Open Sources: Wendy Sherman — yes, Wendy Sherman — nominated for No. 3 job in State Dep’t

Are you kidding me? Wendy Sherman? The same Wendy Sherman who pushed the policy that made North Korea a nuclear power? The same discredited policy that not even the Obama Administration can bring itself to defend today? You know how Oscar non-winners tend to say that it’s an honor just to be nominated? For all of my qualified support for the Obama Administration’s North Korea policy, it’s discrediting to serious thinkers to even consider Wendy Sherman for a post this important, even if she’s only being picked to be a Clinton loyalist.


If you believe the Donga Ilbo, the State Department is leaning toward North Korea’s food crisis not being one of aggregate supply, but of distribution:

The U.S. has tentatively concluded that North Korea is not suffering from a food crisis though certain areas in the Stalinist country do have food shortages. This conclusion is based on the visit by a U.S. assessment team for food assistance to the North led by Robert King, U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights, said a South Korea diplomatic source Sunday. “Though the U.S. has yet to release an official report on the visit, it made a preliminary judgment based on the results of the assessment team’s trip that the North has no comprehensive food crisis,” the source said.

The other, more important reason for the conclusion goes unstated: no matter which party is in power in the United States, and no matter which party is in power in South Korea, South Korea always gets a veto on key U.S. policy decisions. Here, we are likely seeing the effect of strong South Korean opposition to the provision of food aid. I wish our government would have the spine to provide food anyway if North Korea met internationally accepted standards for transparency in distribution, but luckily for us all, that entire agonizing debate remains completely hypothetical.

Look for the State Department to deny this at its daily press brief.


I read a few days ago that Ambassador Kathy Stephens had joined in South Korea’s foreboding that some kind of North Korean provocation is in the works, and said that the result would be more isolation and more sanctions (but nothing more). Today, I see that the Commanding General, USFK, is also expressing concern and hinting at responses:

“While the Kim (Jong-Il) regime has proven a willingness to escalate in order to obtain what it wants, I am convinced that the ROK (South Korea)-US alliance is prepared,” General Walter Sharp told a forum.

“Our counter-provocation planning and combined exercises are stronger than ever…. In the past year, we have worked hard to develop a hostile counter-provocation plan that more adequately addresses the full spectrum of conflict.”

This sort of contingency planning couldn’t have happened when Roh was in power. You can say that it wouldn’t have been necessary, either, but this ignores all of the North Korean commando raids and maritime provocations during the DJ and Roh years. North Korea appears to have identified a strategic goal of restricting air and naval commerce through the West Sea to do economic harm to the South. Some on the South Korean left have expressed an openness to re-drawing the Northern Limit Line or sharing control over the Yellow Sea border area, which is about as smart as putting the robber’s knife to your own throat.


A Modest Proposal: I’ve often cited reports of cannibalism by starving people in North Korea, most commonly of homeless street children. Now, Yonhap is reporting that a North Korean police document, secretly copied and smuggled out of the North, corroborates the reports (see also). Obviously, I’m in no position to authenticate the report.

An alleged North Korean police document reported a case of cannibalism, a South Korean missionary group said Monday, a development, if confirmed, that could support what has long been rumored in the North. [….]

The North’s police released a 791-page report in 2009 to give guidance on how to deal with criminals, and its preface said the report was based on previous events and possible circumstances. The report, later obtained by South Korea’s Caleb Mission, provided a rare look into the alleged cannibalism and other crimes, but it did not say whether cannibalism has become a widespread practice.

In one account, a male guard who could not bear his hunger killed his colleague using an ax, ate some of the human flesh and sold the remainder in the market by disguising it as mutton, the report said, without giving any further details such as when the alleged crime occurred.


Wow, that’s a lot of missiles — probably worth enough money to not feed a whole country.