Monday, April 25, 2005

Bush and North Korea

I'll be interested to see where this goes. Some snippets:

The Bush administration, facing a series of recent provocations from North Korea, is debating a plan to seek a United Nations resolution empowering all nations to intercept shipments in or out of the country that may contain nuclear materials or components, say senior administration officials and diplomats who have been briefed on the proposal.

The resolution envisioned by a growing number of senior administration officials would amount to a quarantine of North Korea, though, so far at least, President Bush's aides are not using that word. It would enable the United States and other nations to intercept shipments in international waters off the Korean Peninsula and to force down aircraft for inspection.

But, said several American and Asian officials, the main purpose would be to give China political cover to police its border with North Korea, the country's lifeline for food and oil. That border is now largely open for shipments of arms, drugs and counterfeit currencies, North Korea's main source of hard currency.

Curiouser and curiouser. The idea of sidling up to China, nudging it with an elbow, and whispering, "Pssst-- want to get in on some anti-NK action?" strikes me as some strange diplomacy. I wonder where, exactly, it would leave South Koreans, who currently maintain a mishmash of inconsistent geopolitical views, including these two:

1. We love China and hate America (obviously this is more rhetoric than truth, but it's possible to reach a saturation point where rhetorical memes come to influence/dominate policy).

2. We love North Korea as our brothers (again, the truth is more complex than this, but this is definitely a current slogan).

If the beloved China and hated America team up to stir the shit against the beloved North, will Koreans' view of China darken? Truth be told, I find that unlikely right now. And again: the rhetoric masks the complexity of the reality. Even anti-American Koreans who pay public lip service to the notion of brotherhood with North Korea will, in private moments, acknowledge that the brotherhood issue is problematic. As with West Germans who didn't look forward to the economic hardship of reunification, many South Koreans actually dread the prospect of reunification.

Back to Bush for a moment: is the man finally trying to shake NK's tree? As Kevin of Incestuous Amplification pointed out so long ago, Bush's actual policy toward NK hasn't had much of a bite to it. This flaccidity had many pundits puzzling, pre-Iraq War, over why he was more concerned with the Middle East than with NK, a country that may in fact present a far greater danger to the US. Is Bush using his second term to redress that perceived error? Is the timing on this appropriate?

If you have insights, please write in.


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