Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Korea and Diplomacy

Check out this Washington Post article about North Korea. A few quotes and comments follow.

Article's opening paragraph:


Bush administration officials are considering granting North Korea formal guarantees it will not come under U.S. attack as part of a verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in what would be part of a diplomatic gambit by the Bush administration aimed at resolving a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.


My feeling: don't do it. Indeed, further down, an unnamed official gets it right:


A White House official, however, disputed any notion the administration had shifted in its public refusal to negotiate with North Korea. "As we have said many times, we will not submit to blackmail or grant inducements for the North to live up to its obligations," he said.


Problem is, a "formal guarantee" sounds like an inducement to me. Bad news. More kissing the ass of North Korea. Double plus ungood.

Then there's this:


Other nations in the region, especially China, have urged the administration to formally assure North Korea it will not be attacked. North Korea's state-run KCNA news agency yesterday called on Washington to "legally commit itself to nonaggression."


What does that phrase, "legally commit itself to nonaggression," mean? Is this some kind of one-sided not-quite-peace treaty? Sort of like dumpy little Kim Jong Il saying, "OK, Uncle Sam, I want you to put down that M-60, take up this chainsaw, hack off one of your own legs, put the chainsaw back down, and stay at least twenty yards away from the M-60 while I edge just a liiiiiittle bit closer to it. Then we can talk. OK?"

It smells funny. If it walks like my asshole, and talks like my asshole, and stinks like my asshole... it's probably my asshole.

Don't do it, George. Or I'll be forced to vote for the first time ever. And my write-in candidate will be "Empress Dog Vagina VI."

But wait-- there's more. Moving back up a ways, we read:


The diplomatic activity -- including a willingness to bend on the administration's previous insistence that its next meeting with North Korea must include South Korea and Japan -- suggests the administration is actively looking for ways to defuse the crisis.


There are actually prominent South Korean thinkers who disagree with this, but I think it's a very, very bad idea to disclude South Korea from these discussions. I live in Seoul, and I can't tell you how frustrated and powerless many South Koreans feel about this game being played right on their doorstep-- a game that by all rights should involve THEM as well.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that North Korea doesn't recognize the South's government as anything but an American puppet. This is what drives the NK insistence on speaking to America directly. While the North and South do, in fact, engage in very limited exchanges (e.g., a railroad project, periodic sanctioned "visits" for older Korean relatives separated by the DMZ, etc.), nothing truly significant happens. The most significant dialogues are NK-US and SK-US, not SK-NK.

The greatest concession we repeatedly make to the North is colluding in the North's non-recognition of South Korea's legitimacy. This is galling to South Koreans, especially the younger generation, because, along with this insult, they have to tolerate the presence of our troops. The US 8th Army base is at Yongsan, right smack in the middle of Seoul, just south of the Han River. Americans with buzzcuts are all over the city, Korean girlfriends on their arms. While I'm not against interracial dating by any means, I'm trying to point out the various ways, big and little, we Americans contribute to our own reputation.

Imagine, say, a French army base smack in the middle of DC or NYC. Imagine French soldiers-- not just any French, but occupying soldiers-- walking off with our ladies. Pissed yet? Good. That's how South Koreans feel. I don't really blame them, even if I believe some of their anger is misplaced.

[NB: I can imagine being nitpicked for using a preposterous analogy: the idea that the French could occupy anything stronger than a starving African country. Bear with me.]

Because we've allowed this problem to go on so long, however, North Korea has gotten used to the idea that they'll never see South Korea across the table at a truly crucial political moment. Many South Koreans actually feel that South Korea needs to reorient its own thinking before it can appear at the table. I disagree. I think the time is now for SK to be where it's hot. The issues being discussed are directly pertinent to SK's security and collective future. It's ridiculous they're not directly involved in discussions about their own welfare.

Say it loud and proud: The South should be present at every major negotiation. Such a stance sends a message to both North and South Korea that the South is a legitimate force to be reckoned with, and it redresses the galling geopolitical injustice we've abetted and perpetuated thus far.

In other news... I may try and eat dog this coming Saturday. Expect news on the blog. I've been told that, if I really want to go through with this, I need to pick a truly professional dog place. In any dog bistro of less than high quality, the stew is inevitably stinky. That's what I hear, anyway.

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