Monthly Archives: August 2011

What Qaddafi’s Fall Means for North Korea

As I write this morning, the Libyan rebels are battling to seize Colonel Qaddafi’s surrounded Furhrerbunker, and the Untergang seems near.

Yes, the differences may be as great as the similarities, but the similarities are still significant. The fall of the Libyan government to a popular uprising would have been unthinkable a year ago. Libya was a totalitarian state with no opposition movement, in which subversive ideas could not circulate freely. Like Syria, where recent events have been just as unthinkable, it had been one of those places in this world where the state’s power was absolute and beyond challenge. But eventually in such places, the unthinkable always happens.

The lesson that some cynics will take from this is that states should not abandon their pursuit of nuclear weapons. They’re not entirely wrong when they say this. Had Qaddafi taken a different path, it’s possible that today, he might have been able to put a crude nuclear weapon aboard a commercial vessel and sail it to Europe. Would that capability have given NATO pause in supporting the rebels? Probably. Kim Jong Il is so cognizant of this today that he now feels he can launch a limited war against South Korea with impunity.

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Light Blogging for the Foreseeable Future

You’ve no doubt noticed the relative lack of postings in the last few months, and that trend is going to continue for the next few months. This is the collateral effect of good things happening in the family and work parts of my life. Unfortunately, as those responsibilities grow, they leave relatively less time for other things. So for the foreseeable future, my prime blogging time — my commute — will have to be spent reading and studying other things, and whatever time remains is taken up with Nerf duels with my kids. This isn’t the end of OFK, but it will mean that posting will be less frequent, and will be driven more by major events than minor ones. Thanks for continuing to stop by.

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Who’s Borking Sung Kim?

So months after Chris Hill protege Sung Kim was nominated to be our Ambassador to South Korea, I’d assumed that he must have been confirmed in the dark of some night when I was too busy to read my news aggregators. Not so:

The official confirmation for the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea designate, Sung Kim, is unexpectedly being delayed although it seemed a mere formality. Apparently some senators are stalling because they worry about the direction of the Obama administration’s North Korea policy, but who they are is not known.

Kim’s nomination was supposed to be wrapped up before Congress adjourned for the summer early this month so he could be posted at the end of the month. A senate confirmation hearing late last month also went smoothly and took no more than half an hour. But in its last meeting before the adjournment, the Senate only confirmed the nomination of David Shear as ambassador to Vietnam, but not Kim. [Chosun Ilbo]

It seems that one Republican Senator is holding up the nomination to extract policy concessions from the Administration over North Korea policy, and specifically, food aid. As to who the Senator in question is, your guess is as good as mine, and possibly better.

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Open Sources: Agreed Framework III Watch

On asylum for North Korean refugees, America leads from behind:

Some 581 North Korean defectors have been given asylum in the United Kingdom, making them the largest group of all defectors in countries other than South Korea…. The U.K. was followed by Germany with 146, the Netherlands with 32, Australia and the U.S. with 25 each and Canada with 23.

I suppose the State Department is worried that if we provoke Kim Jong Il, he might boycott disarmament talks, pursue a uranium enrichment program, or even attack South Korea. Well, thank goodness someone is working tirelessly to those hard-won gains!

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The recent meetings between U.S. and North Korean diplomats have given me a sense of unease that this Administration is desperate for an opening that would eventually get us Agreed Framework III. And given the almost universal agreement about what talks and bribes can accomplish, we’re entitled to wonder why they bother:

No one expects North Korea is serious about denuclearization and Pyongyang has done nothing during Obama’s tenure to demonstrate otherwise. At the same time, however, no one wants another North Korean provocation. [Evan Ramstad, Korea Real Time]

In other words, we’re still trying to manage the problem out of the headlines, which not only puts us at the mercy of Kim Jong Il’s temper, it positively incentivizes provocative behavior.

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