Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Will the six party talks meet again?

It ain't going to be easy to drag South Korea - and Japan - back to six party talks in Japan. Already in the op ed columns of the 'Wall Street Journal' [WSJ] John Bolton, the grand pooh bah of not giving in to North Korea's nuclear blackmail, has trashed president Obama's intentions of breathing air into the stalled talks in Japan. In South, the US president's Stephen Bosworth whose dossier handles North Korea, in a photo op, cannot manage to crack a smile. South Korea's president Lee Myung bak has rejected the North's call for 'early and unconditional talks' as an 'insincere offer'.
Washington's ally's has dug his heels in the ground and won't budge from a 'no win' standpoint. Little wonder, Botsworth has a sour look on his face. Lee is giving Obama more wool than he is willing to thread on North Korea.
Instead of bearing down on Lee, Obama's envoy is looking to China to pull the US' chestnuts out of the potential 'nuclear' fire the next time. GuamDiary has to wonder aloud about the US' two left feet in foreign affairs. China had already called for emergency discussions on the growing crisis which might lead to war in Korea, but, Washington dismissed Beijing's efforts to calm turbulent waters in the China Sea.
Now the US has had a change of heart. It now wants China to 'reason' with North Korea. Recent events - including the eyewitness account of Bill Richardson -- show that it is South Korea that is the danger not the North. Yet, the Obama diplomacy remains wedded to an outdated and failed view of what's going on in South Korea. 'Bulldozer' Lee is seeking revenge for the humiliation and the failure of his own policy towards North Korea.
Added to the wimpiness of US diplomacy in east Asia, as GuamDiary has already noted, the formation of a Washington-Seoul-Tokyo axis which plans more military drills in the Yellow Sea. This is yet another sign that the US is trying to buy time to continue its lunatic policy, supported by South Korea and now Japan, to bring North Korea to the brink of collapse as the North is going through a transition of power.
Now the US has the choice of 'sitting on' 'Bulldozer Lee' and bring him kicking and screaming to Beijing for talks or letting the situation deteriorate to the point that Lee will end up provoking renewed war on the Korean peninsula.
Obama has a precedent in putting Lee's rejectionist policy in a straitjacket: president GWH Bush twisted painfully the arm of Itzhak Shamir so that he came to the Madrid Conference with the PLO and Arab states. Photos of that time of the early 1990s will show a grim, unhappy Shamir, but there he sat and there his US handler made him eat humble pie. Obama could do the same. Does he have enough lead in his spine to force Lee to the talks?
Lee, on the other hand, may be counting on a revivified Republic party to give more tractions to his dangerous military and political moves. Can he count on the party that has given America two botched wars?
In sum, Bosworth has his work cut out for him, and the US tack towards North Korea has the man's two hands tied behind his back. Is there any reason to look for a glimmer of optimism in the impending storm? Perhaps.

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