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?

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