Brace Yourself for Another Clarifying Moment

In Seoul, the latest North Korean nuke scare is quaintly described as a cat among the pigeons, or more gravely, is said to “endanger[] us all.” For some of us, who’ve long considered North Korean nukes to be a grave problem that would continue to defy conventional solutions, the emotions are more mixed. Nobody would enjoy the prospect of a fallout cloud drifing over Seoul, Tokyo, or Beijing, but our last clarifying moment didn’t clarify things for long, it seems. We still haven’t even re-imposed the sanctions we lifted in the 1990’s to thank Kim Jong Il for that missile test moratorium.With this new nuke scare, Kim is helpfully advancing the clarification process. Even the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, who has sometimes strained his credibility to downplay the threat, and who generally quotes a balanced sampling of doves to inject vicarious commentary into his news pieces, is on the verge of some kind of epiphany: maybe Kim Jong Il isn’t really interested in disarming:

Instead, Pyongyang’s gambit could embolden hawks in the administration who advocate confronting North Korea with a stepped-up campaign of isolation and sanctions, perhaps even a naval blockade. Some officials have privately argued that a nuclear test by North Korea would be a clarifying event that would make the problem apparent to the rest of the world.

This is the second time in recent months that Pyongyang has abruptly dismissed peace feelers from the United States.

The last of these was the ill-fated “grand bargain,” which could have led to recognition of Kim Jong Il’s regime. Kim Jong Il, notwithstanding the sagacious counsel of the New York Times, did a Harry Whittington to those who floated that one. Since then, he’s also done one on State Department negotiators who were trying to give him back his Banco Delta money (which must be is the stupidest thing I’ve heard all year). Says Kessler:

Before North Korea’s announcement yesterday, U.S. and South Korean officials had said they were looking at ways to wrap up the Treasury’s investigation of the Macao bank as a way to remove that impediment to the negotiations. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill noted last month that the Treasury action concerned only 40 accounts holding about $24 million.

But, now, Pyongyang has dramatically raised the stakes. U.S. officials immediately moved to put North Korea on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council, saying that, for the moment, the time for positive gestures has passed.

Kim Jong Il is certainly worse to his friends and kinder to his enemies than any other living being I can think of. So will he actually do it? I avoid trying to predict North Korea’s behavior, but Lee Jong-Seok is laying down mattresses in the drop zone of his dreams: he thinks a test is “highly likely.” Not unusually, another Korean cabinet minister is taking the exact opposite position:

“Considering that no actual signs of a nuclear test are being detected, the government plans to work to prevent the current situation from getting worse,” he told the parliamentary committee also attended by Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung.

Note that Yoon is later asked how he will stop the United States from launching a preemptive strike on the test site, which is about as likely as Nancy Pelosi doing a preemptive strike on Mark Foley’s text messaging. Speaking on behalf of hawks everywhere, I graciously invite this test and wish the Dear Supremo great success. Our national security may depend on it.

18 Comments

  1. Spot on. This test treat is a godsend for hawks and Republicans from the most unholy of places. There are a couple of North Korean holiays/commemorations next week Oct 8 and 10 to watch out for.




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  2. The Bush Admin. and KJI are involved in a vicious cycle of Catch-22. The more the Bush Admin. pursues financial sanctions that can choke the NK government, the more NK pursues its nuclear program, including nuke tests.

    Bolton recently said that the world should pursue “preventive diplomacy”. In that case, the best “preventive diplomacy” is for the US to lift financial sanctions, even if temporarily, in order to get the 6-Party Talks back on track to fulfill the Joint Agreement reached last year.

    I’m glad that some US officials recognize that the financial sanctions are an “impediment to the negotiations”.

    NK’s announcement of a nuke test is a “clarifying moment”. It clarifies that the Bush Admin.’s policy towards NK is increasing the danger in the Korean peninsula and in East Asia.




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  3. I find it hard to believe that all you see is the U.S. imposed sanctions and not the NK behavior that brought them into existance.




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  4. Geeeez!

    It just doesn’t get any better than this.

    Hey, Kim Jong-il!!

    Ten bucks says ya ain’t got the balls to do it!!




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  5. Red Forman said (re Mi-Hwa), ‘ … I find it hard to believe … ‘.

    No, Red, I don’t find it hard to believe … no, not at all.




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  6. Mi-Hwa, you’ve swallowed KCNA-style “gangster logic” hook, line and sinker. It’s odd, because in some of your posts you seem to recognize the inherent evil of the Kim regime. Then you turn around and do his bidding.




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  7. A leading expert on NK is also saying that financial sanctions are making things worse. Read Stephan Haggard’s commentary titled “Sanctions Won’t Stop North Korea’s Nukes”.

    He writes:

    But the country’s threat to test a nuclear weapon could leave the U.S. worse off than ever: with a nuclear North Korea perfectly willing to pay the price of hunger and even famine.

    While sanctions have hit the regime hard, they have also had the perverse effect of strengthening those most opposed to a negotiated settlement. Sanctions will not achieve regime change. Kim Jong Il has demonstrated his ability to weather famine. In fact, sanctions will likely lead directly to the test, which will then scuttle the Six Party Talks for the remainder of the Bush administration, and lead directly to a new humanitarian crisis.

    It is probably too late for the U.S. to make a face-saving gesture. But we must learn two lessons from the North Korean case. First, sanctions do not necessarily work against authoritarian regimes willing to allow massive human suffering. And second, ambiguous signals about the willingness to negotiate are unlikely to produce the type of settlement America needs.




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  8. Mi-hwa said;

    In that case, the best “preventive diplomacy” is for the US to lift financial sanctions, even if temporarily, in order to get the 6-Party Talks back on track… (emphasis added)

    That makes no sense whatsoever. If North Korea says ‘sanctions mean war’ now, what would be the reaction if a Six-Party Talks deal was made, and the U.S. took the ‘temporary’ out of the lift on sanctions? Damn, but it’s hard to apologize for the DPRK w/o a terminal case of cognitive dissonance, huh?




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  9. The “lift the sanctions” camp here overlooks the fact that the dirty money (from drugs, counterfeiting, etc) being stopped is exactly the cash the Kim regime uses to keep the elite sweet with Mercedes Benzes and Rlex watches and shopping trips to China. It has nothing to do with North Korean mass suffering, which increased even during the biggest aid operation in UN history. Kim’s newest wave of belligerence may well reflect that. The Kims are complete crooks, nothing more and now is a chance, missed in 1994, to take them out.




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  10. Slim nails it again. There are two North Korean economies — the one for the haves, which spent the 90’s buying MiGs, building missiles, and b***ing dancing girls in the back of new European sedans — and one for the have-nots — who spent the same period wondering which kid they’d bury first. Haggard co-authored “Hunger and Human Rights,” so he ought to know better. If you strangle the regime, the main difference the have-nots would feel would be that fewer people were hanging around stealing their corn.




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  11. The six party talks mean nothing. Some people you just can\’t reach. KJI; cut off his funds, starve him out. No more talking. Blow the nuke already KJI!
    I can\’t wait to read the reports of his people tearing him apart when they learn what they have missed over the past 56 years! Whu-ah, I feel better.




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  12. Mi-Hwa quotes Stephen Haggard, ‘ …It is probably too late for the U.S. to make a face-saving gesture. …’

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Please, somebody tell me that this is a spoof, or at least, some sort of of set-up line of a joke for which we are awaiting the punch line.




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  13. Echoing Slim and Joshua, I’d say that the people have been fending for themselves for a several years now are ‘hardened,’ while the elite are still soft, relatively. Hurting the regime will hurt the elite.




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  14. And hurting the elite will hurt the regime as well.

    The regime depends on perhaps less than 1/3 of the population that is the most favored.

    When life becomes totally miserable for them as it is for the rest of the population, Kim’s regime will fall one way or another.




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  15. “I can’t wait to read the reports of his people tearing him apart when they learn what they have missed over the past 56 years! Whu-ah, I feel better.”

    Hahaha

    No they won’t, silly. Did Koreans blame the Yangban for giving Korea to the Japanese? No. They’ll find some way of blaming the US/Japan/the Zerg fleet for what KJI did. Just watch. I mean, they even blame the US for the Gwangju massacre, and at the same time hate the RoK-USFK joint command.




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  16. And anyway, they won’t bame Fat Kim if he is running all of Korea when the USFK leave in 2009. Everyone you know in Korea will turning each other in to the security forces who will send them to Yodokjust to get some brownie points to live a few miles nearer to Pyongyang and be entitled to a few extra grams of rice a day and an old beat up Japanese telly.

    #My oh my what a wonderful day




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