!) It is a crude means of extracting recognition by Arab of the state of Israel, and what's more, to marginalise more Israeli Arab citizens who do not share full rights of citizenship guaranteed under the laws of the Israeli state.
On one hand, we have to say that Mr. Netenyahu is sincere in his pursuit of Gilad Shalit's release. On the other, his sudden announcement leads us to believe that he is playing a cynical game which has no chance of succeeding.
He has come under continual attack by Israelis for the government's inability to free Gilad Shalit by one means or another after four years. And then it is becoming clearer that his hold of power is slipping.
So what is more natural than to outmaneuver his 'nemesis' Avigdor Lieberman by seizing an issue which the foreign minister cannot challenge. And in this way, Mr. Netenyahu has a chance to show strong leadership qualitites as well as ways to shore up his sagging imagine abroad and at home.
According to Gilad's father and Hamas, there is really no movement in negotiations. For Mr. Netenyahu has presented no new offer to give some substance to Gilad Shalit's release in exchange of Palestinians languishing years in Israeli prisons.
He is willing to release a thousand Arab prisoners the majority of whom have almost fully purged their sentence, but are not on the list Hamas has presented for release.
And that's the substance of Mr. Netenyahu's classical tactic to frustrate his 'enemies' by forcing them to reject his proposals. Thus, no one can fault him for his 'good faith', and Hamas once more looks as though it is willing to compromise.
Mr. Netenyahu's ploy fools no one; he is repeating a tactic which Israel has used for the last 62 years to get its way. In brief, Israel won't give an inch that will make it look weak. Thus Gilad Shalit will languish in his 'Hamas capitivity' to satisfy the survival of Mr. Netenyahu's political career. It ain't no profile in courage.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mongolia: a bridge to North Korea?

Mongolia seems an ideal place for US North Korea dialogue. It has good relations not only with North and South Korea, but also the US, China, Japan, and Russia. It may similarly offer a more temperate political climate for the six party talks held in Beijing, if China does not object.
The US has looked to China to carry its water on North Korea. And in small measure, it has, but on the bigger issues Washington and China go separate ways.
So, Ulan Bator looms larger as as near a 'neutral' venue for Washington and Pyongyang talks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

US dreams of 'nuking' North Korea

America's rollback to the 38 parallel during the Korean War has never settled well in US.
Rollback is a policy that failed. It has single aim: the destruction of an enemy state.
North Korea's offensive across the 38 parallel on 25 June 1950 caught the US off guard. Its invasion to topple the Syngman Rhee government in South Korea offered Washington the means to right a glaring error in its foreign policy in east Asia.
President Truman's secretary of state Dean Acheson saw America's defence in Asia in an arc of island countries in northeast Asia. Thus Korea remained outside US strategy. It was a clear signal to the North that it had a free hand to reunify a divided Korean peninsula.
By a stroke of luck, Mr. Truman turned Acheson's 'slip of the tongue' to his advantage. He managed to mask a US war to rescue South Korea by skilfully urging the UN to stop North Korea. He was able to pluck certain defeat from the jaws of a North Korean victory by the Soviet Union's absence from the Security Council. Moscow in a show of solidarity with 'Red China' walked out of the Council when it refused to seat Beijing as the rightful ruler of China, and thus it was unable to counter America's initiative.
For the first six months under US leadership the war in Korea went well for the UN troops. And then a seemingly defeated North Korean armed forces ably assisted by a massive infusion of Chinese volunteers, push them back to the 38 parallel, and there the war languished until an armistice was signed in 1953. It froze the war in time and space since then.
The US has never gotten over its being stopped in its tracks in rollbacking the advance of Communism. This souvenir like a chigger embedded in America's military and policy wonks, remains one of never ending political discomfort and intense policy pain.
[GuamDiary suggests reading its commentary on the dusting off the cobweb encrusted policy of 'rollback'. It is best exemplified by the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations on US policy towards Korea in April 2010.]
Now, two Associated Press journalist have written an interesting article 'US often weighed NKorea "nuke option"' on Yahoo on 9 October 2010. Charles Hanley and Rand Herschaft's general overview posits that 'from the 1950s' Pentagon to today's Obama administration, the United States repeatedly pondered, planned and threatened use of nuclear weapons against North Korea, according to declassified and other US documents released on the 60 anniversary of the Korean War'.
A sharp eye on US policy did not have to wait 60 years to discover America's itch to press the nuclear button to wipe North Korea off the face of the map. GuamDiary suggests reading of IF Stone's 'Hidden History of the Korean War' and Alan Whiting's 'China Crosses the Yalu'. Stone's account, in spite of his book's hostile reception, has weathered the test of time and shows the mulish strategy of General Macarthur which not only weakened UN troops in North Korea but led to their 'rollback' to the DMZ at the 38 parallel where they remain until today. In Whiting's Rand study documents the inflexability in US foreign policy in working out a modus vivendi with China of a reunited Korea if no US forces invaded the North.
President Truman's firing of General Douglas Macarthur had very much to do with the five star general's pronouncements on dropping atomic bombs on China. North Korea's capture of the 'Peublo' did not mask the threat of nuclear retaliation. Nor did the shooting down of a US reconnaissance aeroplane over the Sea of Japan [East Sea] in 1969.
During the 'tree cutting' incident at the DMZ in 1976 became another occasion for the 'laying of hands' on nuclear retaliation. Zoom towards the first years of the Clinton presidency, North Korea's nuclear programme brought US grumbling of exercising the nuclear option to stop North Korea. As GuamDiary noted, Mr. Clinton's threat sent former president Jimmy Carter on a mission of his own to defuse an explosive situation. He did, and thus began 8 years of relative detente and discussions with Pyongyang on ending its sailing into nuclear waters.
George Bush's foreign policy blunders as we have often discussed, turned North Korea into a nuclear power. Barack Obama has continued a hard line towards North Korea and the CFR's report sanctioned by leading US North Korean clerisy simply underscore the lingering nuclear death wish the US wishes to visit on North Korea.
Simply put it's a 'blast from the past' nostalgia for rollback. It reflects an inability to conquer decades old plans to destroy North Korea. There is a wilfulness to let the past go and engage in detente as it did with a Communist China.With all the US' huffing and puffing and never ending nuclear dreams and threats of obliterating North Korea, Pyongyang is not impressed.
Saying this, the class of America's new and veteran cold warriors fantasises at rewriting the past which is indelible facts which cannot be erased or wished away.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

South Korea looking to Germany for lessons on reunification

Twenty years ago the two halves of Germany became one with the collapse of Communist East Germany.
Opinions even today are devided as to its success.
South Korea's Lee Myung bek's government has agreed with Angela Merkel's Germany to set up a group of experts on Germany serving as a possible model for reunifying the Korean peninsula.
Seoul may be looking for German 'insight' and 'practice' in birthing into reality a united Korea.
Now, this new step runs contrary to South Korea's former reaction towards German reunification. Then, the financial cost, the social dislocation, the problems of stabilising and integrating two unequal Germanies with two different economic systems, the rush for gold in employment and social benefits in the former West Germany dismayed them, so on and on. For South Korea, the outlay of capital and the social costs disallowed any thought of reunification other than the existential decades old desire of one Korea.
For any quick fix would submerge and overwhelm the thriving Asian tiger that is South Korea, the 12 largest economy in the world. Although Seoul would have the economic, intellectual, and perhaps moral advantage over Pyongyang, reunification spelt disaster.
Cut off from aid and comfort by a dissolved Soviet Union, North Korea weathered impoverishment of its citizens,, floods, famine, and general economic ill health. Faced with forces beyond its own economic well being, South Korea wisely put the idea on the back burner. And the Korean war re enforced all prexisting conditions relations between the North and South. Dirty tricks, a war of propaganda, and an occasional outburst of arms took over an easing of tensions.
With the election of Kim Dae Jung, a 'sunshine policy' took the shape of policy. It proved the 'right' policy of the time and tensions between North and South lessened appreciably. It won the Nobel prize for peace for Mr. Kim.
The 'Sunshine Policy' began melting hostilities. Recognizing the unequal economic development between North and South, Mr. Kim and his successor Roh Moo hyun eased relations with money, food, and investments. Not only that, families long divided since the Korean War began seeing one another through carefully arranged meetings.
In 2008, Lee Myung bek's conservative slate won power. One of Mr. Lee's first acts was to kill the 'Sunshine Policy'. Not only that, he discouraged contacts with the North, sharply downgraded aid and investment. He froze relations, thereby reconstituting a cold war with the North.
Things reached rock bottom with the sinking of the South's courvette 'Cheonan' resulting in the death of 46 crew. South Korea and the US immediately blamed North Korea for torpedoing the ship, in spite of the holes in the evidence.
[GuamDiary has long discussed the tack Washington and Seoul took to bell the North Korean cat. On the whole, their strategy failed. We encourage our readers to read older postings dealing with the 'Cheonon'.]
Failure now pushed the South to take up North Korea's invitation to reduce tensions: one, renewing military contacts at the 38 parallel to discuss the sunken 'Cheonan' and other issues left hanging for more than a year; two, beginning again reunions of divided families; and three, a general call to easing hardened positions.
The South agreed with bad grace, and with the thought of dragging its feet on issues.
So, why the 'urgency' to look for lessons from Germany on the modality of reunification?
The answer is not difficult. The poor health of Kim Jong il and the naming of his youngest son Kim Jong eun as his possible successor have breathed hope in the thought that North Korea will collapse from its own weakness and weight. In addition, US and South Korean government experts have elaborated a strategy to 'rollback' North Korea on political and military fronts. GuamDiary has discussed this. Suffice to say, a return to a 60 year old policy simply examplifies the bankruptcy of Seoul's and Washington's position.
Perhaps they believe in the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs, they can huff and puff and blow the North Korean house down. And this very well may be the driving idea behind the Lee Myung bek's government desire to learn from Germany's reunification. It forgets that despite parallels, the differences between the two countries' division are extreme.
Wishing ain't going to make Mr. Lee's wishes come true!

Some observations on the North Korean clerisy remarks on Kim Jung eun

It was--or is still--a favourite sport of the North Korean 'informed' clerisy to make fun of North Korea's wooden phraseology.
The emergence of Kim Jong eun's corporeal existence at the Korean Workers Party in Pyongyang this week, has opened the floodgates of commentary. Who is he? What do we really know of him?
Seeing Kim Jong eun in flesh and blood was a novelty for the Clerisy and grist for the media mills. And an occasion for self parody and embarassment by the same.
The first thing a North Korean watcher says: 'We know next to nothing about the younger Kim'. But that does not stop him from enlarging on his scope of his ignorance for a hook to hang his uninformed pronouncements.
First, let's say what is the information we do have. Kim Jong eun is Kim Jong il's third and youngest son. He is between 26 and 28, but no one can for sure provide the year of his birth. He was not his father's first choice, but owing to his eldest brother's disgrace, the honour fell to him. As for his schooling, he did go to a lycee or gymnasium in Switzerland. Thus, we can infer that he may speak German or French and English, yet we don't know for certain. He then is somewhat acquainted with the wiles and ways of the west.
We also recently know that he has been promoted to the rank of a four star general and appointed vice chairman of a powerful military committee. And that's all we know. To go beyond that leads us to be sucked into frivolous banter.
Now let's look at some of the Clerisy's pronouncements on the 'young general'.
As an expert called to comment in print or on the radio or television, the cleric has to dress up gossip or contempt in the wraps of scholarship or long experience of dealing with folklore about North Korea.
The cleric to prove his 'bona fides' has to endow Kim Jong eun with a 'news angle', with 'novelty' by lavishing a ruinous amount of questionable intelligence, imagination, and literary skill for caricature.
Let's begin with the first photographs of Kim Jong eun: 'Here is a kid who's got to have the puffiest cheeks in his father's fiefdom'. Since this journalist with more than 30 years in covering the divided Korean peninsula cannot conduct a a study of the 'kid's' skull, indicative of the younger Kim's character and mental faculties, he falls backs on reading his cheeks. And to drive home, his projection of the man's truculence, cruelty, and coldness, he dwells on 'the set of his mouth and hands'.
Others also have judged him by photos: We see an unsmiling Mr. Kim. From his appearance, we learn that he is incapble of smiling; this impression re enforces his wilful and cruel side. A clear eye would have immediately grasp the attitude of seriousness which group photos of Communist party congresses. Every one assumes de rigeur a seriousness with clenched fists: this attitude projects the image of a leadership conscious of its duties to the nation, its citizenry, and its welfare and continuance.
Still others have not hesitated to define him as a 'rubber stamp', wet behind the ears, a marionette of Party and military elders. It is as though the inexperienced Kim Jong eun had already seized the reins of power from his father. Eyewash. A quick googling would reveal that he is being put through his paces by the older generation which has more or less been in place since the Korean War. He is learning the ropes of statecraft the way his father did, albeit perhaps at an accelerated rate.
And others have analyised the sitting of pecking order on the Congress' dais, with the willingness of a Hollywood film critic. This exercise in decor tells us little other than the place Kim Jong eun now holds. But these 'film reviewers' miss is the salient pose of Kim Jong il. Relaxed, he sits now in the centre but to the right with folded hands whilst others including his son sits frozen in seriousness with clenched fists on his legs. This detail is most revealing the more especially since it tells us that Kim Jong il holds supreme power in North Korea. Which is not what the Clerisy is intimating or telling us.
More egregious in a inane foolish way was the editor of the prestigeous quarterly of the Council on Foreign Relations "Foreign Affairs". On a radio interview on NPR [National Public Radio] he indicted Kim Jong eun as the architect of the failed currency reform, without a shred of proof.
On the whole, GuamDiary finds that the much quoted and highly paid and "respected" Clerisy betray a lack of seriousness and commit the cardinal sin of caricature. We also find irrelevance and false puff up claims of 'expertise'.