Thursday, July 28, 2011

Will the US 'roll back' its hard nosed policy towards North Korea?

Smiling faces on a 15 second shot on American television of North Korea's top nuclear negotiator and vice president Kim Kye gwan as he deplaned at JFK aeroport on Sunday 25 July for preliminary talks with the US on breathing life into the on hold six party talks in Beijing. The US media have hardly given much space to the two day talks beginning today in New York.
After three years of pursuing a hard nosed, give no quarter stance on the matter of North Korea, oxen yoked to South Korea's Lee Myung bak's take no prisoner policy towards the DPRK, it is a legitimate question to ask 'is the US 'rolling back' on its own intransigeant policy on North Korea?'
A meeting of the minds of the two Koreas on the margins of the Asia Pacific countries in Indonesia during which the North and South agreed to talks, has forced the US to come around to discussions with Pyongyang? It certainly seems so.
Sanctions, withholding of food and fertilisers, joint military exercises with live ammunition along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] within spitting distance of North Korea's territorial water brought the two Koreas to an exchange of gunfire when the ROK shells fell into DPRK territory in November 2010, have not brought North Korea to its knees, let alone cry 'Uncle!', implode, or simply disappear as the US and South Korea longed hoped.
Short of war there is only out for the US and South Korea: renewed talks.
Secretary of state Hillary Clinton invited North Korea to New York for 'discussions' on its nuclear and rocket programmes, among other subjects. And yet her invitation lacked the smoothness of practised diplomacy; she sternly warned the DPRK the US wouldn't put up with its wiles, and called on it to 'behave itself' in the manner the US wanted. Clinton looks as though she is more concerned with 'moral nicety' than tackling more than 60 years of issues concerning the US and North Korea.
Who would have thought that with long dealings with the DPRK, the American diplomacy, policy, and its North Korean clerisy could still not manage to negotiate 'realistically' and 'without neglecting geophysical realities' and 'with attention to history'?
GuamDiary hopes that some light of a new dawn is shining on the talks.
Today's 'Financial Times of London' [29 July 2011] devotes a 300 word article on the joint talks. Written by two 'FT' reporters on Korea--Anna Fifield in New York and Christian Oliver in Seoul--it makes for interesting reading. The two rely on commentary from the US and South Korean perspective. Did not anyone try to elicit a comment from the DPRK Mission to the UN or Kim himself? Let's move on.
The 'FT' quotes US North Korean clerisy who in March 2010, agreed to a man, in a report issued under the aegis of the CRF {Council on Foreign Relations] on Korea, called for 'rolling back North Korea'. The reader's ear will hear the words of the bilious former senior diplomat, ex president of the New York Korea Society, and now a member of Madeleine Albright's think tank, Evans Revere, who spins like a weather vane on the US government's convoluted policy on North Korea. In fact, he was a cheer leader for the CFR's report calling for 'rolling back' the DPRK in the same Cold War terms reminiscent of Korean War.
Revere is looking for 'sincerity'. Why do American diplomats look for 'sincerity' and South Koreans for 'repentence' in negotiations among supposed equals? Such attitudes simply confuse and complicate and, above all, transgress the sound advice by that superb survivor Talleyrand 'surtout pas trop de zele'. And diplomats like Revere & co. are nothing but zealous and highly motivated by morality! We also hear the cautious observation of Asia Society's Scott Synder, the man who wrote the CFR report, advancing the obvious that the talks are part of an unacknowledged process. And then the 'kicker' that Clinton is willing to give North Korea another chance, based on an analysis by Victor Cha of the CSIS, as well as backer of the CFR report, that talking with Pyongyang will stay its hand on any provocative actions.
But will it stop hostile moves by Seoul and Washington? After all provocative moves during the last few years have come from the in your face yoked US and South Korean policy towards the North. Let's face it: this coordinated policy has meet the enemy and in the words of the immortal Pogo, 'it is us!'
Saying this, North Korea has its own reasons that are plain as the nose on one's face in feeding its citizens, owing to the whims of mother nature who has been unnaturally cruel to its crops, lack of fertiliser embargoed by the South and US inspired sanctions, and the like. What makes the DPRK a critical player is its 'putative' nuclear arsenal and advanced rocketry programme. The Bush administrative utter stupidity, and opportunistic dealing with North Korea [an axis of evil nation, remember] shoved the DPRK into nuclear club, for the US offered Pyongyang no other option but ratcheting up the ante, and in doing so, turned a North Korea open to discussions into a feared dragon. In other words, Bush's ignorance and castle in Spain policy concerning North Korea lacked clarity but contained enough misdeeds of others with misplaced clarity that doomed it to failure. And the Obama administration hasn't done much better.
North Korea is no one's patsy. It has shown that it can deal with America's petty malice and stupidity, but in a way that may go so far as saving America's face. Kim Kye gwan knows the US team is going to deal with. To him, they are no strangers, and he is prepared to listen to the endless catalogue of DPRK's wrongs. He probably will counter with America's yet he is a more subtle negotiator who knows what wants, as he does know the holes in the US' position. He is here to get results but are the US team?
They better let their barriers fall for the US is in a terrible bind at home and with two failed wars in Asia and a frozen one in Korea.
You would think the US would want to lighten its load of a 61 year old war on its books? In any case, let's hope that both sides are on their good behaviour, without the US proceeding to 'enlighten' the DPRK on the ignorance of its ways. Too much is in the balance this time for letting an opportunity to slip!

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