Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lee Myung bak beats a tactical retreat

In the waning hours of 2010, South Korea's president Lee Myung bak is beating a tactical retreat. Yesterday he threatened North Korea with a mighty military response should Pyongyang shell the South's drills along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] bordering on the DPRK's territorial waters. Today he has donned the lamb's coat of endorsing talks with the North over its nuclear programme. In other words, he is calling for an eventual resumption of the stalled six party talks in Beijing after more than a year. His 'turn around' is welcome, but ...
We wish apply the same burden of proof to Lee as he and the US ask of Kim Jong il. In other words, live up to your intentions by carrying out the full weight and intent of your words! To put it another way, GuamDiary slips into Reaganese. Ronald Reagan likes to repeat the Russian saying: 'Trust but verify'. Okay, Lee Myung bak, we hear your fine words and are willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but now you have to prove you are sincere in wanting to talk with North Korea.

GuamDiary is well aware of the reason which nudged Lee in that direction. The North returned sally to the South's shelling of its territorial waters during the ROK's naval drills in November 2010, had given Lee much wool to thread concerning the South's adventure in brinkmanship and the South's military vunerability.
Saying this, GuamDiary is aware that although Lee is holding out an olive branch, he is whipping up war hysteria at home, which the global media barely mention in passing. He is floating the idea that the North has, say, a 'superior' military edge over the South does not. And thus, Seoul has to beef up its materiel and forces to meet a 'superior enemy'. With all this talk of military 'unpreparedeness', we see a misuse of the truth. It is true, the South does not have a million men or more under arms as the North does. It, however, does have a modern army with the latest materiel furnished, say, by the US and France, and of course on its soil are 28.000 US troops. Not only that, by treaty, it has the full might of the US should war break out again on the Korean peninsula.
Are we seeing a replay of the 'Quemoy Matsu' or the famous 'missile gap between the US and the USSR', to cite but two examples. Is it a 'skilful' manoeuvre to panic a dispirited South Korean public to clamour for a hike in the South's military budget?
Seoul, as the 12 largest economy in the world, has more than enough in its coffers to sustain a build up of its military budget. Lee knows this and is willing to harnass economic growth to the development of a industrial military complex.
It is easy to forget the reason why North Korea remains on a war footing and that military bedrock goes back at least 60 years, to the outbreak of the Korean War. And that war remains in abeyance by a 1953 Armistice Agreement. In brief, the war is not over. The shelling of North Korean waters during the South's military drills along the NLL last month, brought the two Koreas to the 'break' of reigniting that war.
Did Lee Myung bak learn the limits of his 'Drang nach Norden'? GuamDiary cannot say for sure, but for a moment, the North's quick reply in kind, gave him room for pause and a call for talking to the North.
Today, does Lee realise that the North cannot be pushed around easily through hollow displays of braggadocio. As president of a powerful economy, is willing to go beyond the edge of brinkmanship? Of late, he fancies himself as the man whose destiny is to reunify a divided Korea. By what means? Already, he is looking forwards to increasing his standing army's might and equip it with the latest materiel. If he had or still has dreams of defeating North Korea, the North's shelling of Yeonpyeong should serve as a wake up call to realty. Has it? GuamDiary cannot say for sure. What we can advance is that the US backs up Lee Myung bak's Northern policy to the hilt. Not only that, the Obama administration is now looking on South Korea as a replacement of Japan in its east Asian military policy. For Washington, Japan is an unsure ally since it is stalling on quashing a popular movement in Okinawa challenging the continued stationing of US military bases there.
From an historical perspective, the US is repeating the mistakes of the past. Anchoring its policy on a truncated, but economically strong, strategically weak South Korean ally, is an open challenge to China. Things could hardly be otherwise. And here the lessons of China's entry into the Korean War obtain. [GuamDiary strongly suggests the reading of Allen Whiting's Rand study 'China crosses the Yalu' as well as Bruce Cumings 'Korea: a history', for the fuller story.] Washington is forsaking an island arc of allies for a foothold on land within easy reach of China's border on the Yalu.
Already Lee's reckless strategy has caused friction with its Chinese trading partner and has strengthened Beijing's resolve to support with all means necessary the survival of North Korea. Plainly stated, China regards South Korea as a hostile power, and the last thing it wants on its borders is a hostile neighbour, for the same economic and strategic reasons that sent millions of its volunteers to 'roll back' MacArthur's US led UN troops to the 38 parallel.
Will the US encourage Lee Myung bak to walk tall along the road of diplomacy? GuamDiary wishes that it were so. Unfortunately, in policy circles in Seoul and Washington -- and among much of an uninformed South Korea and American public -- the old mantras of distrust and of brinkmanship prevail.
2011 is almost upon us, and GuamDiary does hope that sanity will previal. Instead of plotting to overthrow Kim Jong il & co., cooler heads will prevail. GuamDiary also hopes that renewed talks will open the door to a peace treaty. In 2009, GuamDiary suggested that a reconvened Geneva Conference on a 2, 4, & 6 power formula could deal with all outstanding matters for the last 60 years, including the nuclear question, between North Korea and the US, North Korea and China on one side and the US and South Korea on the other, and finally, North Korea and the other 5 countries making up the six party talks. All it takes is the political will and backbone!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lee Myung bak's megaloAnd mania unchained!

"None so blind as those who will not see'.
Since assuming the powers of president of South Korea in 2008, Lee Myung bak baldly proclaimed that he was going to teach North Korea a lesson it wouldn't forget. He has held true to his promise. His friends and allies in the US, Europe, and Asia looked elsewhere and found the mote of blame in the eye of North Korea for trying to trip the wire of war on a tense divided Korean peninsula. The speck of dirt in the South's eye is, however, passed over in almost complete silence since it suited Seoul's US handler, to enrage Kim Jong il & co. Let's now look at the maddingly wild course that the South Korea president has embarked on. He began by abandoning the 'Sunshine Policy', followed by severe economic sanctions, a renewed propaganda war against the North, and increasing military exerices in an arrogant display of feckless courage which would meet no challenge. Confident that the world would turn a blind eye to his risky, aggressive course of action towards the North, Lee's inflated ego knew no bounds.
According to the diplomatic cables in the 'Guardian's' excellent database,the US embassy cable 'Trying to crack the North Korean nut', well captures the essence of Lee's lunatic course of confrontation with the North. ['Guardian, 29 November 2010]. In it, Lee is determined to seize in the current moment 'a genuine opportunity to push and further weaken the North, even if this might involve considerable brinkmanship'. And the cable further added that 'favoring the Lee administration stance, which calm to the point of apathy about the inter-Korean situation'.
GuamDiary has over time commented on the escalating sabre rattling policy of Lee Myung bek. He has reached a delusional stage in which he fancies himself as the reunifier of a divided Korean peninsula. Seated in the Blue House in Seoul, as he surveys the increasing number of military drills on what he figures is the North's underbelly along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] along North Korea's territorial waters; with each new exercises, aided and abetted by US forces -- stationed in South Korea since the Korean War -- Lee, with the flair of an amateur chess player, positions his pieces to antagonise to the utmost, and without serious consequences, taunts his nemesis Kim Jong il in Pyongyang.
North Korea called his bluff in November 2010 by riposting to the South's naval drills with live fire in and around the island of Yeonpyeong which is the home of a serious military installation, hardly 10 km from North Korea's territorial waters. Pyongyang had alerted Seoul that should any of the South's shells hit its territory, it would react, and react it did.
For the first time in 47 years since the signing of the 1953 Armistice North and South Korea traded shots which aroused fear of renewed fighting in the divided Korean peninsula. Any sane leader might have considered a change in policy, but not Lee Myung bak. He was hell bent in brazenly recreating the same November scenario which led to North Korea's shelling. Lucky for him, the American governor of New Mexico was in Pyongyang trying to calm very troubled waters. Bill Richardson's presence in the North offered the South Korean president, with the instincts of a coward, to thumb his nose at Pyongyang. Still, an American in Pyongyang abbreviated Lee's display of braggadocio to a mere 90 minutes.
Still, the South Korean president refused to lighten up on his dangerous game of trying to bell the North Korean cat. As a result, in a huge hall, with row after row of high and middle and lower ranking North Korean military officers, vice chairman of the military commission Kim Yong chun issued a warning to the South. If it continued on punishing to a dangerous warlike situation to the very limits of sanity, Pyongyang was, in other words, 'ready for a holy war, using its nuclear deterrent' to defend the motherland.
His very words got instant global media coverage. They confirmed in the US and western mind, among others, that North Korea was irrational and a maverick threatening nuclear holocaust. Yet, even general Kim's rhetoric could not deter Lee Myung bak from his offensive designs against the North. Upping the ante, the South Korean president heated up his own fiery unreasonable brand of sabre rattling in Tokyo. He 'vowed a fearless retaliation against North Korea', reported the 'NYT's' Martin Fackler from Tokyo. And as can be expected, the world media ignored the import of Lee's unflappable march to the brink of war. What is good for Seoul's goose is 'verboten' for Pyongyang's goose.
In the midst of this heated exchange of words, the US has remained curiously quiet, if not supportive of Lee Myung bak. Since a transition of power is going on in North Korea, especially since the stroke Kim Jong il suffered 2 years ago, Washington has smelt an opportunity to see not only the weakening of Pyongyang but the fall of North Korea. Subjectively, if not objectively, the US' policy towards North Korea is the glove into which fits Lee Myung bek's plan of action towards weakening, if not provoking the North towards recklessness.
As readers of GuamDiary long know, we have not skipped an occasion to bring up the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] report of US policy towards Korea. In its 60 pages, it reflects the same thinking that Lee Myung bek proclaims aloud. Simply put, it is the failed policy of 'roll back', of crushing North Korea by any means possible short of all out of war so far. Even the North's shelling of Yeonpyeong has deflected the Obama administration -- which has toughened up the Bush administration's go for broke approach towards North Korea -- from its anointed rounds of regime change in Pyongyang.
It is in this vein that the arrival in Seoul of US secretary of defence Robert Gates takes on significane. He is coming to show Washington's unqualified support of its ally Lee Myung bak. And it is in this same vein, too, that we are witnessing delusions of grandeur of Lee Myung bak and his handler the Obama administration, in open display of their feelings of omnipotence and grandeur.
It is little wonder, as GuamDiary observed, that Bill Richardson in an interview on American public television, appeared ill at ease. He sees the dangerous road of miscalculation that Lee Myung bak and Barack Obama are confidentally marching towards war. And his edginess simply affirms that the world remains blind to the megalomania of Lee Myung bak and the utter fatuousness and foolishness and failure of US policy towards North Korea.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blaming Kim Jong eun for South Korea's thirst for war

The propaganda mills are churning fast and furious during the dying days of 2010. The South Koreans remain bitter and humiliated, the more so since they got as they gave North Koreans in November last during naval drills with live fire less than 10 km from the NLL [Northern Limit Line]. They dismissed the North's warning that should the South's shells land in North Korean waters, Pyongyang would respond. And respond, they did to the South's utter surprise and stunned.
You would think that naughty child that Lee Myung bak is, South Korea would calm the heated desire to teach North Korea a lesson it not only deserves, but one it won't forget. The propaganda presses are smoking from over use: they are spreading the rumours of war that in 2011, the DPRK 'could fire missiles at South Korea'.
Here, we have an example of disinformation. It is not the North that is banging furiously on the drums of war but the South. And to add the cherry to the cake of terror that Pyongyang is baking, the ROK is predicting a testing of yet another nuclear device at Yonbyon. The dogs of war are frothing at the mouth.
Deliberately spreading fear by lies and innuendo, in order to influence and frighten and panic South Korean public opinion, Seoul's practioners of distorsion and twisting the truth out of all proportion, have found a fall guy in the person of Kim Jong eun.
Kim Jong il, they reason, is aching for a quarrel and willing to risk war with the South, with one object in mind: to bolster the image and fill an empty 'curriculum vitae' of leadership of his chosen successor, his third and youngest son Kim Jong eun.
Bulldozer Lee Myung bak's minions cannot touch Kim Jong il so they fall back on trying to blacken Kim Jong eun. Of him, they know next to nothing.
Looking at his photo, he's the spitting image of his grandfather Kim Il sung, and that alone says something of his ability to win the favour and the affection of North Koreans. We know very little about this young man. We do know that he received part of his schooling in Switzerland, and so, he is not a stereotypical 'North Korea hermit' when it comes to speaking western languages and knowing something of the outside world. We do know that in September, he was promoted to a 4 star general, but he is not a member of the powerful military committee. We also know that he is going through a rigorous apprentice, an apprentice his father went through, and with, more or less, the same tutors. In brief, he is learning the ropes of leadership from the bottom up, and perhaps on an accelerated track, owing to his father's precarious health.
South Korea is turning its guns of falsehood on Kim Jong eun, out of weakness. The global media alas simply picks up and amplifies South Korea's propaganda. No one really cares that it is the South Korea of Lee Myung bak who revels in feckless bellicosity to 'teach Kim Jong il a hard lesson he will never forget'. A fair minded
reading of events will turn up a different story. And one which would pin the blame on Seoul for whipping up war fever on the Korean peninsula, and more than ably assisted and abetted by its proconsul, the US.
It would do the South and the US well to cool their heels. Reading the tea leaves will prove wrong, yet so deep is the South of Lee Myung bak's blindness and deafness to the real world, we can only fear for the worse. And you cannot blame Kim Jong en for the South of Lee Myung bak's weaknesses and irresponsible policies and the unquenchable thirst of hatred for the North.

US 'bubbe meise' handed down on North Korea

US policy makers, clerisy, and sundry other advisors and experts take nothing for granted when it comes to North Korea. They own the narrative and keep the lid on tight. [See,GuamDiary's 'Korea Society keeps a tight zipper on its lip'.]They have a single minded object to block out any other account other than their own. And, they have managed to ride roughshod to stifle any dissenting opinion. In the main, it is sad to say that they have succeeded.
So it is not surprising that a reader of GuamDiary should pose the question of 'how do we make sense of US policy on North Korea'?
The question goes to the heart of US memory and culture and history in a climate where American policy makers, clerisy, and sundry other advisors and experts do not want to read, see, and hear anything about North Korea than their own musings, books, and voices.
Consider Aidan Foster Carter, senior research fellow in sociology and modern Korea at Leeds University, to whom, say, the 'Financial Times of London' defer when its seeks an authoritive opinion on North Korea. Mentioning the very name of North Korea, at times, occasions an outburst of exasperation from him. It is on record in an 'opinion piece' in 'Asia Times Online' that Foster Carter, in a fit of temper, wrote that he simply wished that North Korea would simply go away. [Translation: disappear from the face of the earth.]
His anger is symptomatic of policy makers and the clerisy and sundry other advisors and experts who have but a single solution to the 'problem' that North Korea has raised for them since 1945: they preach a foolish and dangerous policy. In brief, Kim Jong il, like his father Kim Il sung before him, has to renounce violence and lay down his arms [diplomatic or military], and formally surrender to US terms.
We know North Korea won't. The US is simply proposing unconditional surrender, no more, no less.
American administrations seem to forget that between it and North Korea a suspended state of war exists. It is a frozen war thanks to the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which formally recognised the failure of the US led UN forces to drive the Communist North into the sea. For the last 57 years, there is no formal peace treaty between the Armistice'ss 3 signatory--the US, the DPRK [North Korea], and China. [South Korea which the US protected refused to sign the agreement, it is good to recall. Today, Syngman Rhee's veto is a cause of concern to a truncated half of a divided Korean peninsula with a strong, first world economy, but which in 1953 sold its birthright for a mess of an old man's pride and anger!]
Consequently the question is how to end the Korean War peacefully? The US and its hardline ally in Seoul, president Lee Myung bak do not see it in that light. As GuamDiary has often noted, a good guide to current US thinking on North Korea is the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] report on US policy towards Korea. Its conclusions mirror faithfully the US policy makers, clerisy, and sundry other advisors and experts thinking on 'rolling back' North Korea. Which is a restatement of a policy which failed during the Korean War and left that war in limbo with an armistic agreement.
The Korean War is called the 'forgotten war', for the plain and simple reason, the US failed to overthrow a Communist regime. And its immediate outcome was to let the war slip in oblivion, but not the animus towards North Korea. In the intervening 60 years, the US has fought and lost a war in Vietnam, and is engaged in two disastrous war in Asia - Iraq and Afghanistan - which is weakening it by their cost and skewing America's economic priorities and goals, so on and on. A lot has changed, too, on the Korean peninsula: the Clinton years brought a more flexible and pragmatic approach towards Pyongyang, and South Korea's Kim Dae Jung's 'Sunshine Policy' help smooth the way through measures, the sole object of which was to coax 'isolated' North Korea back into the comity of nations. With the arrival of George W Bush things changed drastically. GuamDiary suggests reading Mike Chinoy 'Meltdown: the inside story of the North Korean nuclear crisis', to get up to speed. Barack Obama has reinfoced Bush's feckless bellicosity towards North Korea.
The US has a very willing partner in the person of Bulldozer Lee Myung bak who once in off in 2008 scrapped the 'Sunshine Policy', and began an aggressive policy towards the North which saw its nadir in North Korea's response to South Korea's shelling of its territorial waters in November 2010. Thus, for the first time in 57 years, the divided Korean peninsula stood on the brink of reigniting the Korean War.
Did this military drill, with US participation, in and around the island of YeonPyeong give pause to revisit US policy towards North Korea? Maybe yes and then maybe no. Judging by Bill Richardson's account of his 4 days in Pyongyang, his assessment that North Korea is wanting and willing to engage diplomatically the US in talks has not received a welcome audience in Washington. There the pragmatists are in the minority, and the war party snug in determining policy.
The only US clerc who has written a meaningful book on Korea is Bruce Cumings. GuamDiary recommends its reading: 'The Korean War: a history'. This book has the merit of combining memory and culture with history, thereby furnishing a very good understanding of why the US North Korea policy remains at a dead point and the strong pull of nostalgia keeps drawing its back to towards picking and nitpicking fights with North Korea. Cumings makes a persuasive argument as to why North Korea has never gotten off its war horse and the memory of the utter destruction, dead, and ruin that the US led forces had left in North Korea before they were 'rolled back' to the 38 parallel. The context is always missing in the US narrative, and that may help explain why even though Cumings is a recognised scholar with many awards, he remains on the sidelines among the US clerisy and elite.
The US has never forgotten its being checkmated by the North Koreans and Chinese Volunteers during the short but not ended Korean War.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Korea Society keeps a tight zipper on its lips

During the last two months of 2010, the two Koreas exchanged fire along the NLL [Northern Limit Line], a watery boundary in the Yellow Sea imposed by the US after the 1953 armistice, which the North never recognised but did not challenge.
For the first time in 47 years, salvos of shells hit the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong - which houses an important military installation and a small fishing community and which lies hardly 10 km from North Korea's territorial waters. The South naval drills conducted under live fire, with US participation, hit North Korea, in spite of Pyongyang's warning that heightened Southern military activity in and around the NLL, would riposte. It did to the utter surprise and consternation of Seoul and Washington.
GuamDiary, in plumbing the New York Korea Society's webpage, found no sense of alarm or urgency in the implication of such events. In fact, it discovered, in its programme commentary, this society of note is, in a leisurely fashion, sponsoring, in a leisurely fashion, a series of lectures entitled 'Korea in depth' beginning in mid February 2011. And the first gathering on 10 February 2011 will feature a lecture by an old, reliable friend, Charles Armstrong of Columbia University. He is scheduled to speak on 'North South Korean issues'.
In contrast, hardly 8 weeks after the sinking of the 'Cheonan', the Korea Society kicked off the publication of the CFR's [Council on Foreign Relations] recommandations for US policy towards Korea, calling for 'rolling back' North Korea. Among the 24 US North Korea clerisy who unanimously agreed with the report's finding was the Korea Society's CEO former ambassador Thomas Hubbard,now working for the influential law firm of Akin Gump.
Why has not Ambassador Hubbard requested the Korea Society's president former ambassador Mark Minton to call a meeting on the shelling which might have been a tripwire to reopening the Korean War?
The Korea Society has, over time, become more and more secretive. It has established a two or three tier structure of 'need to know' among its members. The real discussions do take place behind closed doors, and they become open when it is necessary to push the Administration's line of events on the Korea peninsula. Best examplied of this trend is the big hoopla in promulating the CFR's report on Korea.
But you would think that the crisis along the NLL would stimulate discussion by the Korea Society's member. Wrong! Discussion would challenge it's full support of 'rolling back' North Korea.
Otherwise, as GuamDiary has observed, the Korea Society has become more and more irrelevant. Films, exhibitions on old Hollywood war film posters, ancient Korean hats and locks, the influence of Christianity in Korea, or the building of a Tae Kwon Doh museum or modern Korean architecture are the meat and potatoes of a once vibrant and curious organisation about the political and military and economic events North and South.
As such, the Korea Society keeps total silence unless it receives its marching orders from Washington. It is a weather vane of the way the political winds are blowing by its funders and it lack of independent thought and its role of defender of the status quo.

Did Bill Richardson drop a stitch on PBS' News Hour?

On Christmas Eve 2010, fresh from his return from the DPRK, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson appeared for a 7 minute interview on PBS' [Public Broadcasting Service] award winning 'NewsHour'. Interviewed by the imperturbable senior correspondent Margaret Warner, the outgoing New Mexico governor appeared slightly edgy.
Introduced as having visited North Korea 16 times in the last 17 years, Richardson straightaway summed up his impression after 4 days in Pyongyang that 'tensions were the highest and feelings the most negative' he had even seen. What worried him the most was that the political and military unrest had the very dangerous potential for miscalculation leading to warfare. And his remarks and observations, should account for something in determining US policy towards Korea. But will they?
His ill ease is understandable in the light of the exchange of live fire between the South and the North, owing to the ROK's adventurous naval drills, ably assisted by the US, along the NLL [Northern Limit Line]North Korea's territorial waters.
As GuamDiary has observed, Richardson's presence in Pyongyang put a damper on South Korea's president Lee Myung bak's vindictive, single minded punishment of North Korea.[See, 'North Korea pragmatic, the US and South Korea irrational'] To the governor, he found the newer policy makers - civil and military - 'more pragmatic' and, in private, more open to suggestions for moving from the dead centre of the current status quo.
Propelled by the danger of an 'unacceptable danger' of a re ignited Korean War. Richardson is saying that it is time to seize this opportunity to talk to North Korea. As a self defined 'citizen diplomat', invited by the Kim Jong il regime,he did note that he was the first American to meet with North Koreans in the last 6 months. This, he thinks, is unacceptable. And, by inference the use of 'private citizens' to do the job of what the US government should be doing, this slick 'pis aller' is inadequate.
Richardson put on the table some 'arms control suggestions' which the North Koreans appeared to be open to, as GuamDiary wrote: a hotline, inviting back IAEA [International Atomic Engery Agency] monitors, and the sale of used enriched plutonium spent fuel rods to South Korea that would resell them to a third party, notably to the US.
Warner kept coming back to the oft repeated US mantra: Can we trust North Korea?
The North Koreans are doing nothing to show good faith. [Had Warner done her homework, she would have found a paper trail of North Korea's willingness to talk to the US. They remain ignored or unheard.]
Richardson, at this point in the interview, seemed more nervous. We know that he tilts towards talks with North Korea, which he very well might have counseled the Obama administration to do, but even such a modest suggestion as this might endanger a future post in the Obama administration? It, surely, goes against the grain of the war party in the White House, the department of State, and the Pentagon.
He is honest or quick enough to recognise that within the US government he found a confusion of opinion with its hard liners and its pragmatists, But, understated, in his visibly ill at ease posture, is the unwillingness of the US to continue the status quo, backed up with dangerous military braggadocio.
And it is the continued insistance for the North to 'prove its sincerity' that heightens the danger to military and political miscalculation.
Warner asked him to comment on vice president Biden's remarks that the current warlike posture in the North, is subject to the US logic that it is Kim Jong il's tack to bolster the image of his son and successor Kim Jong eun. Richardson limited himself to say that the danger to renewed confrontation requires dealing diplomatically with North Korea.
And at the closing moments of the PBS interview that Richardson dropped a stitch. He realised this but Warner was quick to pick up on his speaking without thinking. She caught it like the vulture that swops down on a fresh piece of political carrion.
Richardson remarked that in 'side bar discussions' with lower and middle level North Koreans, he detected dissatisfaction with the procession of succession. Warner ponced on this remark, as perhaps any journalist would as a 'scoop' of sorts. Hastily, Richardson tried to pick up his dropped remarked: he though, with a bead of sweat or two on the brow, affirmed that the drop of the hat, off the record, comments never put into doubt that the naming of Kim Jong eun as his father's rightful heir is a done deal and not open to revision.
Still, he remained firm in his belief that the moment was propitious for discussions with North Korea. Warner, with a twinkle in her eye, closed the interview, with the certain feeling, that things may not be what Richardson makes them out to be in North Korea.
Her attitude is in itself predictable, but worthy of comment since she is a mirror of the bankruptcy of US policy towards North Korea.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

North Korea pragmatic, the US and South Korea irrational

New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson on his way back to the US after spending days of 'high drama' in the DPRK, praised Pyongyang for its 'pragmatism'. It was his way of paying tribute to North Korea's party and military leadership for keeping a 'cool head' during South Korea's provocative military exercises with live fire and heavy air cover in and around the island of Yeonpyeong 10 km from North Korea's territory waters.
GuamDiary has to wonder: North Korea has, among US policy makers and clerisy, the reputation of skilfully playing its cards close to its chest. Maybe that's so, but if you follow the yellow brick road of the Bush and Obama administrations card playing, the US plays bad poker and any opponent, and not necessarily Pyongyang, can read its face and call it hand or bluff remaining Cold War superpower to fold.
Studying how the global media reported the last three quarters of 2010 coverage of US and its clients in South Korea and Japan, you have to come to the conclusion that you're seeing children playing in the sandbox in an adult world. Like spoilt young ones, they are sticking to a logic which defies reason or reality. And in this sense, the US is reckless and irrational when it comes to North Korea.
Dare we quote the old Helmsman Mao who at the drop of a hat would repeat the following tale: one's opponent has the habit of lifting a huge stone too heavy for his own strength, to pommel his adversary. Unfortunately, it lands on the thrower's his toe. In way, this is the outcome of Washington's bankrupt policy towards the North. In the end, the US has to backpeddle or find a face saving solution to an irrational policy, the logic of which almost led to a reignited Korean War.


The Obama administration has its work cut out for it: Washington has to muzzle its client South Korea's president Lee Myung bek. The US, however, managed at least to pressure him to cut a repeat of the military show and tell to 90 odd minutes in an abbreviated display of tin soldier, which might have been on the short end of North Korean fire. Today, in the largest display of military might, South Korea is ostentatiously showing off at the DMZ. Obama has to sit on its client whose policy of 'rolling back' the North, he and George Bush encouraged and in which they are objectively in synch with. Nonetheless, US strong arm tactics will kick in and result in restraining its testy South Korean client, without damaging Lee's hurt pride.
Richardson's presence and fast talking and hard bargaining as a 'private citizen' in North Korea guaranteed that Pyongyang kept its sang froid. He managed to hammer out an agreement whereby North Korea will soon again allow UN inspection of its nuclear facilities and Yonbyon and work out an arrangement whereby Pyongyang will sell Seoul its spent plutonium rods and then Seoul will ship them to a third country [read: the US].
Suddenly the war tensions that the US and South Korea had been creating for the last 7 months at least, seemingly broke up and scattered to the winds for the moment.
Washington is jolly well puffing out its chest for a job well done. But is it something well done? Broadly speaking, it may be so. Nevertheless, many questions remain unanswered. The order is unimportant:
1. Will the US go into a diplomatic mode in dealing with North Korea? For months now, North Korea has been saying to, say, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter who turned up in Pyongyang as 'private citizens' on a mission to secure the release of American citizens - who illegally entered North Korea, and who were tried and sentenced to long periods of hard labour - that they were willing to return to six party talks in Beijing to discuss, among other topics, the North's nuclear programme. The US and South Korea and Japan remained deaf to Pyongyang's intentions. Consequently, if, as the Bush administration had devised the setting up of the six party talks in order to not deal directly with North Korea and to turn aside any meaningful discussions on its nuclear programme and reducing tensions on the divided Korean peninsula, how could Richardson, as a 'private citizen' skip in leaps and bounds over bureaucratic hurdles to come to an understanding with top North Korean civilian and military leaders?
Jimmy Carter let this cat out of the bag on National Public Radio, after he returned from North Korea with the released Aijalon Gomes. In Beijing, he ran into a very senior US diplomat who was on his way to a meeting on North Korea, but he was only going to 'pow wow' with South Korea and Japan. Carter logically asked if the US emissary had plans to go to Pyongyang? Negative came the reply. He had instructions to avoid contact with the North. [GuamDiary suggests that this is another example of the building of the war axis composed of Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo].
The answer he got struck Carter as dumb, the more especially since he was carrying back a message to the White House from North Korea expressing the desire to renewed contact.
2. Since the US can work out an agreement, albeit under the guise of using 'private citizens, what then is the need and the future of the six party talks?
3. The media tell us what the North Koreans agreed to do, but what engagements -- political, military, and/or economic -- have the Obama administration signed on to?
4. If South Korea is going to buy the North's spent plutonium rods, how much will they pay and what other obligations are they required to fulfill towards the North, i.e., in food, fertilisers, fostering business investment in the North, so on and on and on?
5. Is the US ready to take steps to ending the Korean War with a peace treaty? If so,
will South Korea be at the table since Syngman Rhee refused to signed the 1953 Armistice?
6. If a peace treaty is not in sight, will the US move to resume face to face talks with the North?

For the moment, the Washington is singing the same old refrain: 'the North has to prove to us by concrete actions that they are sincere'! Well, old darlings, the North can hum the same tune by questioning America's sincerity in wanting to reduce tensions and veer away from military confrontation in the divided Korean peninsula and instead turn its military arms into the plowshares of old fashioned diplomacy?

Judging by the vacuous exchange of idle chatter on the Charlie Rose show [20 December 2010] by Ian Bremmer, founder of the Eurasia Group, and old stalwart of the Hoover Institute, and David Sanger, the 'New York Times' chief Washington correspondent, and the darling of the Pentagon, nothing has really should change for them. The North blinked. Bremmer is in line with the US North Korea clerisy in drawing red lines in the sand beyond which he won't go. In his mind, he still envisages a North Korean attack of the South. He has strong opinions about Kim Jong il & co. which remain rigid in their Cold War form. Sanger has little or no trouble in mouthing Washington cant on North Korea coming from the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom [the State Department] or off the record chitchat from the White House.
These two 'experts' regurgitate the same old shopworn 'bubbe meises' or old wives tales which events are outdistancing.

Americans have a strong sense of self that they do believe they hold the truth on all matters. Sanger expressed surprise that neither Kim Jong il nor Kim Jong eun agreed to see Richardson. Well, old hooter of 'truth handed down from on high', as a lower level private citizen, he got the highest treatment possible for the 'officious' mission he was on. Still, an American is an 'open sesame' by his mere being and deserving of the highest treatment available!
Bremmer and Sanger are two worthy example of American exceptionalism. They are representative of a clerisy who kneels before the prevailing dieties when it comes to North Korea. They are too old to change. Where are diplomats, scholars, and chatting heads who are willing to take on the old sacred Cold War cows? They exist but the power elite elbows them out so that they have no mainstream platform to challenge hoary policy and philosophy on Korea.

Consequently, the public - informed or uninformed - has to rely on the poverty of such opinion. If Americans have grounded sense of self, they, on the whole, are confirmed in their ignorance. Consequently, they are fresh meat for the feral talking heads like Bremmer and Sanger and the feckless US clerisy and media.
GuamDiary now asks if a single 'private' citizen [wink, wink, wink]like Richardson can work 'miracles', isn't it plain as the nose on your face that diplomacy works better to resolve difference? It won't be the last time we raise that question!GuamDiary repeats: is diplomacy more efficient and lest costly in dealing with North Korea?

Monday, December 20, 2010

North Korea treats South Korea's 90 minute exercise with the contempt it deserves!

North Korea's state radio dismissed South Korea's 90 minute masturbatory military exercise with live fire and heavy air cover in and around the island of Yeonpyeong, as 'not worth reacting [to]'.
With a sharp index finger nail , the North's leadership prickled the South taut balloon of warlike bluster and tin soldier bravado.
For Seoul, president Lee Myung bak was going to let Kim Jong il know who holds the trump cards: the South repeated the same drills that had provoked the North's shelling in November along the NLL [Northern Limit Line], albeit in a very abbreviated format.
And what's more, Lee had to contend with protest from South Koreans about his reckless playing chicken with the North.
The Obama administration which has its own version of 'lips to teeth', has coordinated and supported Lee's recklessness to the hilt. As GuamDiary has documented, Washington's lips is protecting Seoul's teeth, as 'bulldozer' Lee has pursued aggressive measures - military, diplomatic, economic, and mis- and disinformation - towards Kim Jong il & co.
US policy is banking on the collapse of the North within next few years, and accordingly, has in desperation fallen back on the 'policy of rollback' in the Obama administration's futile attempt to bell the North Korean cat. Suddenly, in a fit of nostalgia for the days US triumphalism of the early Cold War, the US North Korea clerisy bolstered rank sentimental yearning to right the defeat it suffered during the Korean War to wipe Kim Il sung & co. off the face of the map of Korea.
America learns little from history but to embrace failed ideas and actions.
Saying this, Obama in response to Pyongyang's urging sent New Mexico governor Bill Richardson scurrying off to the North Korean capital to 'parliament' with the North's top party and military leadership. Since the US president is unwilling or simply cannot control its client in Seoul, it is hedging its bets in making 'nice' to the North.
Contrary to the reporting of a hostile US press, North Korea does not display the almost complete lack of caution of Lee Myung bak & his ilk. Although Pyongyang has remained on a warfooting for the last 60 years - since the outbreak of the Korean War and the almost complete destruction from the air of US aircraft - it has tried in the last 20 years to engage Washington. It had some success during the Clinton years, but suffered a violent rebuff by the 'virtuous' George W. Bush and the man with a glad hand who took his place in the White House.
Kim Jong il's repeated calls for face to face contempt with the US have either been ignored or fallen on deaf ears. When the US responds it icily throws on the carpet maximal demands, with the snarl of a child who wants his marbles back since the others won't play by its rules.
Well, old darlings, no one is playing by America's rulebook of diplomacy. So Obama & co. like Bush & co., can only think in terms of the smashing fist. War or threats of war.
Well the US & South Korea learnt a hard lesson when North Korea lobbed its shells on the island of Yeonpyeong as a reply to the South's fire landing in North Korean waters. For the first time in 47 years - since the signing of the 1953 Armistic agreement - the two Koreas exchanged fire outside the DMZ.
And that gave the US the 'willies'. For all its braggadocio, the US cannot sustain another war in doesn't want another war in Korea. It is already on the short end of two disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which have weakend the 'empire' greatly.
Hence the presence of Richardson in Pyongyang. Still the 'sham' of Obama's maneuvre is apparent: Obama hasn't the intestional fortitude to deal with North Korea directly as an equal. And like the red queen in 'Alice', when it comes to North Korea, he has to run faster and faster on treadmill to keep in place and short of war.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Schizoid US policy towards North Korea

It is an anachronism to say that the US has lost the north on its diplomatic compass when it comes to North Korea.
And this diplomatic disorder is no more obvious than by the presence of New Mexico govenor Bill Richardson's 'private visit' to Pyongyang to find a way to lessen growing tensions which have lead to an exchange of fire between South and North Korea along the NLL [Northern Limit Line].
'A private visit' by a prominent US official, in or out of government, is an indication of how deep a hole the Bush and Obama administions have dug to avoid dealing directly with Kim Jong il.
As GuamDiary noted, Richardson has called on Pyongyang to exercise 'great restraint', faced as it is by the provocative joint South Korean and US joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea within spitting distance of North Korean waters.
We have to ask why doesn't Obama muzzle his client, South Korean president Lee Myung bek, and sternly counsel him to 'exercise great restraint'?
The answer is 'blowing in the wind': the US firmly believes that North Korea is guilty, whereas its client South Korea is the innocent victim. If you took the time to follow the media trail--Asian and European--the the lines of blame point more and more in the direction of Seoul and Washington.
Happily, Kim Jong il has China and Russia in his corner. And since the UN Security Council has met to deal with the possibility of an outbreak again of war on the divided Korean peninsula, Pyongyang will escape a severe drubbing at the hands of the US which holds the Council's president's chair at present. We expect any draft text will bear the heavy of Washington, calling for the calming of waters, but blaming North Korea, by glossing over its own and Seoul's role in whipping up war hysteria.
GuamDiary suggests to its readers to follow its postings in keep track of the duplicitous role of the US and its client South Korea.
Now, let's look at what 'gifts' to the east that the mage Richardson brings to North Korea: one, a military hotline between Washington and Pyongyang, as well as a military commission composed of the US, North and South Koreas to monitor crises in the Yellow Sea.
Well, la di dah! Let's examine Richardson's role: here we have a 'private' citizen usurping the authority of the central government to suggest public policy! Now, if that ain't a kick in the head, Dr. Freud Washington sorely needs your services!
Had not the hawkish Lee Myung bek not kicked out the stool from under the 'Sunshine Policy', he torpedoed the agreement worked out by Kim Jung il and Roh Moo hyun for discussions in order to minimise incidents, civil or military, in the Yellow Sea.
Instead Lee aligned himself alongside the mad men in the Bush White House. The Obama administration retained many of these advisors and took on its own mad men who relished nothing more than teaching North Korea a lesson it rightly deserved, or so they thought.
The joke is on them and the venal US North Korea clerisy chorus who encouraged Washington's and Seoul's war party who is aching to give Pyongyang a well earned reprimand, without thinking through fallout of a strong reproof that would obtain.
And now, the fear of war looms in the corridors of US diplomacy. Yet Obama & co. are blind to the reason why we are seeing the situation in the Yellow Sea may very well spell 'open warfare'.
Thank goodness, cooler heads prevail in Pyongyang. They requested, it seems, the presence of Richardson who is not an unknown value in North Korea.
You have to wonder at the lack of imagination among the cold warriors in Washington and Seoul. A military commission has existed on the DMZ since 1953, so why duplication of effort? A hotline...there is one which Seoul doesn't use well or simply ignores.
And so we have US and Seoul chasing its own tail. They, in a swipe of the hand, ignore what already is in place. They engage in eyewash: they do this to deflect the blame they rightly deserve for a bankrupt policy towards North Korea.
The longer Washington and Seoul refuse to deal with North Korea and treat Pyongyang as an equal, the winds of war will not abate. And the fault lies not in Pyongyang but in Seoul and Washington.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bill Richardson in Pyongyang. Physician heal thyself!

New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson is again in Pyongyang at the invitation of the North Koreans.
Richardson is no stranger to the North Koreans. As a Clinton administration trouble shooter, he had gone to Pyongyang.
It is much to Kim Jong il & co.'s credit that they are calling on 'level headed' Americans who, as 'private citizens', hear North Korea's concerns about the increasing warlike initiatives coming from South Korea, ably assisted by the US, and the fear that the war initiatives of the Washington Seoul and now Tokyo axis can and may miscalculate and reignite the frozen 60 year old Korean War on a divide Korean peninsula.
Richardson met separately with vice minister Ri Yong ho and Kim Kye gwan, Pyongyang's chief nuclear envoy, who each in his own way, expressed high anxiety at the heightened war tom toms out of South Korea.
Judging this growing fear of war in the North as a "good sign", he counseled a display of great restraint, and a gesture that Pyongyang is willing to go yet another kilometre to resume discussions in Beijing on North Korea's nuclear programme.
It never came to Richardson's mind that the advice he 'preached' in Pyongyang would better be said in Washington. The Obama administration has made no bones about pursuing a muscular military approach, if not solution, to North Korea. To our way of thinking, Richardson has not the guts to cry out to the American president, 'physician heal thyself': shift from warlike measures to diplomacy to resolve tensions on the Korean peninsula!
GuamDiary does not read tea leaves, so all we are willing to advance is that any message the governor from New Mexico will carry back to president Obama will make long fire without any change in current US policy towards North Korea.
Selig Harrison, a senior fellow at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Centre and over time frequent visitor, had preceded Richardson. The 'New York Times' published his striking proposal [13 December 2010] calling on Obama to redraw the NLL [Northern Limit Line]- which the US imposed after the Korean Armistice in 1953, and which North Korea never recognised - and draw it several kilometres further south in the China Sea. By doing this, the US scholar posited that heightened war tensions would abate, and not only that, it might encourage steps leading to a peace agreement which once and for all would put an end to the Korean War.
An unlikely chance. Sung Yong Lee, an adjunct professor at Tufts' Fletcher School of Diplomacy, had an opinion piece in "Asian Times Online" [17 December 2010] on the value and what he feels is efficient use of 'military' pressure by Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo on North Korea. His conceit is a reiteration of the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] study on US policy for Korea. Lee, quite plainly, adds his voice to US North Korea clerisy calling for 'rolling back' North Korea by any means possible: diplomatically, economically, propagandistically, and military.
GuamDiary has never stinted from calling a spade a spade when it comes to the current reactionary policy which the US, South Korea, and now Japan are pushing to trump North Korea.
The political class in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo are playing hard ball which when and if the ball turns into a boomerang will spell disaster and yet another US war in Asia.
It is high time for Obama to stop playing tin soldier and return to the real world of diplomacy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Redrawing the Northern Limit Line

In the op ed page of the 'New York Times' [13 December 2010] Selig Harrison's 'Drawing a line in the water' took centre place. Originally, it was a joint collaboration with Lt. General [ret.] John Cushman who commanded the US ROK First Corp Group in South Korea from 1976 to 1978. Cushman bowing to forceful pressure withdrew his name at the last minute.
'Drawing a line in the water' is not a modest proposal. Harrison suggests that the US imposed NLL [Northern Limit Line] move it a few kilometres to the south, in order to avoid military confrontation of the kind which resulted in North Korea's shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong, as its response to the South's live fire found a home in the North's territorial waters during a joint US South Korean naval exercises hardly 10 km from the limit line.
Harrison went on to say, redrawing the NLL might sweep clear the field of current hostility in this region of the Yellow Sea, and by making such a move, it might contribute to preparing a step by step approach to a peace treaty ending the 60 year Korean War.
GuamDiary thinks that Harrison's op ed would ruffle the feathers of the war party in Washington that holds hostage US policy towards North Korea. Harrison is no stranger to North Korea; he has over the years visited Pyongyang and has talked with its leaders. His suggestion at least has the merit of trying to bell the cold warriors who are more and more preaching confrontation with the North. And for this reason, his words will fall on deaf ears.
A confab with the US [representing the UN], China, and North Korea will not sit well with South Korea. History has a way of catching up with Seoul: Syngman Rhee refused to sign the 1953 Armistice, thereby freezing the Korean conflict, where it remains 57 years in place.
Today South Korea's president Lee Myung bek's policy mirrors that of Rhee's. He is openly hostile towards the North. He cannot be 'sat on' by the US as Washington did with Rhee. Today, too, US and South Korea are in sync when it comes to confronting North Korea through economic, diplomatic, propaganda, and military means. And it goes without saying, Lee would scream from the roof tops were a peace treaty signed without South Korea. Were that to transpire, South Korea would look as though it were an American colony, as North Korea labels it, and that Pyongyang were the sole representative of the Korean people.
It seems unlikely that any US administration would throw one of the world's top 12 economies to the wolves.
In addition, the way the Obama administration sees North Korea, it is unlikely that the US wants a peace treaty at the present time and certainly not on terms it deems unfavourable. [Translation: not on America's own terms.]
On the other hand, the North's shells have left scars in the world of diplomacy. Russia, China, and North Korea are looking for ways to calm bellicose waters. But, as GuamDiary pointed out [see, Washington Seoul Tokyo axis tries to stymie China's peace initiative], the US, South Korea, and Japan are reluctant to commit to reducing tensions in and around the divided Korean peninsula.
As we have noted, Washington not only has heightened the level and scope of military exercises in the Yellow Sea along the NLL, it has begun naval manoeuvres with Japan in waters which China claims. It does not take a rocket scientist to come up with an answer: China, let alone North Korea, is unwilling to play the games according to the Obama administration's rules.
Not only that, the US, with the cheering of its North Korea clerisy, has decided on 'rolling back' North Korea. It is playing a game of military chicken and it has had the rude shock that North Korea is not going to fall over and play dead.
Hence, the scrambling of China to find a diplomatic way out of the present situation. Since the US mainstream media ignores North Korea's initiative to get the US to talk to it, we are faced with a dialogue of the deaf. For the animus against North Korea is so overwhelming in Washington, the US simply puts the bureaucratic stamp of 'non recevoir' on any North Korean attempt at re engaging the US.
And that is why Selig Harrison's op ed is so striking. It sweeps away all the cant and the Cold War camp. Yet, it tests the US' resolve to turn towards a peaceful solution to the long war in Korea. Sadly, as we know, Washington is not prepared to end the Korean War or for that matter to deal with outstanding issues with North Korea, some going back since the end of the second world war.
GuamDiary applauds Selig Harrison for not giving into cynicism nor throwing up his hands that the times are not ripe for concluding a peace treaty. Oh would others have the boldness to speak up!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Obama: the fading US president

Did anyone notice that former president Bill Clinton took centre stage during Barack Obama's news conference? Obama left to join his wife and girls for dinner whilst Clinton waxed eloquent in support of extending the Bush tax cuts across the board.
After the 'shellacking' the Democrats took in the November 2010 mi term elections, the grey beards of the party decided to take the party back from Obama.
As the American people have learned for the last two years, Obama is a poor manager who does not really have a programme.
For sure, it took him a while to find the north star for health care reform. Initially, however, he let it flounder and then allowed the lobbyists and the do nothing Republicans to steal his thunder. Same for the financial reforms.
During all this flipping and flopping, Obama talked of bi partisanship, ignoring what was plain as the nose on his face, his opponents laughed at his face. And yet he pursued a policy which was doomed for weak tea reform or accepting an empty hand.
November 2010 should Obama's true mettle. It is thin as the finest gossamer, easy to tear apart.
Obama had infuriated his liberal supporters by his haughty, condescending lecture on purism in political. Of which he is the prime example...
So, we see the sudden thrusting into the lime light of the vice president, Joe Biden who knows how to work the system, something Obama doesn't.
GuamDiary won't beat a dead donkey. The party pooh bahs will support Obama but he's a ciffer, and more likely than not a one term wonder. Meanwhile, the grey beards will look for a good contender for president in 2014.
Bye bye Barach Obama.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cock of the walk of a united Korea: Lee Myung bek? Who is he kidding?

South Korea's president Lee Myung bek is a cocky fellow. He fancies himself the unifier of a reunited Korea. He doesn't pull the weight.
Lee contributes to the fiction that 'unification with North Korea has become more likely as the people in the North become more aware of the South's affluence'.
Did this evangelical Christian consult a shaman in order to boldly proclaim his prediction? He has overstepped the bounds of reality and wandered in the land of wishful thinking.
Morally 'armed' and full of an overabundant supply of 'pie in the sky', his words, however, scarsely capture the imagination of the 'people in the North'.
Visitors to the North, over time, have come back with stories of North Koreans' awareness of South Koreans' abundance of creature comforts and a style of living foreign to their own. How do they know this? Well, there is a wide circulation of dvds of television dramas, films, and an endless supply of info seeping through the porous border with China.
What else do the North Koreans know of the South? They are well aware since Lee scuppered the welcome 'Sunshine Policy' of Kim Dae Jung, relations have turned ugly between the South and the North.
In 2010, the dark clouds of war have continued to gather more darkly as the South and the US have increased joint military manoeuvres along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] dangerously close to North Korea's territorial waters.
In fact the South's live shelling fell into the North's waters, even though Pyongyang warned Seoul that should that happen the North would reply. And it did, marking the first time in more than 5 decades that the two Koreas exchanged fire which looked as though the frozen Korean war would suddenly turn hot again.
Lee throughout his two years in the Blue House has clung to his desire to teach the North a lesson, in more plain exercise tough love. He has not strayed from his stiff resolve, and like the armchair general that he is, he delights in conducting campaigns from his desk in Seoul.
For all the affluence and the shiny glitter that its 'Asian tiger' economy bestows on its citizens and the strength of its economy, Lee's bellicosity seems to dull the mind to the dangers South Korea runs in his sabre rattling and muscular brinksmanship.
Has he forgotten that the North has massed on the DMZ at the 38 parallel one million heavily armed men? And should Lee heat up the kettle of war to higher temperatures, well, between the North at the DMZ and Seoul lies 40km [30 miles], and in the case of war, it would take a very short time to destroy the engine and symbol of Lee's touted South Korea's affluence, and not only that, think of the millions in dead and casualty.
So much for Lee's hollow excessive pride and sense of self. Freud calls the South Korean president's thumping of his chest 'flummery'!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joint chief of staff Mike Mullen has a snit and China's Confucius Peace Prize

At first blush what has joint chief of staff admiral Mullen's show of temper have to do with China's Confucius Peace Prize? Mullen's represents the military, Confucius shows an inclination towards irenic pursuits.
Well there is a connexion: North Korea
As GuamDiary reported, president Obama's 30 minute telephone conversation with China's Hu Jintao did not bring about the results he was hoping for: Beijing's twisting North Korea's arm to calm rising tensions on the divided Korean peninsula. Yesterday [8 December 2010] Mullen put his two cents in; the unhappy admiral took China to task for doing little to muzzle its client North Korea, charging Beijing with 'reckless behaviour'.
The redlight of warning went on when North Korea replied to the shelling of its territorial waters from the island of Yeonpyeong by live fire and joint South Korean & US increasing naval and air exercises along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] within a cat's whiskers of North Korea's territorial waters.
China, after consultation with Russia, issued an call for an emergency meeting of the six power participants to smooth out ruffled feathers. As Guam Diary noted, the US, South Korea, and Japan rebuffed China, on the shaky grounds that first North Korea has to 'repent' and 'apologise' for its aggressive behaviour.
The US then went on a charm offensive after raining on China's initiative, by throwing down on the carpet the snake eyed dice of its demands. Washington's insulting roll of the dice acted as a double whammy of insult and humiliation
for the Chinese.
So, during the hastily arranged ceremony to award the first Confucian peace prize, China struck back: as is China's diplomatic wont, it was a smart slap in the face by a lesser official. In his speech at the award ceremony, he challenged the award of the 2009 Nobel peace prize to Barack Obama, on the grounds that the 45 US president was a purveyor of war not peace as witnessed by the escalating military posturing of the US and South Korea against North Korea.
In essence, China was calling Mr. Obama on his insistent and insolently bold bet to bend China to US designs against North Korea. By challenging Mr. Obama's credentials as anything but peaceful, the Chinese have returned his serve with a deft turn of the wrist.
On top of that, China's foreign ministry spoke up on the matter: it called for diplomatic means, not war manuevers and threats and saber rattling, to resolve long standing issues on the Korean peninsula.
China could not let either Obama or Mullen get away with tarring China, let alone North Korea, with the sins of commission of the US and South Korea.
Conditions are very taut in Korea. They are desired by the US if, as GuamDiary has long exposed, the reactionary policy recommendations which seem to echo Mr. Obama's North Korea policy: in the CFR's [Council on Foreign Relations] unanimous recommendations to 'roll back' North Korea to the edge of collapse or to giving the US and its allies an excuse to end the frozen Korean war on its own terms of victory.
China is well aware of US hawkish designs and thus for the first time, it is responding with a strong condemnation of US motives and actions, which have been growing more bold and more ill conceived and executed without a thought that they could and would ignite war again in Korea.


What more can one say about Wikileaks? It's under heavy fire from the US; PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa are refusing to remit contributions to this website, thereby re enforcing the campaign to drive it into bankruptcy without recourse to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy unless it agrees to restructure along lines acceptable to the US government; Julian Assange is in a British gaol awaiting extradiction to Sweden in what looks as though it will turn into a show trial and Stockholm's surrendering him to the US; the US is trying to amend a 1917 espionage act so that it can 'legally' try Assange...and the list of particulars goes on and on.
It is true that the gradual release of US diplomatic cables has embarrassed the Obama administration. It has publicly put on a brave face saying that the very low level 'secret' or recently declassified info, has not detered them from the appointed rounds of conducting foreign relations. On the other hand, it has raised a firestorm of blather from elected officials and the chatting classes, some of whom have crossed the limits of sanity by calling for the murder of Assange. So much for the respect of law and order!
On the other hand, it has offered a peek into what US foreign service officers are thinking and saying below the radar in stark contrast to the sugar coated language of official stated policy. While it may offer a guffaw here and a hearty chuckle there, the release of the cables do catch US diplomacy with its pants down. Deep cherry red confusion and abashment has followed to mop up the damages.
As the smoke slowly clears, the question of whom to blame come more and more to the centre. The US military are holding Bradley Manning a low level NCO conditions similar to detainees at Gitmo [Guatanamo],for 'alledgedly' passing the documents to Wikileaks. Yet the Obama administration has brought no charges against him.
Julian Assange is the real target for Wikileaks, a website consacrated ot leaking secrets and for striving for transparency and truth in government, an unpardonable sin of 'lese majeste'.
Yet saying this begs the question of culpability. Well, a few hours ago, an answer came from an US ally Ken Rudd, former Australian prime minister and now foreign minister. He put the burden of guilt squarely on the shoulders of the US for its 'laissez faire' attitude to its own security apparatus which is open to a cast of a hundred thousands at least.
With such negligence, some may and do say that the US is paying the price for its own ineptitude.
How fast will Obama and any occupant of the White House will repair the current damage, we cannot say for sure. At present, the US is wild eyed with the passion to emasculate Wikileaks if not shut it down completely; to convict Manning and lock up Assange for life if possible; and to make nice to all the countries that it made brutual but let's us admit honest assessments about.
Like the lumbering ox, the US is slow to change its ways?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The latest US sleight of hand on North Korea

A rule of thumb in warfare: the best defence is offence. And president Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton are now aggressively pursuing a tack to put North Korea on the defencive and pressure China to twist Kim Jong il's arm.
Obama's and Clinton's 'clever' deception has its moorings in the ability to rewrite history as the US sees it; to blame the victim, which in the case of North Korea does not require much, the more especially since it is branded a 'contemptible state'; and to wage a war of propaganda with the media in tow, the academic clerisy in tow, the elite in tow, and with a manipulable uninformed and disinterested public.
Obama, on 5 December 2010, rang up China's president Hu Jintao urging him repeatedly to 'check North Koreans'. Hu listened during the 30 minutes that this 'telephone conference' lasted. He remained non committal which did not go down well with the American president. Yet since the Chinese president gave no clear indication of feeling or attitude, Obama saw a sign of hope. What swallow of a promised spring did he discover: Hu did not say anything about the ever escalating US South Korean military exercises with live fire close to North Korea watchers. So the US head of state, in another exercise of tendencious justification for his hard line, hostile policy towards North Korea, saw a Chinese stamp of tacit approval. Wrong!
As GuamDiary has continually noted, Obama's policy towards North Korea has escalated tensions in a divided Korean peninsula, which runs more and more the danger of renewed warfare there. Washington has intensified joint war games in the Yellow Sea, which China has a strong strategic interest.
Consider that in September 2010, days before another joint US South Korea naval and air exercises in the Yellow Sea near North Korea waters, China held two important exercises of its own: one, naval, the other air. And with live ammo. Beijing had shot a powerful warning across Washington's and Seoul's bow. Yet, its purport did not sink fully in the American and South Korean capitols.
And then two months later, the returning of North Korea's fire to yet another joint South Korean and US naval exercise with live ammo, did the tempo of war drums along divided Korean borders significantly increase.
China issued a call for emergency talks which the US rebuffed. Not only that, as a way of thumbing its nose at the Chinese, the US carried out joint exercises with Japan in an area which China contests and which remains a sore point in Sino Japanese relations.
So, in the face of reality, how can Obama & co. be assured of China's neutrality or passivity in the light of increasing US and South Korea warlike measures militarily, politically, or economically?
It looks as though America's 'best and brightest' in and out of government do not take seriously China's negotiating style. They should! GuamDiary suggests a reading or a rereading of Whiting's 'China crosses the Yalu' and Maxwell's 'India's China war' as a quick refresher course to bring them up to speed.
Mme. Clinton has formed a united front of 3 rejectionist countries - the US, South Korea, and Japan - who refuse to join China's call for an emergency meeting to lessen rising tensions in the Korean peninsula. They won't budge when and until North Korea bends to meet their demands: denuclearise, turn a compliant cheek to aggressive South Korean list of ultimata which the US, following ROK president Lee Myung bek's conditions which offer little or no room for discussion, and which have one aim: to insult and humiliate North Korea.
Well, ain't that a sure policy for rejection!
In truth, as GuamDiary reported in 'Washington Seoul Tokyo axis trying to stymie China', Mme. Clinton has not stopped playing her dangerous little game which brings ever closer the two Koreas to the abyss of military confrontation. She is engaged in a cynical game of chicken, and is betting that North Korea will blink first. Wrong!
Had she the smallest grasp of history, she would know that she's on an fool's errand. But she's is convinced that the 'mighty' US can get its way with forcing China to clamp down on North Korea. And her advisors and the US North Korea clerisy, as an expression of its romance with its own ideology and of its role of servile flatterer of power, encourages her in her fantasy.
GuamDiary says, 'wake up and smell the coffee'. 'Get real'. When conditions change, and as they have in the two Koreas, try to change policy accordingly.
Well since Obama became president, the US has been conducting a self defeating policy towards Korea, especially North Korea. It has gotten nothing but grief for its effort, in spite of sanctions and boycotts.
As Wikileaks relase of US diplomatic cable show, sanctions and boycotts are easily gotten around. North Korea is a nuclear power thanks to George W. Bush, and is on the cutting edge of advanced rocket technology. Its skills and products are in great demand even among supposedly loyal US allies in the third world!
Even Romantics well know, reality asserts itself over the kind of wishful thinking Obama & co. are substituting for 'realpolitik'.
Will Obama's and Clinton's sleight of hand obtain. Yes, for a brief while. The US game will tip of the balance of mutual destruction along the 38 parallel and the contentious NLL [Northern Limit Line] to a dangerous point where renewed war on the Korean peninsula is the only issue.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A blast from the past: 'Conference for a new direction in US Korea policy'

In fossicking through boxes of remainded books in a small, dingy, out of the way bookshop, GuamDiary came across the proceedings of a conference for a new direction in US Korea policy, held 33 years ago in New York City.
Reading through the conference's official transcript, we see that little has fundamentally changed in US policy towards North Korea.
Let's first place the conference in its historical setting. Jimmy Carter had just become president. Park Chung hee the South Korean dictator and US ally sat comfortably in the Blue House in Seoul. President Nixon's call for reduction of US troops strength in South Korea, to bolster troops levels in the US debilitating war in Vietnam, had set Park on a charm offensive to bribe the US Congress. A crisis of confidence erupted known as 'Koreagate".
The new American president called for a rethinking on US policy on Korea. An 'ad hoc' committee composed of a Nobelist, university activists, clergy, a UN consultant, and an activist seized the moment to call for an international conference to be held in New York from 1 April to 3 April 1977.
To that purpose, they placed an ad in the 'New York Times'. The response and the furor it aroused was more than the 'Committee for a new direction for US Korea Policy' could have expected.
The call bore the headline 'Korea--Our Responsbility'. Its brief clearly stated the Committee's case: the cruel rule of the Park dictatorship; the blantant violations of human rights and the imprisonment of and assassination attempts on the lives of its opponents; the role of the US backed by its military of propping up Park Chung Hee; the documented reports of Park's attempts to subvert the US constitution through bribery of elected government officials;the rising tide of popular resistance of South Koreans oppossed to General Park's rule also raised the possibility of renewed war by Park to maintain power; the presence of US nuclear weapons in South Korea, among other issues.
The Committe called for the removal of the nuclear weapons and the troops and weapons and paramilitary forces, as well as denying all aid and assistance to Park Chung Hee. The Committee took Carter at his word: a complete reexamination of US Korea policy was in order with the view to a peaceful solution to the mounting crisis between the US and South Korea and a hope for a peaceful conclusion of the Korean War.
The public reaction to the Committee's 'NYT's' ad was swift: on one hand, the Committee was denounced as 'Communist', but more surprising, on the other hand, they got strong public support and encouragement.
Consequently, in a whirlwind of activity, the Conference began on 1 April 1977, across the street from the UN, with delegates from 9 countries, including South Korea. Japan sent 3 members of parliament. A welcome surprise was the presence of South Korean dissidents living in the US and West Germany whose speeches and talks broke the Park dominance of the Korean media. They included high ranking diplomats, senior army and navy officers, former KCIA agents, clergy, businessmen, university professors, writers and poets, journalists, and a world renowned Korean composer kidnapped and tortured by Park's CIA.
Although members of the US government were invited to attend, no one sent a staff member or came in person. Senator Ted Kennedy sent an encouraging note. Rear Admiral Eugene LaRoque submitted a statement to the conference. The German SPD had an observer at the proceedings. And the noted Korea expert Gregory Henderson then of Tufts Fletcher School of Diplomacy attended as a special guest.
Among the delegates, the following names are easily reconisable today: Bruce Cumings, Jon Halliday, Michael Klare, and the reverend James Stentzel
In all, during three days, the delegates discussed and debated a new direction for US policy towards Korea, from various standpoints - social, political, economic, and military. Judging by the transcripts, the discussions were lively and informative.
It is a pity that time and space limit GuamDiary from giving its readers a taste of the quality and the flavour of the talks and the question & answer sessions.
The conference did much to energise the Korean Americans to redouble efforts to influence change in South Korea in the US.
Suffice to say, at the end, the conference sent a telegramme to president Carter, encouraging him to revise US policy towards Korea as he had promised. The conference urged its delegates, once they returned home, to support the struggle of the people of South Korea in opposing dictator Park, to actively emphasize the defence of human rights - a cornerstone of Carter's foreign policy - when it came to South Korea, call for the recall of US nuclear armaments from a very tense divided Korean peninsula, and withdraw US troops. In brief, the conference simply promised to avocate for a new US Korea policy along the lines Carter was proposing.
The conference held 5 news conferences at the end of three days of talks. The Japanese and Korean and Korean American press, as well as Mexican, French, British, and German media were present. In fact, press conferences were not only held in English, but in Korea and Japanese. Yet the US mainstream media boycotted the conference and as for coverage, remained silent as a tomb.
It was as though, according to the conference coordinator, that no one in the American government cared about forging a new Korea policy but Jimmy Carter.

US North Korea clerisy redux

Another GuamDiary reader wonders why we shoot our darts at US' North Korea clerisy. By any conventional standard, these clercs--by education, training, and experience--represent the 'best and the brightest' on advising US policy towards North Korea.
First, the 'best and the brightest' is a loaded term. If you weigh it by David Halbstram's measure, it is a watchword that captures the high degree of hubris, condescension, moral blindness, and a body of a 'body of truths' which do not bear up well under scrutiny.
Moreover,GuamDiary's 'beef' with America's North Korean clerisy is that it is a closed circuit programme of 'newspeak' and homogenised opinion within a very narrow spectrum of admitted differences of opinion.
Its cast of characters reminds us of a revolving door of experts, advisors, and analysts who go in and out of government, and who are the same talking heads on television, in print, or invited to conferences. They represent received opinion. But varied views they do not hold. Independent thought is forsaken for good paying posts in think tanks, universities, and government or in publishing or prestigious journals or the mainstream press. But they do toe the government line.
Saying this, GuamDiary hears an objection: the clerisy does admit new members. Undoubtedly according to this rule of thumb: can they be coopted? If they can, they gain a seat at the table; if they cannot, they're marginalised or as it is often the case, they are excluded and become the voices in the desert that few hear.
This clerisy play the 'eternel virgin', modest to a fault. They remain virga intacta in thought and deed.
On North Korea the chorus is frightfully uninote. Add a little balance to the mantra 'North Korea evil, North Korea bad', is tantamount to madness or to high treason.
The clerisy never strays unless ir nourishes a deathwish to self destruct a career, creature comforts, and the honours ideological loyalty obtain. Money and the ego money are strong incentives not to stray from the hand that feeds you.
GuamDiary in criticising them calls for openness and other voices. We do say that the clash of ideas in an open market of opinion is healthy. It may not change one's moral compass but it does let in fresh thinking. And this is a good thing for an open society which the US says it is.
Otherwise, as GuamDiary continues to document, unequal access to influence policy and public opinion has had corrosive consequences of past and current US policy towards North Korea.
GuamDiary keeps referring to the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] report on US policy towards Korea. It is a sterling example of group think. It is unanimous in its opinion representing the hours of conversation of the 'best and brightest' of US Korea experts and advisors coming from the diplomatic service, the military, the spy agencies, the university, and the think tank. As window dressing, it allows for very narrow and minor quibbles, but in the end, it is a solid and set concrete advice to the Obama administration.
The clerisy's advise and consent reflects a bankruptcy of ideas: the report's conclusions are an about face and an embrace of the Cold War policy of 'roll back' North Korea. Their collective opinion bolsters a White House policy which is intent on forcing North Korea to the brink of collapse or to war.
And events today in a divided Korea parallel are swaddled in hazy memories. They strinkly recall conditions that happened on the eve of the War which broke out sixty years ago.
Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables on North Korea offer new space for reflexion and rethinking of policy. The US media, the talking heads, the clerisy, and above all, the US government puff out their chests of hail the well good fellow or Little Jack Horner's cry when he pulled out a plum, 'look what a good buy am I'.
And now, gentle reader, you may begin to understand why GuamDiary calls for broader and more open discussions on North Korea and critises the US North Korea clerisy.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Recently a reader of GuamDiary asked a question about why our blog has not broached the question of succession in North Korea. Our reader's curiosity was raised by what is happening in Egypt.
The question of succession in North Korea has been for all intents and purposes settled in North Korea. Kim Jong il, after much negotiation within the military and political power structure, has anointed his youngest and third son Kim Jung eun as his successor. Admittedly, we know little about this young man of 26 [we are not even sure of his actual age]; we speculate that he had his secondary schooling in Switzerland, and so, it seems as though he has knowledge of German, English, and possibly French; he has familiarity with ways of a capitalist society. Certainly, as grandson of Kim Il Sung, he has had the best of an elite education North Korea has to offer its elite. For that matter, he may know Russian and Chinese.
We do hear from visitors who go to the North from South Korea and the US and China, that he is cutting his teeth on a rigorous programme of leadership, one mapped out for his father before him. Owing to Kim Jong il's precarious health, Kim Jung eun may be on a faster track, but we cannot say for sure. We can safely posit that he is learning the ropes.
Promoted to a four star general in September 2010, he has little or no military training we know of. In this area, his aunt and uncle will guide him and the military leadership as well as the Workers party cadre, are on board with Kim Jong il's choice.
Everyone and his mother and father in the Westhave written scripts of disaster if and when Kim Jong eun attains power. North Korea will implode, refugees will flood China and South Korea, so on and on. But those accounts of possible turns of events remain wishful thinking but no one can predict with the any degree of certainty or credibility that some people invest Nostradumus' tea leaves that what they are reading is true.
If anthing, it is an ackowledgment that they have not know the history of North Korea nor why Kim Il Sung rose to lead it. Looking at photos of Kim Jung eun, the eye cannot escape the uncanny resemblance of him and his grandfather. Physically, he will be a constant reminder of the sainted aura Kim Il Sung has in the North, and if anything this will bolster the younger Kim's image among North Koreans.
Let's turn to Egypt, as a reader asked. Hosni Mubarak is 83, in poor health, and the results of recent elections with ballot box stuffing and jailing of opponents will bring him another term. Will he live longer enough to serve a full term? Rumour in the streets and bazaars have it that Mubarak's son Gamal will assume the mantle of 'rais' [head of state or president]. Maybe yes. Maybe no. What is certain, the army which is the real power in Egypt will not allow the Muslim Brotherhood or any of its surrogates to attain power.
So if it's not Gamal Mubarak, it will be a general or a candidate of the military who will succeed Hosni Mubarak. Egyptian history does not confer the same cachet of authority on the Mubarak progeny as the Kims have in North Korea. So, although our reader may see a parallel in the matter of succession, it does not hold up well.

'All you need to know' about North Korea

America's NPR [National Public Radio] offers every Friday evening 'All you need to know', a weekly public affairs programme.
Jon Meecham, a Pulitzer prize author, is one of its anchors. On 3 December 2010, he talked with Charles Armstrong, director of the Centre for Korean Research at Columbia University.
Professor Armstrong is of mixed Korean ancestry. His books on Korea have been well received; he is a frequent guest at the New York Korea Society; and has travelled often visited South and North Koreas. Although not much publicised, the US government has sollicited his expert opinion on Korea.
Meechan alloted ten minutes to Armstong on the Wikileaks release of US cables on North Korea, the succession of power in the North, and China,among other matters. GuamDiary wonders if a sixth of an hour is d'all you need to know' about North Korea.
Armstrong is soft spoken, even thoughtful. He doesn't strike you as a man of such great learning and sophistication that he would easily abandon any pretense of critical thinking. Yet, answering Meecham's predictable line of questioning, he dutifully recites the act of faith of recent events in the two Koreans as written by the US and ROK.
On the question of the shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong he voiced dropped when he made mention of the presence of a large flotilla of South Korean and US warships along the NLL [Northern Limit Line], using live fire. Live fire which may very well have fallen in North Korean territory resulting in a return of fire by the North.
Armstrong linked the shelling to bolster the image of the wet behind the ears recently promoted to a four star general Kim Jung un, Kim Jong il's youngest son and chosen successor. He saw this attack by the North, the first in 47 years since the signing of the Armistice agreement, as something to do with the sinking of the 'Cheonan', but without any elaboration.
Armstrong didn't think the Wikileaks relase would do much harm, nor would China exercise much restraint on the North even though it has been quietly turning it into a client state as Beijing's economic engine expands.
Meechan fed Armstrong the usual pablum questions on North Korea. He has a pleasant personality and wears his cloth of the American south's curtesy and civility well to his cut as a journalist and editor. Recently, the 'All to you need to know' host filled in for Charlie Rose. On that programme, David Sanger and Sean Shane of the 'New York Times' and former diplomat James Rubin, an Iran expert, discussed the Wikileaks 'bomb'.
At that time, the jabber on North Korea kept within the 'circle of convergent' opinion which has the US government stamp of approval. Were that the discussion pushed to the limits of the issue, raising embarassing questions, well...that would be too good to be true.
What is true and crystal clear is that 'all you need to know about North Korea' is a pretense of critical and independent thinking. Hardly ever would those critical of US policy towards North Korea be panelists. For, independent thought, critical of US military and political authority, may be and is viewed as unpatriotic, if not treasonous.
Different standpoints may and often elicit questions. And finally the last thing, the US' and its North Korean clerisy's might be challenged and they would then have to defend their views, which in the mainstream go unchallenged.
And why should the clerisy show backbone and moral courage to hold different and differing and at times irritating views? Well what comes to mind by the way of explanation is from Upton Sinclair:'It is difficult to to get a man [or a woman] to understand something when his [purse] depends on his not understanding it'. And that is how it seems that we 'all need to know' about official and officious opinions about North Korea!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

North Korea: teeth to China's lips

In today's 'Financial Times of London' [2 December 2010] ran an op ed by its correspondent David Pilling: 'Beijing is not about to prise lips from teeth'. He says more or less what he wants to say without explaining why China has used the metaphor 'lips to teeth'.
During his visit to Pyongyang in the 1980's, Deng Xiao ping assured his host Kim Il Sung that China stands firmly behind North Korea. He quoted this Southern Sung saying as a cautionary tale as to why China was and is North Korea's ally.
It is interesting with all the China hands scurrying in and out of government service in the corridors of power in Washington, little interest has been paid to Deng's remarks. It is a reminder how curiously uninterested the chattering classes here are when it comes to history.
A quick history lesson is in order: As the Ming army threated the Southern Sung dynasty, it appealed to the Northern Sung to join forces, in order to rebuff and defeat the growing advances of the Ming. The Northern Sung refused to become the lips that would protect the Southern Sung's teeth. The moral of this tale is simple:
the Northern Sung's deaf response to the Southern Sung call led to the triumph of the Ming and the destruction of the two Sung kingdoms.
China has learnt it history well. It won't contenance a house divided. It takes to heart Lincoln's call that a house united will prevail against all weather. Substitute the US and its ally South Korea for the Ming, and China and North Korea for united Sung forces. And, thus, the message is loud and clear: China will stand tall with North Korea.
Furthermore Helene Cooper in the Sunday 'New York Times' [28 November 2010] has an interesting piece in the 'Week in Review' section. Policy makers in Obama's White House would profit from reading 'The trouble with asking China to act like the US'.
As GuamDiary has long stressed that China has no desire to act as Washington's water boy. And for obvious reasons: ask the question 'qui bono?' Certainly,China does. And it finds Washington's reasoning uninviting and unwelcome.
Chinese volunteer forces did not enter the Korean War for a jolly, good time to battle the Yankee imperial aggressors. They came in support of retreating North Korean because they did not and still do not want a hostile US and South Korean presence on its borders. And for that fact, neither would Russia which also share a common border with North Korea.
The combined North Korean and Chinese volunteers turned the tide against MacArthur, and 'rolled back' the US led UN forces to the 38 parallel where they remain today.
Sixty years later, nothing has changed in this standoff.
Pilling quotes John Delury of the Asia for his views. Delury simply states the obvious: China's consistent message that it will not abandon North Korea.
GuamDiary, here, wish to mention as a contrast of opionion the name of to Asia Society's resident Korea expert Scott Synder. Synder is the 'rapporteur' of a recent CFR [Council on Foreign Relations] study on US policy towards Korea. In brief, its recommendations -- unanimously agreed to by 24 of America's Korea specialists in and out of government -- call for a return to the Truman doctrine of 'rolling back' North Korea. In other words, it sins on the side of overthrowing Kim Jong il & co. by any means possible. This hoary solution, as GuamDiary noted, is not only bankrupt but it is a return to pre Korean conditions which threaten renewal of military conflict on the divided Korean peninsula.
Pelling also consulted the recently much sought opionion of Brian Myers who spent eight years trolling North Korean literature and propaganda. Myers teaches at a South Korean university. He has a jaundice view on the North, and to him, it is the reincarnation of Hirohito's Japanese militarism. Yet, he does not see China leaving North Korea twisting in the wind.
Lazy policy makers leave the field wide open to 'experts' who oddly enough are so ideologically honed that they mistake, as the French say, 'midi pour quatorze heures', in other words, complicate a matter where clearer choices seem clearer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The US chattering class froths at the mouth about North Korea

Listing to or reading in print or online the US chattering class on the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables on North Korea, a visitor from another planet would likely think that everyone one was reading from the same script. And they are!
Our ears are bombarded by the same squad of cheerleaders shouting in chorus who shout out or chant to encourage Team America in confronting the 'black hole of Asia'.
The slogans are old; they've hardly changed since the Korean War.
Like the arch villain Fu Manchu's moustache, North Korea looms longer and larger as a threat. Pyongyang's gruesome villanous conduct in shelling the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong borders of the edge of military depravity.
Let's get down to basics: Charlie Rose had retired admiral and former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair on his programme to discuss the fallout of the last Wikileaks releasing some 250.000 US diplomatic cables. On the matter of North Korea, when pressed what US intelligence does know, Blair beat a quick retreat to the bunker of 'sensitive information'. When Rose asked him what Blair did know about North Korea, the retired admiral came up with an oh we have a good general idea. What does that mean? Anyone who takes the time to read the mainstream press' reporting on North Korea could come up with the same answer.
Blair went further: he branded Kim Jong il as a leader of a criminal clan and the head of a mafia state. North Korea is the land of a bloated class of yes men whose greed and corruption know no end. Well, we're no longer in the land of rational thought: we've entered the land of the gut reaction of George W Bush--'I loathe the guy'. Emotions do not necessarily make for good policy. And Bush should know: his distorted view of North Korea gave the final push to North Korea's testing of a nuclear device, thereby catapulting it into the select atomic club of nations!
Listen to Brian Meyers, author of 'The Cleanest Race: how North Koreans see themselves'. After 8 years of parsing the North's literature, songs, and tracts, he comes to the conclusion that the Kim family is cut from the same stone as Japanese militarism and racial superiority.
Or listen to Victor Cha who has visited North Korea many times, whose assessment is somewhat more nuanced but hardly deviates from the Washington party line.
Now, there is much to deplore and dislike about North Korea, but the endless idle and empty chatter which Wikileaks on North Korea has provoked seems ahistorical and irrational and mad at times.
The truth of the matter is easy to understand: if you go against the grain, you're dropped from the circle of influence, fat study grants, entree to juicy government or university other words, you run the risk of financial loss and being exiled to a gulag of exclusion which may last until you see the error of your ways, the more especially as effects of your betrayal falls equally on the shoulders of your family and the future of your children.
There are other experts on North Korea but since they are outside the circle of the accepted orthoxy, they are hardly most on small out of the way radio programmes or in mildly left magazines.
Yet slipping through this seemly unporous orthodox opinion is an op ed in the 30 November issue of all places the 'Wall Street Journal'. Edward Luttwak, an American military strategist and historian, thanked former president Jimmy Carter for the role of peacemaker that he played in the past for staying America's nuclear hand from bombing North Korea. [GuamDiary encourages reading Creekmore's 'A moment of crisis: Jimmy Carter's mission to Pyongyang" for the full story.]
In late summer 2010, Carter again went to North Korea on a rescue mission. This time, he escorted back an American sentenced to seven years hard labour and a whopping fine, for having illegally entered North Korea, encouraged by his Evangelical Christian belief to bring Christ to that country.
At that time, Carter met with very high North Korean policy makers who assured him that North Korea was willing to give up its nuclear programme if the US would talk to it. This message fell on deaf ears in the Obama White House.
Alas, Jimmy Carter is a pariah in the US establishment. He is no dupe when it comes to Kim Jong il & co., but he is willing to give diplomacy a chance which runs counter to today's US policy towards North Korea.
Sadly, when it is all said and done, the US chattering class exhibits a high degree of know nothingness on North Korea and is proud of its ignorance.