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!

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