Open Sources

And by the way, he’s a full-time envoy! Two years into the Obama Administration, just look at the empty gobbledygook his Special Envoy on human rights is telling South Korea’s nuclear negotiator:

“We’ve had very good, very serious, very thoughtful discussions,” King told reporters after talks with Wi Sung-lac, Seoul’s main nuclear envoy who oversees North Korea issues at the foreign ministry. “It’s extremely important for the United States, as we pursue our policies towards North Korea, to coordinate with the government of South Korea.”

King declined to elaborate, including whether he talked about food aid to the North. The envoy only said his trip is “part of the process that’s been going on for some time in terms of coordinating our polices on these tricky issues.”

You must be wondering what the hell that even means. Since I live in Washington, let me translate for you. It means, “We’re not going to do anything about this.” Nominally, the purpose of King’s visit was to “collect data.” But in reality, that means placating people by listening to them and nodding with feigned concern. Oh, maybe the concern isn’t completely feigned. But it’s clear enough to me that Robert King has no plan, no agenda, and no desire to make himself relevant.

Why do we even have Special Envoys in the first place? Because the Congress lost all faith in the State Department and created them, of course. Given State’s dismal record, it’s not hard to see why. But inevitably, the State Department always manages to surround the Special Envoys with minders and install them in offices under the watchful gaze of the East Asia Bureau.


How the military breaks an information blockade: But why must everything the military does require a brigade-strength unit and a budget of at least $200 million? It seems to me that cheaper technologies could do all of this, and more.


Don Kirk has a terrific piece in the Christian Science Monitor about the connections between North Korea and our great ally, Hosni Mubarak:

North Korea over the years has trained Egyptian pilots, sold missiles to Egypt, provided the technology for Egypt to fabricate its own missiles, and turned its embassy in Cairo into the hub for military sales throughout the region.

The relationship grew even while Egypt was developing close ties with the United States after the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in 1979. Egypt was seen as a close friend of the United States even as Mubarak visited Pyongyang three times in the 1980s and a fourth time in 1990 in search of military and commercial deals.

Three questions this raises. First, would the fall of the Mubarak regime deprive Kim Jong Il of an important arms client? Second, why were we propping this guy up with aid again? Third, is Kim Jong Il cursed? Of course, you can only imagine the kind of relationship Kim Jong Il might form with an Egyptian government led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Just look at Iran.


I may fret about the Muslim Brotherhood, but one key instigator of the Egyptian uprising seems to have a pretty secular and libertine world view.


Interesting, if true: The Daily NK purports to have a photo from a man it deduces is a party official, burning portraits of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Suk. I don’t know why it couldn’t be true, but the fact that someone could film this, would film this, and could smuggle the film out would be telling about technology creep.


North Korea reminds us that it’s not quite out of the drug business. This sort of thing happened fairly regularly when Roh was President, but it wasn’t publicized much for some reason.


Oh, did I say we shot them? I was only pulling your leg about that.


  1. Egypt, like Iran, is a complex place. Of course the people should be able to vote for their government — and the Iranian bazaaris, like the Egyptians in Tahrir Square, were polite in their overthrow of the Shah. The problem was the mad mullahs who came later and stole the revolution. That is also the fear with Egypt — it’s not whether the Muslim Brotherhood at present is “liberal” but whether the disorganized but gentle Egyptians will allow some other group that is wholly hostile to Israel and the Western Way of Life to take over.

    Just as the Ayatollah Khomeini was whiling away his time in Qom in Iraq, there are devils in the wings — Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Before one falls too much in love with the Muslim Brotherhood, remember Hamas is part of it, and Hamas is an avowed terrorist group. There is a possibility of these people taking over — except that they are Arabs, and Eqyptians are very proud not to be so. Furthermore, there is also a diabolically interfering force next door — Qaddafi, a Berber who traditionally despises Eqyptians. The prospect then is for a dozen years or more of internal strife, without a clear pattern.

    This strife could be really nasty — last year, Israel struck oil in the Mediterranean, in an area where Gaza would be entitled to some of the proceeds. Imagine, an oil-rich Hamas with much money to spend on the overthrow of the State of Israel — with every dollar gained by Hamas a dollar lost to (an oil-poor) Egypt. It is not impossible that Israel and Egypt could agree on a forced population transfer of Gazans into the West Bank, just so they could split the oil wealth. Forced population transfers are generally even deadlier than regime changes. There is plenty of room for misery here, and we in the USA shouldn’t be involved.

    It is in fact a reproach to all our views of personal liberty that one of the primary reasons we have supported Mubarrak is because we can “render” alleged terrorists to his jails, where they will be tortured for information. That’s a reason for shame, not support.

    Let the Israelis and the Europeans deal with the problem of Egypt. They are closer, and the Suez canal is their lifeline to oil, not ours. We should stay out– and silent.

    One can be certain that the Kim Family Regime is far more worried about Egypt than we are. The Kim Family face the loss of their last open source of income. Our banking regulations cut out the private English merchant banks a few years ago; as a result of the Cheonan, South Korea has cut all contacts (except an increasingly irrelevant Kaesong); as a result of the kidnapping scandals, Japan has cut off currency transfers. Defections have resulted in the loss of the Austrian conduit last year, and now Egypt is going, going, going. That leaves Iran and Myanmar (Burma) and one wonders how long Burma can last.

  2. It seems to me that Special Envoy King is still learning the issue. It also seems obvious to me that he is not a quick read and that he’s scrambling for answers:
    @ 6:50

    His questions reflect a lack of understanding or rudimentary grasp of the issue.
    “What should the US government be doing?”
    Is that really a question that a a government official, no less a Special Envoy, should be asking?

    What a joke. Too bad there isn’t a NKHR lobby to try to force out an ineffective and largely silent envoy.
    At least Special Envoy for Sudan Gration helped to secure a referendum. And at least Lefkowitz got one of his assistants to author an op-ed once in a while…Special Envoy King?

    But I guess it doesn’t help that the rest of State may be hostile to the office of the Special Envoy for NK Human Rights Issues either.

  3. Anyone recall where I can find those satellite images of the facility which was imported from Iran or something? With the distinctive v-shaped entrance? I also specifically remember seeing an image of a room full of cine shaped possibly centrifuges stretching into the distance. It would be very helpful if someone could help me find this, I’m writing a paper for class about their oft misrepresented nuclear situation.

  4. Here’s the State Department biography of Robert King. What’s the problem?

    Joshua Stanton asks the right question: why were we propping Hosni Mubarak up with aid? And the answer is: to keep the peace with Israel. Of course that raises the question: why are we propping Israel up?

  5. Because there’s an historical obligation to do so. Realistically, do you see the US turning 180 degrees on their ally Israel? I don’t. We prop them up because it’s all we know at this point. Keep in mind that the US will always do what’s in the US’s best interest, regardless of how much freedom their allies allow their own citizens. It’s a parenting game where they need us more than we need them, but they’re still immensely important in many regards, in particular Egypt is crucial to our trade interests as well as this strange and chaotic war on terror. Israel can’t be left without the US big brother when it’s surrounded by enemies. This is the current state of international politics.

  6. I don’t subscribe to Glans and Colin’s cynicism.

    Israel is a shining jewel of freedom and integrity in the Near East. There are lots of problems with Eretz Israel, with the restrictive Law of Return, with a refusal to recognize the existence of Palestinians: indeed, almost every criticism of Israel has validity — except that it is a genuine democracy of free people living our kind of truth. Alone of all the nations except perhaps Turkey and “our” Iraq, it has the ability to correct its errors openly and at the ballot box.

    The USA supports Israel because it is the right thing to do — and, in that respect, the USA does not always “do what’s in the US’s best interest” in such realpolitik terms. It tries (and often fails,) but tries to do what is ethical.

    Our support for Mubarrak’s torture chambers is itself unethical and the best possible reason to dump the despot.

  7. “Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say.

    On Wednesday, Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, is to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in Washington.

    Israeli officials, who have long viewed Mr. Mubarak and [Vice-President] Suleiman as stabilizing influences in a dangerous region, have made clear to the administration that they support evolution rather than revolution in Egypt.”

    Read the NY Times story here.

  8. Glans, Israel is the only Nation on Earth that has given the Old and New Roman Empire a God and son of a God after Byzantium to this day. These days Jewish Semites are the most Atheistic lot of races. That is a shame. If Jewish youth proclaim there is no God, then all is at a lost for Israel in posterity.

    Islamic youth are also the sons of Abraham. Yet they are more hardcore when it comes to “Him’.

    If only the two sons of the Western God could get along… (Semites/Hamites/Gentiles)

  9. The portrait burning had me doing a double-take. When I first read about it, it was at Korea Beat where I could have sworn he said the Kim Jongsuk portrait was Kim Jong-un (I hadn’t yet had my morning coffee, so I could be wrong about that).

    Had that been the case, that there were actually official stylized portraits of Kim Jong-un going up in places like Hamgyŏngbukto, I would have had to abandon my working hypothesis that Kim Jong-un is The Kim Who Wasn’t There.

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