So, how exactly has Bill Richardson’s visit reduced tensions again? (Bumped)

kim-jong-bill.JPGNorth Korea has welcomed the has-been politician by reaffirming that it will never give up its nukes, preparing to test one, threatening to use others, and inspecting a military unit.

Who feels safer already?

Update: “North Korea Threatens More Attacks.” Huzzah for Kim Jong Bill!

Update 2: It may be the worst photoshop ever, but I couldn’t help re-using it.

Update 3, Dec 18: So, if Richardson is merely a private citizen who isn’t there to negotiate anything, and if indeed this is the wrong time for negotiations with North Korea, then what business does he have “provid[ing] North Korea with a series of proposals,” which of course, he won’t discuss?

Now, like OFK’s all-time favorite left-of-center Korea-watcher, Gordon Flake, I happen to agree that we should have ways to “make sure [the North Koreans] understand, in an unfiltered manner, our position.” The thing is, with North Korea now threatening South Korea’s most economically vital sea lane and airspace, that message needs to be, “one more stunt like that and we unleash hell.” This is one of those times like the Cuban Missile Crisis when we can’t afford to back down, yet can’t afford to let things escalate too far, either. We need not explain to the North Koreans for now whether that means OPLAN 5027 1/2 or a highly aggressive combination of financial sanctions and political subversion, although I suspect the latter threat will come across as more credible than the former, given past history.

But if that’s the message — and the pessimist in me doubts that it is — then you might as well ask Richard Simmons to deliver it as Bill Richardson. He doesn’t speak for the POTUS, he’s long been a leading advocate of appeasing North Korea at any price, and his rather obvious motive is to remain relevant for the domestic American audience, particularly for liberals who tend to vote in Democratic primaries. Far better, then, for Stephen Bosworth to deliver that message via North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

A final point of order here on non-military options. One of the difficulties of enforcing sanctions against North Korea is the problem of making fine distinctions between “legitimate” North Korean businesses and bank accounts, and those that are involved in activities prohibited by UNSCR 1874. Until now, we’ve painstakingly insisted on the approval of the U.N. Security Council before imposing sanctions. That means that we’d have to go begging to China for a “yes” vote on a draft they’d successfully watered down, only to watch Chinese “investments” in North Korea “surge massively” shortly thereafter, even as they knowingly permit North Korea to fly missile parts to Iran right through the Beijing Airport. Enough of this! Treasury should simply declare — as it has done in the case of Nauru, Ukraine, and other countries — that North Korea itself is a primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act and block all of its financial assets and accounts, wherever they are. Do you suppose North Korea can last a year if it can’t pay its army?

Update 4: You know who would have been the perfect messenger?

[Originally posted on 17 Dec. 2010.]

11 Comments

  1. Not sure if you’ve seen this yet but Andrei Lankov is very troubled right now:

    For the first time in decades, a new war on the Korean peninsula appears to be a distinct probability. Not only does North Korea’s regime seem determined to escalate its provocations, but the air has also changed in South Korea, where society is in an unusually bellicose mood nowadays. After North Korean artillery stunned the world by shelling the island of Yeonpyeong last month, killing four and wounding 20, South Korean generals are talking unusually tough. For example, Gen. Han Min-koo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently promised that in case of another North Korean attack, his forces “will completely crush the enemy.”

    This talk is what the Seoul street wants to hear. In a recent poll, 80 percent of South Koreans said they would support a military retaliation in the event of a fresh North Korean attack. Only six months ago, when a North Korean torpedo sank a South Korean warship, killing 46 sailors, merely 30 percent favored a military option.

    Alas, this shift is not good news, for the hard truth is that restraint is the only option for South Korea. At best, military retaliation would merely be harmful. At worst, it will lead to disaster.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/12/16/how_to_stop_the_next_korean_war




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  2. Richardson did a bang-up job.
    But will these latest incidents result in a large-scale conflict? I think it is a mistake for South Korea to take this lying down and an even bigger mistake to think that China will help anyone other than itself. Why South Koreans were not prompted into anger over the Cheonan incident gives one insight into how some feel about their armed forces.
    Just my thoughts.




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  3. Though Joshua and I are probably more often on the same page than not, I do not share his disdain for Governor Richardson (and I’m not sure how a sitting governor who received the highest percentage of votes in any gubernatorial election in his state’s history can be a “has-been”). Governor Richardson’s role with the North Koreans has been to (a) fish out Americans who ended up in North Korea because of their own stupidity and (b) serve as a conduit for communications between Pyongyang and Washington without acquiescing to their demands.

    That last task is a thankless but necessary one, and frankly, I would rather have someone the North Koreans feel comfortable dealing with talking to them than have them feeling the only way they can “communicate” is by firing things into nearby air, water, or land. (Full disclosure, I voted for Bill Richardson, including in the presidential election, when I wrote his name in as a protest vote against Barack Hussein Obama for his incessant Korea and Japan bashing.)




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  4. have you ever been to new mexico?

    also, I’d rather send the owner of cubby’s BBQ in nj, if you’re looking to send someone the norks feel comfortable with.




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  5. Does he really think that he ever has a shot of becoming the next President? The answer is yes, and that is why he is insane.




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  6. kushibo,

    another good thing jong bill is good at is shopping. norks always offering something for a price to him.

    http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/12/19/north.korea.us.bodies/?hpt=T2

    if my memory serves correctly, didn’t the US have to pay for the right to look for remains last time?

    this is their lame way of reducing tensions/giving concessions.

    I like how they put it like,”oh, look what we’ve found. we just came across it…..”

    they’ve probably had these for years and years holding the bones like it’s their ace card.

    they have as much credibility as when they tried to pass off someone else’s ashes as megumi’s.




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  7. james, you aren’t seriously suggesting that North Korea’s ongoing trickle of US servicemen’s remains, or the US’s paying to get them, began with Bill Richardson, are you?

    As for NM, yeah, I’ve been. Parts of it didn’t look a whole lot different from the Mojave or West Texas.




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  8. james wrote:

    they have as much credibility as when they tried to pass off someone else’s ashes as megumi’s.

    Not to defend the kidnappers in North Korea, but the idea that Pyongyang provided someone else’s remains in lieu of Megumi Yokota’s is not so cut and dry (see also here).




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  9. james, you aren’t seriously suggesting that North Korea’s ongoing trickle of US servicemen’s remains, or the US’s paying to get them, began with Bill Richardson, are you?

    definitely not…..i’m just saying richardson always brings home some sort of deal where we have to pay for concessions.

    i can’t wait to hear what the pricetag of bringing home more servicemen remains are going to be.

    since chris hill is out of the picture, i guess i shouldn’t expect less.

    when is carter or clinton’s next trip?

    and re:

    Not to defend the kidnappers in North Korea, but the idea that Pyongyang provided someone else’s remains in lieu of Megumi Yokota’s is not so cut and dry (see also here).

    i guess the cheonan sinking isn’t so cut and dry either.




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  10. james wrote:

    i guess the cheonan sinking isn’t so cut and dry either.

    Not really sure what you’re getting at there.

    If Pyongyang is telling the truth that those were actually Megumi Yokota’s remains (a distinct possibility) then they must be telling the truth about the sinking of the Ch’ŏnan?

    If you cannot trust the results of the junior guy in the lab testing the ashes of a body that was burned at 1500° after being buried in the ground for two years then you can’t trust the intensive South Korean analysis of all the current forensic evidence of the recent sinking of the Ch’ŏnan?

    Given the very different types of evidence available and the very different analysis that went into the respective cases, I don’t see what bearing the Megumi Yokota case has on the Ch’ŏnan case.




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