Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Long on educated guesses, short on facts--US cables on North Korea

An obituary lost into today's commentary on the release of more diplomatic cables on North Korea by Wikileaks: the death of former congressman Stephen Solarz at the age of 70. Almost 40 years ago, Solarz became the first American lawmaker to visit North Korea. Many thought that his presence in Pyongyang indicated a change in US policy; it did not; he was the lone Solon who could not initiate a thaw in US North Korean relations.
As more and more leaked US diplomatic material comes to light, the American and international public learn that among US foreign service officers North Korea is called the 'Black Hole of Asia'. This assessment simply confirms what former senior CIA analyst, former US ambassador to South Korea, and former president of the New York based Korea Society,Donald Gregg has been openly saying for years:'North Korea is our biggest intelligence failure'. And the new released cables do not belie Gregg's judgment!
What set the chattering classes buzzing was the tidbit that a Chinese ambassador to a Central Asian republic voiced the opinion that China would look benignly on a unified Korea under the leadership of South Korea. GuamDiary found in the cables opinions that contradicted that assertion. But it was a lean bit of meat for the piranha media to fight over.
GuamDiary does know that diplomats are instructed to write cables so that the infomation conveyed is selective and shaped to serve and bolster US policy. Consequently, the ambassador's thoughts gave Washington hope that it could lean more and more on Beijing to control North Korea. Wrong!
This tantalising bauble now may have the effect of putting China out of its gords, the more especially that there is every geopolitical and historical reason that it runs contrary to the facts.
Helene Cooper, writing in the 'NYT' on Sunday 28 November 2010, noted that the Bush and Obama administrations have been pushing China to do its 'dirty work' in dealing with North Korea. And China has resisted. Today [30 November 2010], Obama rebuffed China's call for emergency talks on quieting war tensions in divided Korea. [See GuamDiary's 'Washington Seoul Tokyo axis trying to stymie China's NK initiative' and 'Wikileaks lifts the veil on US North Korea policy'.]
Closer scrutiny of the facts shows, as GuamDiary observed, that positions are more and more taut, and the situation on the ground look as though the US and South Korea had turned the clock back more than 60 years to the eve of the outbreak of the Korean War.
Simply put: China does not want a hostile presence on its borders. It does not look kindly nor with a gentle wink at a united Korea dominated by Seoul. South Korea's president Lee Myung bek's policy towards North Korea as well as Obama's, militates strongly against such an eventuality.
Although South Korea is an important trading partner with China, trade does not trump political and military reality. Seoul's and Beijing's purposes are at loggerheads.
From the leaked cables we do learn that the Chinese delegate to the six party talks Wu Dawei was his 'country's most incompetent official'; an arrogant Marx spouting former Red Guard 'who knows nothing about North Korea'.
Did not the American foreign service officer ever consider that Beijing was sending Washington a clear signal that it did not consider the US' approach to North Korea's nuclear programme short of incompetency and know nothingness? Beijing may very well have been telegraphing Obama to hunker down and seriously deal with issues on the green carpet instead of engaging in military posturing and threatening more and more sanctions?
Obama's recent snub of China simply confirms that he and his allies in Seoul and Tokyo have long embarked on a forced march on the road of overthrowing North Korea. His is a gamble which could easily ratch up war fever and risk the outbreak of military confrontation.
GuamDiary hears no sane voices in the US government saying: 'whoa, hold your war horses!'
The more we read these cables on North Korea, the more GuamDiary is convinced that the US and South Korea have lost any resemblance to rational thinking for the moment.

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