Yesterday’s report that a hostage rescue operation was underway in Afghanistan turned out to be premature, but spin operations in Seoul are sharply accelerating. In a South Korean election year, it couldn’t be more predicatable that its unpopular and desperate leftist government, far-left “civic” groups, and certain media are looking for a way to make the Taliban’s kidnapping and murder of 23 Korean hostages America’s fault. It remains to be seen whether the greater South Korean public will buy this.
The United States and Korea have both publicly ruled out a military solution, and the United States has said it won’t make “concessions” to terrorists. The Korean government has shifted its focus to a fairly blatant effort to persaude the United States to pressure the Afghan government to release Taliban terrorists from prison, or pay ransom. A sampler:
Five representatives of the ruling Uri Party and the main opposition Grand National Party (GNP) have decided to visit the U.S. to urge cooperation from Washington. Kim Chung-hwan of the GNP said, “We will leave the country as early as August 2, in accordance with the schedule of U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. We plan to also visit either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. [The Hankyoreh]
We will sincerely plead with the United States to take more substantial and meaningful measures to resolve this crisis,” Rep. Cheon Young-se of the liberal Democratic Labor Party said before the delegation set off. [AP, Amir Shah]
At a meeting of the Uri Party on Wednesday, Rep. Park Chan-suk said, “The root cause of the hostage crisis lies in our dispatch of troops to Afghanistan. While the Koreans are suffering, the U.S. stands firm on the principles. It’s irresponsible and it’s a betrayal of one of its allies.” Uri Chairman Chung Se-kyun said, “The U.S. should not remain a mere bystander.”
Presidential contenders in the ruling camp also seemed to hold the U.S. responsible. Ex-Uri chairman Chung Dong-young said he wanted to ask the U.S. government “what decision and choice it would have made if the hostages had been Americans, not Koreans.” His rival Chun Jung-bae said, “The U.S. should come forward as a concerned party given that the war on terror began in the U.S.” Rep. Kim Hyuk-kyu warned, “It’s hard to predict what changes the Korean people will experience in their sentiment if the U.S. sticks only to principles and contributes to further damage.”
Civic groups have also applied pressure on the U.S. by threatening a candlelight rally. Since Tuesday, a group calling itself Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea has held a one-man relay vigil near the U.S. Embassy, calling the Bush administration the “main party” responsible for the abduction of 23 Koreans by the Taliban. On Wednesday, the group in a press conference threatened a “massive” candlelight rally unless the U.S. starts negotiations with the Taliban immediately. [Chosun Ilbo]
“A South Korean diplomatic delegation is to meet the Taliban for face-to-face talks to look for ways and solutions to free the South Korean nationals,” Mirajuddin Pattan, the governor of Ghazni, told AFP. “This request from the Koreans has been accepted by the Taliban and now we are working on how, where and when this meeting could take place.”
South Korea refused to confirm or deny the report on the planned meeting.
“Please understand that we cannot comment concretely on ways and level of contact with the Taliban,” a South Korean official said, asking to remain anonymous.
However, the official said the South Korean government is pushing to hold “various contacts” with the kidnappers to secure the release of the hostages. [Yonhap]
The irony is dumfounding. This Korean government rode to power demanding greater “independence” from America; yet it now eschews any independent action when it’s most needed and dials the World Policeman Hotline instead. It does this without regard to the fact that what it demands could get Americans and Afghans killed, and without any consideration for the security interests of another sovereign and democratic government in Afghanistan. Never mind the fact that the Taliban helped Al Qaeda kill 3,000 American noncombatants on our own soil. Roh wants us to create a special exception to our long-standing policy of not creating an additional incentive for terror, but there’s no way that such an exception could fail to become a precedent (meaning Roh should be blaming the Italians, not us). And why? As a goodwill gesture to a government that has spent the last five years demagoguing anti-Americanism at every opportunity, including this one. Perhaps capitalizing on the good will Roh has earned is the wrong approach.
By threatening the United States with an “unpredictable” anti-American reaction in Korea — a reaction that it seems to be doing its very best to inflame — the South Korean government goes beyond playing into the hands of the terrorists. It has essentially added one more extortionate ransom demand to the Taliban’s. To paraphrase Colin Powell, this is not how allies deal with each other.
Much, much more here.
* The International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees’ Human Rights will meet from August 28th to August 30, 2007 at the Shilla Hotel Reception Hall in Seoul. The discussion topic will be “Human Rights of North Korean Refugees and the Role of the International Community.” This is part of the continuing efforts of South Korean GNP Assemblyman Hwang Woo-Yea, who may be South Korea’s single most persistent advocate for human rights in the North.
* Not Ready, Part II: Sheesh. Now he wants to invade Pakistan?
Obama said that as commander in chief he would remove troops from Iraq and putting them “on the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He said he would send at least two more brigades to Afghanistan and increase nonmilitary aid to the country by $1 billion. [AP, Nedra Pickler]
Not that anyone thinks that Obama would actually do this; the insincerity of his pandering is as obvious by now as his lack of density in matters of international statesmanship. It is the august judgment of a man who digs himself into a hole, and whose reflexive reaction is to ask for a bigger shovel. I wonder how many casualties it would take to transform President Obama’s next noble endeavor into a quagmire. Does anyone else suspect that if George W. Bush had applied a Soviet strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan — someone should tell the junior Senator how brilliantly that worked — that Obama would be saying that George “Worst Ever” Bush should have invaded Iraq instead? There are circumstances in which using force in Pakistan might be appropriate, but I certainly don’t trust Barack Obama to distinguish them from those what would only further destablize a large Muslim nation with a semi-cooperative government and nuclear weapons.
* An interesting story in the New York Times about training and hardening the Iraqi judicial system. A good friend is about to deploy to participate in this; it certainly sounds like interesting work.