[Update: Richardson links to State’s quasi-denial: why, yes, we have stationed a State Department employee in Pyongyang, but he’s strictly there to supervise the equipment for the technical process of disabling North Korea’s nuclear programs. That’s peculiar. If this employee’s job is strictly scientific or technical, why not avoid giving people the wrong idea and send someone from the Department of Energy or Defense instead? At best, this is a trial balloon. More likely, we’ve just seen the camel’s nose enter the tent.]
So I have awakened this morning to learn that we officially have no standard whatsoever for the establishment of diplomatic relations, since we’ve now taken a great leap in that direction by establishing an “unofficial” interest section in the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang. Let all take note: you can proliferate, support terrorists, threaten your neighbors, and commit crimes against humanity with abandon. You can send boats piled high with dope to neighboring countries and fill them with abductees for the return voyage. You can lob missiles about willy-nilly and print our money. You can do all of these things and still have friends in high places in the State Department. Consider: at this time next year, we could have full diplomatic relations with North Korea and none with Taiwan. So just what consistent standard (other than the most unrealistic realpolitik imaginable) could weave those clashing facts together? It may blind you to stare at them directly, so if you must view them, try to do so in the reflection of a shiny object, such as Chris Hill’s forehead.
Really, I think the North Koreans could lower Megumi Yokota into a vat of undisclosed highly enriched uranium before the very eyes of our diplomats and suffer no adverse consequences. Ditto if they then loaded the vats onto a plane bound for Tehran. No matter the outrage or evidence, State is bound and determined to pad its resume by filling our store shelves with toxic Dora the Explorer plush toys made by enslaved toddlers in Camp 22 before Bush leaves office. Maybe they’re thinking that “only Nixon can go to China.” And it’s true that too many conservatives aren’t applying a very skeptical outlook to this deal, possibly because it’s being done on Bush’s watch, and because Bush has been careful to seem detached from the process, and to make his own public comments seem skeptical.
But this reaction is either ignorant of the facts or intellectually dishonest. If conservatives intend to raise issues like inspection, verification, and human rights under a Democratic administration — maybe with Kim Jong Bill as Secretary of State — they should at least establish some non-partisan consistency by making equally fair criticisms of Bush today.
Beyond Foggy Bottom, some skepticism survives, and even breaks into the stream of happy talk with Kim Jong Il’s minions. The outlook of other serious thinkers on the Syrian connection is less sanguine than Condi Rice’s:
An off the record meeting Friday turned tense when U.S. officials pressed North Korea to explain its suspected nuclear ties with Syria when the North declares its atomic stockpile, sources who participated in the meeting said Sunday. Kim Myong-gil, North Korea’s deputy chief of mission to the United Nations who participated in the meeting, did not give a particular response, but he and his aides seemed “clearly taken aback” at the level of pressure from the U.S. participants, the sources told Yonhap in separate phone calls. “A lot of us at the meeting were very clear to the North Koreans that if their declaration doesn’t include what is going on in Syria, it’s really going to be a problem,” one source said, declining to be named. [Joongang Ilbo]
From this, we can infer that (a) the North Koreans either haven’t submitted a declaration, or haven’t submitted a complete one, and (b) the North Koreans aren’t used to being asked hard questions like these from Chris Hill.
The meeting was sponsored by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, called a “track two” channel for private level talks between the two countries, which have yet to establish formal relations. The U.S. side included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, along with Democratic and Republican congressional staffers and State Department officials, according to the contacted sources.
“Once the Syria topic was raised, Mr. Kissinger was quite adamant,” another source said. “He said there has to be clarity on Syria. The same concerns shown by Volcker and other financial community leaders are also important, he said, because another set of talks will begin Monday to address Pyongyang’s alleged illicit activities, such as counterfeiting American currency.
Our diplomats have forgotten that their job is to preserve peace, not just to make deals. Our next Republican president should learn that lesson well and begin his term of office by doing what Bush failed to do: purge the senior ranks at State.
Let’s hope Kissinger and Volcker will make some public comment on their meeting with their North Korean counterparts. It might be a much-needed dash of cold water.
* Special thanks to GI Korea for taking note of my post on imperiled North Korean dissident Yoo Sang-Joon, and thanks in advance to any others who are compassionate enough to do so.
* Poll Watch: Lee Myung Bak’s still leads, and less than 15% of voters are still undecided.
Lee [M.B.] scored approval ratings of 38.3 percent, slightly down from 38.7 percent in the last Gallup poll. Independent late entrant Lee Hoi-chang landed second place with 19.3 percent, up from 18.4 percent, while Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party came third with 14.4 percent, up from 13.1 percent. The Create Korea Party’s Moon Kook-hyun saw his approval ratings jump to 8.4 percent from 6.6 percent. The Democratic Labor Party’s Kwon Young-ghil scored 3 percent and the Democratic Party’s Rhee In-je 1 percent. [Chosun Ilbo]
Yonhap prefers round numbers: Lee M.B. 40%, Lee H.C. 20%, Comrade Chung 10%. Also in political news: “Roh Denies Taking Cash Gift from Samsung.” Isn’t this about when the indictments of Korean ex-presidents are usually first prepared?
* I haven’t been watching Korea’s latest half-assed effort to ban discrimination, but fortunately, Brendan Carr has been doing more than an adequate job of that. My two cents is that discrimination is too popular in Korea to ban during an election campaign. Maybe next year.
* Kremlinology: Kim Jong Il’s second son, Kim Jong Chol, has a job: “vice chief of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s Organization and Guidance Department,” which the Chosun Ilbo describes as “a hugely influential” post. Jong Chol is the one who was educated in Switzerland, was recently spotted at a Clapton concert, and is disfavored by his dad for being “like a girl.” More links here.
* If Andrei Lankov is right, those posts will eventually lead to the firing squad, so let’s hope Jong Chol enjoys the
pleasure squad DVD collection while it lasts. In the latest sign of chaos in the North, soldiers are blamed for a wave of burglaries and rapes, in the northeastern city of Hoeryong. All of which sort of puts the whole Tonduchon-GI-taxi crime wave in context.
* China seems to think it can colonize North Korea. Maybe it can, but it should be mindful of South Koreans’ tendency toward expropriation of property acquired during the tenure of puppet regimes. South Korea doesn’t have to get into a buying competition with China. All it has to do is to impose reasonable limits on foreign ownership or purchases for less than fair market value, and announce that purchases in violation of those limits will be null and void. The major drawback to that position: South Korea will actually need some serious backing from the United States to pull it off.
* “Starting next year protesters in Seoul will have to pick up the garbage they make during their rallies, the city said on Sunday.” [Chosun Ilbo]
* Axis Sally Watch: If you need more of that sort of thing, here’s a lot of indignant but mostly inert gas from Tom Curley of the AP over Bilal Hussein, who (among others) won a Pulitzer Prize by being led, hand-in-hand, to whatever some hideous image his terrorist friends wanted America to see. Among the spectacles put on for Hussein’s adoring lens was this act of “resistance:” pulling an Iraqi election worker out of his car and shooting him in the head in the middle of a busy street (two other election workers were also murdered at the scene). Another winning picture shows the terrorists in heroic poses that look very staged . . . it makes little military sense to put a mortar and a machine gun in the same exposed location. Then, in 2006, Hussein was among those caught in an insurgent safe house in Ramadi with a cache of bomb making materials and terrorist propaganda:
“We believe Bilal Hussein was a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP,” he said. “MNF-I possesses convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to security and stability as a link to insurgent activity.”
Morrell said an investigative hearing into the case by the court is scheduled to begin on or after November 28. Hussein was detained April 12, 2006 after marines entered his house in Ramadi to establish a temporary observation post and found bomb-making materials, insurgent propaganda and a surveillance photograph of a US military installation.
Morrell said Hussein, who was part of an AP photo team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005, had previously aroused suspicion because he was often at the scene insurgent attacks as they occurred. He said other evidence, which he would not describe, came to light after his detention “that makes it clear that Mr. Hussein is a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP.” [AFP]
Conservative bloggers raised suspicions, which went unacknowledged by the AP. In addition to the accusations of staging, there was the curious circumstance that Hussein may have failed to identify himself as a journalist for months while in detention, hoping perhaps to be released without the full significance of his detention being realized. Only after one of the American guards saw his picture on a post at the Jawa Report was Hussein identified.
Even as a lawyer, I have little sympathy for the procedural complaints Curley raises. I don’t deny that Iraqi legal procedure may fall short of what a criminal defendant could expect in Marin County, but Iraq is a shaky new democracy under a withering assault by multiple varieties of terrorists, theocrats, and plain old thugs. Hussein’s American lawyer can’t see the evidence that supports the proposed charges, but then again, neither could an American suspect under Rule 4 of our own Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure, which governs grand jury evidence. More importantly, shouldn’t Hussein’s defense be led by an Iraqi lawyer? Just how much use to Mr. Hussein could a carpet-bagging American lawyer be in Iraq? Mr. Hussein will have a trial, and I’d presume and hope that his Iraqi lawyer will have the opportunity to see that evidence long enough before trial to prepare a defense. Let’s certainly hope Hussein will get more due process than U.S. soldiers tried in South Korean courts — as documented at pages 82-86 of my congressional testimony — though that injustice has never drawn the outrage of the AP, despite the fact that South Korea has had 50 years since the end of hostilities to define “due process.”
If the thirst for justice isn’t necessarily Curley’s main motive, let’s bear in mind that the AP has a pecuniary interest at stake, and a big one. To Curley, any conviction of Hussein for working with the terrorists would amount to a finding that the AP was infiltrated and that its Pulitzer was a terrorist-sponsored fraud. Curley should find some consolation in the fact that fellow AP reporter and professional atrocity mongerer Charles Hanley never lost his Pulitzer after much of his reporting about No Gun Ri was questioned. As of last June, Hanley was still filing bogus atrocity reports from Iraq.