Strains and cracks in the splendour and awe of the American imperium are more and more noticeable. Events in the Arab world, two thankless and bruising wars in Iraq and Afghantism with no end in sight, and the hard nut to crack of dealing with North Korea have pushed the Obama administration to begin a reassessment of US foreign policy.
And this is no more evident in the sudden visits of Hillary Clinton, Donald Gregg, and Jimmy Carter to the Korean peninsula. [Carter soon will be on a mission of mercy to bring back Su Jung Young, a Korean American with business interests in Pyongyang, who has been under arrest for 'witnessing for Christ', since November 2010. Su is the third American in the past two years burning with evangelical zeal who is detained by North Korean authorities.
[Evangelicals in South Korea and the US make no bones about restoring the aureole of Pyongyang as the 'second Jerusalem', which, in Christian circles, it once was.]
As a reminder, let's remember that when Jimmy Carter was last in North Korea, he brought back Aijalon Gomes, another enthusiast for Christ, back to his family in Boston, the former president also hand delivered a letter from Kim Jong il addressed to Barack Obama. It never had a reply, as far as we can tell....until now?
Meanwhile tensions have continued to mount between North and South Korea,owing to the in your face forward policy of the ROK's Lee Myung bak, strongly supported by the US. A game of chicken along the NLL [North Limit Line]within a sneeze of the North's territorial waters played out with live ammunition. In spite of Kim Jong il & co. stern warnings that should a shell fall into the DPRK's waters, Pyongyong would riposte. And towards the end of November 2010, it did, resulting in hitting Yeonpyeong island that housed military installations, and brought the two Koreas into a warlike situation.
Humiliated and 'insulted'Seoul and Washington kept fuelling tensions with joint military exercises in the same area, and with live ammuniation, but a strong break on where to shell. Nonetheless the draconian policy towards the North never let up.
Now, let's consider the timing of the arrest of Su: November 2010 the very same month that almost brought renewed warfare to the divided Korean peninsula. Is Su a hostage to force Obama to stay Lee Myung bak's hand in pursuing his foolhearty adverturism to 'roll back' North Korea's regime, something which has found a firm voice of support among America's North Korea clerisy [see GuamDiary entries on the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations report and Scott Synder in 2010].
Faced with serious disruption of its interests in west and central Asia, Obama & co. may have had second thoughts of cooling down confrontation with North Korea and get a handle on denuclearising the Korean peninsula. And GuamDairy speculates that it dusted off Kim Jong il's letter, to assess the possibility of jump staring the six power talks in Beijing, which it did everything previously to drag out and delay in doing anything, in a vain attempt to exhaust the patience of the North Korean leadership. A no win strategy if ever there was one!
In order to approach Kim, Washington had to 'mollify' 'Bulldozer' Lee who had a bull seeing the red flag when it comes to dealing with his Northern brothers. And here China comes into the picture. Beijing is embarking on a 'charm offensive' to soothe the prickly feathers of Lee by proposing a three step plan to create conditions so that Seoul would recognise Pyongyang as an equal partner in reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula.
And then hardly reported in the US media, former US ambassador to the ROK Donald Gregg shows up in Seoul. A man with a mission: he came to persuade Lee to send food to the North, in order to feed a population badly hit by natural disasters which have ruined at least 80 percent of crops. Gregg is well regarded in South Korea. Now in his 80's, he, we believe, carried a strong message to Lee of US intentions to modify policy towards the North. The former ambassador during his presidency at the New York Korea Society cultivated an opening to the North, which during the George Bush regime earned him much grief.
And here Jimmy Carter reappears on the scene. Dismissed by the hard liners and cynics as 'Kim Jong il's marionette', his track record belies any such slurs and perverse gossip. Were it not for him in going to North Korea in 1994 Kim Il Sung might not have opened talks with the Clinton administration to 'warehouse' its nuclear programme. In more tense times, especially with George W Bush in the White House, the North Koreans see not only a man of peace but a channel to express their willingness to negotiate. Bush & co. saw little purchase in that; their shortsightedness resulted in Pyongyang's testing a nuclear device which made North Korea country number 8 in the world's nuclear club!
As the Obama administration in a 'tour d'horizon' is weighing its options, it hoped that commonsense is prevailing in dealing with North Korea. And if as we write comes to pass, Washington and Seoul may soon embark on a 'peristroika' with North Korea, something which countries in northeast Asia will surely welcome. For now, signs point to a thaw, but we had other signs in the past that didn't pan out. However, oil and the Arab world 'en vaut une messe', as Henri IV said when he became king of France. And in redirecting and redefining policy towards North Korea is certainly worth the venture!
And Jimmy Carter comes