Lord love a duck: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has never relaxed a muscle when it comes to confronting North Korea at a time when, once again, Pyongyang has called for reconvening six party talks in Beijing, in abeyance for the last few years, without preconditions.
A breakthrough of sorts has occurred during side discussions between North and South Korea at the ASEAN meeting in Bali, Indonesia.
ROK’s Lee Myung bak’s hard nosed policy can hardly go any further short of restarting a shooting war on the Korean peninsula. Its sanctions against the North has not brought it any closer to humbling Lee’s ‘nemesis’, Kim Jong il.
The North for its part will argue for resumption of food aid by its willingness to better discuss its nuclear and rocket programmes.
Pyongyang is willing to make ‘concessions’ but the South also has to bite the bullet, in order to restore a status quo ante of civility.
Will the US play the role of spoiler? It looks as though it might. Clinton pointing her stern school mistress finger at the DPRK has once more recited her rosary of sorrows in telling North Korea what it has to do.
You would think that after more than 65 years of elaborating policy against and towards the DPRK, she and her entourage at the department of state would have learnt some simple ground rules. And then again, she might have.
The walls of resistance thrown up by South Korea, Japan, and the US are showing signs of cracking. These three countries formed an anti North front by proposing terms which North Korea and China and Russia would find unacceptable to return to talks in Beijing.
Now that the ROK and DPRK have reached an understanding, Clinton has invited a top ranking official from the North to the US for ‘talks’. Clinton’s response is in line with Lee Myung bak’s approach. Since US policy towards North Korea is coordinated with the South’s, Washington had to go along.
Km Kye Gwan, North Korea’s first vice minister and former chief nuclear envoy, is no unknown quantity to US senior officials. He is scheduled to meet with senior US officials in New York.
The US has grown weary with dealing with North Korea, owing to its lack of patience in long drawn out talks that Pyongyang is skillful in pursuing. Although Clinton says the US will offer nor concede anything, her explanation is a smokescreen for what the Obama administration is willing to offer to restart talks in Beijing.
The US has come to a decision to offer food aid but at what price? If it expects an apology for the ‘Cheonan’ or the shelling of Pyeongyong, it might be disappointed. As it is, its approach yoked to Seoul’s and Tokyo’s has proved less than successful. North Korea feels it is time to ‘open’ talks, which is too tempting for the South and the US and Japan to ignore.
If there is a meeting of the minds, events towards the nuclear problem, food aid, and other issues might take off at a quicker pace than we would have thought possible a few months ago.