Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lee Myung bak goes to Beijing

South Korea's hang dog president Lee Myung bak is packing his bags for a trip to Beijing. Weeks ago, he announced it at the time of Kim Jong il's death. There is no mystery as to Lee's motives: he like his partner in squeezing North Korea to the point of surrender to their aims or to the edge of collapse US president Barack Obama, is to persuade China to pressure Kim Jung eun indirectly to heed the joint US ROK demands.
In fact, after North Korea's rebuff of Lee, he sort of made nice although the thrust of his reply could hardly be interpreted as 'friendly'. Somehow, the 'revanchist' South Korean lame duck president is under the impression his promises of lessening tensions with the North came wash away four years of a pointed policy of trying to overthrow it through denial of food aid, fertilisers, sanctions, so on.
As Lee prepares his trip to China, Beijing has thrown it full support behind Kim Jung eun, and has invited him for a state visit, one hears. What, then, GuamDiary wonders will Lee have to offer the Chinese?
Already in South Korea the winds of 'glasnost' have stirred a growing sector of South Koreans calling for a return of sorts to the 'Sunshine Policy' that Lee scuppered the moment he took office in 2008 in favour of confrontation with the DPRK. The record of his tack has proven disastrously dangerous, and almost sparked a renewal of the frozen Korean War in November 2010.
So the question remains: what does Lee want? Does he wish Beijing to act as an intermediary in negotiations with the North to talks with Seoul? Is his visit a smokescreen for a meeting with Kim Jung eun's representatives, even though the DPRK has publicly declared that it has no intention of dealing with him. In brief, what gift of concessions, if any, is the ROK president offering? And then there the possibility, he is playing for time so that he can defer on past pledges of food aid to the North and easing tensions?
One way or the other, China has to look with a jaundice eye at Lee's intentions. By building a naval base on Jeju island to accommodate US war [atomic?] ships is an open threat to China's territorial waters in the Yellow Sea, as well as Beijing's claims to undersea oil & gas and mineral deposits. Of course, Lee's trip may be a self promotion tour: you see, I tried, but no one is willing to give me a chance type of excuse when he returns empty handed to South Korea.
Still, Lee has to quiet his own citizens lack of support for returning his party to power in the 2012 presidential elections, in spite of the growing odds they wont. Already, public grumbling over his policy towards North Korea and his 'unKorean' response to allowing people to offer condolence to Kim Jong il has branded him, sotto voce, a 'traitor' to the goal and cherished hope of reunification.

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