Being Irrational and Ill-Informed Still No Barrier to Getting a Global Audience

No one in the Obama Administration sounds terribly interested in North Korea’s offer of a bilateral dialogue about what concessions America is prepared to grant North Korea this year, but at the Christian Science Monitor, Professor Zhiqun Zhu of Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (you remember it from the matchbook covers, right?) calls North Korea’s statement “a rare opportunity” and writes one of the most scary-stupid things I’ve read all year:

Frankly, it is unrealistic for the US to ask North Korea to give up its nuclear technology. The reason is simple: The nuclear card is the only one North Korea has; it will not easily give it away. The ostrich policy of refusing to accept North Korea as a nuclear state has to be ditched. A solution to the North Korea conundrum must begin with recognizing the fact that North Korea has the ability to produce nuclear weapons and will remain nuclear-capable.  [link]

So North Korea will never bargain away its nuclear weapons, meaning the United States must bargain anyway!   Reading Zhu’s argument is like watching an animal give live birth and eat its own young.  When he’s done refuting any U.S. incentive to bargain with North Korea over nukes that it won’t give up, we’re left to infer that our only incentive is to agree on the price of extortion, which is an endlessly renewable expense that America is expected to shoulder:

The impoverished North needs the nuclear program as a bargaining chip. It is also in dire need of energy, which nuclear technology can provide. It is highly unlikely that Pyongyang will actually use nuclear weapons against its neighbors or the US ““ the Communist leaders are fully aware that it would be suicidal.

And yet they seem to feel that proliferating nuclear weapons extremist Middle Eastern dictatorships isn’t quite so suicidal.  Somehow, I doubt the Professor Zhu would be so prosaic if North Korean technicians were spotted at a suspicious and remote construction site in Taiwan, or secretly meeting with East Turkestan separatists.

Zhu goes on to advocate the recognition of North Korea as a nuclear power and the establishment of full diplomatic relations, because after all, why would North Korea want to hurt anyone?  I’ll assume nothing from the romanization of Professor Zhu’s name about his connections to the Chinese government, although Zhu’s views on North Korea’s nukes are indistinguishable from those of the very state-sanctioned Shen Dingli.  Instead, let’s give Zhu the benefit of the doubt and assume he really is that ill-informed about the North Korean regime’s complete disregard for / malevolent breaking of human life and liberty — of its own citizens’ and other nations’ — and that he really believes that it’s just as safely left in the possession of nuclear weapons as France or India.

Acquiring nuclear technology does not make North Korea more dangerous; it is how the regime uses this technology that matters. Since North Korea is already nuclear-capable, the US should keep this traditional enemy close by signing a nuclear cooperation deal with it and co-managing its nuclear program. Both South Korea and China are also supportive of a less confrontational approach to North Korea.

So what editor gave space to an the article riddled with such gross factual errors as glossing over North Korea’s recent provocations and having a completely outdated understanding of South Korean policy?  Zhu also extends the unsupported hope of economic reform, without mentioning that all of the current evidence is strongly to the contrary.  It’s as though Zhu either did all of his research on, or he submitted this thing in 2006 at the latest, and the piece was completely overcome by events while it sat on an editor’s desk.  At least they had the courtesy to edit out “Bush” and replace it with “Obama.”

One comment

  1. I read Prof. Zhiqun Zhu’s comments with interest. Though you don’t have to agree with him, he did make a good argument. In fact, I think it’s very well-written.

    Don’t understand why Mr. Stanton is so offended. To call Prof Zhu’s piece “scary-stupid” will only make Mr. Stanton himself a silly, shallow and stubborn commentator. Bottom line: you have to respect different views and you do not have the exclusive right to interpret North Korea.



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