Friday, February 11, 2005
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Kim's not making many friends
If, as speculated in my last post, Kim Jong Il thought that his nuclear announcement and withdrawal from six-party talks would drive a wedge between the US and the other members of six-party talks, he appears to have miscalculated.
CNN reports that North Korea has repeated its demand (made over the past couple of years) for direct bilateral talks with the United States on this issue. [UPDATE: Deb Riechmann reports for the AP that Scott McClellan rejected this demand at the White House press briefing.] Andrew Salmon reports in the International Herald-Tribune that the six-party talks haven't gone well for the DPRK:
THat same report also makes it clear that North Korea's latest gambit has not gone down well in South Korea.
If Seoul is upset, however, Japan is even more so -- and they are upping the ante with a clear and specific sanctions threat. James Brooke explains in the New York Times:
Read the whole article -- the U.S. and South Korea are ambivalent at best about the sanctions lever. At first glance, this would seem surprising: the best outcome is if North Korea backs down before March 1. Some people believe that the worst outcome, however, is Japan implementing sanctions on a defiant North Korea. I don't agree -- these sanctions will hurt the DPRK elite where it lives, in that it restricts hard currency access and consumer goods that only the elite can afford. This lever should be enough to get them back to six-party talks.
UPDATE: For more, the BBC has a round-up of the regional press reaction. The Christian Science Monitor has a round-up of global press reaction. Their most intriguing link is this Hamish McDonald story in the Sydney Morning Herald:
posted by Dan on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM
Don't forget that NK receives a good chunk of its foreign exchange from the Korean community living in Japan. All the Japanese government need do is put controls on that, and NK will squeal.
Nothing steels the Japanese psyche like NK nukes. While SK may play around with its Sunshine Policy, the Japanese will play hardball. That could include an announcement that the Japanese are considering a revision of their "no nukes" pledge, which would in turn PO China.
It's the Cold War all over again!posted by: Scott Kirwin on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
This guy has no hand to play. He can take his nukes and stick them up his ass. What is he going to do, launch one? The next day the whole country will be a smoking ruin. He wants to survive, not go up in smoke. Sanction the crap out of him until the regime collapses or he joins the real world and trades disarming for assistance. His game is getting old, while I am anything but a Bush fan I think a hard line on him is essential.posted by: Andrew on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
I never thought I would read the phrase "the snow-crab gravy train."posted by: praktike on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
Kim does not need friends; all he needs is sponsors. If and when China decides to put the hammer down, real progress in dealing with the DPRK will begin.posted by: Dave Schuler on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
Bah, you're all missing the obvious despite the post facto autopsy of Hussein's reasoning. Hussein kept up the posture of WMD as a form of strategic ambiguity in order to attempt to create a deterrence against outside attack and maintain inside control.
While decades of Iron Curtain rule anda decade under the sanctiosn regime for Iraq should have taught that one can never count on internal economic collapse to bring down totalitarian governments, there are some here who foolishly believe that economic sanctions or spontaneous collapse is imminent.
No what is important is power. As it turns out the economic reforms that Kim is enacting are hurting - not the common people but starting to hurt the power structure he relies on. This economic turmoil, not the kind that hurts the little guy but the kind that disturbs the power hierarchy, is what is dangerous to a totalitarian government.
Therefore Kim Il Jung wants to steal a march on Rice, which he did, and moreover create an increased tension in order to bring his own ranks into line. The lesson of this is NOT that NK is on the verge of internal economic collapse, but that Kim's hold on his own power structure despite assassinations and other measures taken in the past year or so is weakening. In order to increase his hold he needs the increased tension from raising the stakes with the US.
Didn't you silly gits learn anything from your failures of reasoning over Saddam? Once I could excuse as naivete, but a second time and it's shaping up to be folly.posted by: oldman on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
I agree with oldman, but stress that this doesnt automatically put NK in any stronger of a position. KIJ is gambling that international and internal pressure will force Bush into bilateral negotiations. This isnt going to work, with the net result being increased pressure on NK from the international community. Its a simple matter now for Rice to go to China and SK and say 'look, they are the ones being unreasonable' and its hard to argue with that. When they are forced back into multi-national negotiations they will both lose face and leverage.
Is there any concern for the West with regard to a rusting bicycle or second-hand refrigerator gap?posted by: deckko on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
> This guy has no hand to play.
Well, he could launch a suicidal attack against South Korea. I think he would lose, but ROK deaths would be in the hundreds of thousands even if no WMDs were used. That is a bit of a hand I think.
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
But Nick Kristoff just told me that Bush's doing nothing about Korea has been an abysmal failure. I just don't what to believe.posted by: rastajenk on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
Kristoff and other critics of the administration have a point when they point out that Bush couldn't resolve internal administration disagreements over what to do about North Korea for the first two-plus years of his administration, so that policy drifted. That doesn't mean we aren't pursuing the right policy now, or that we shouldn't stick to it.
There are some big pieces of this puzzle still hidden from our view. The most important ones I see involve China, and the role of the North Korea issue in internal Chinese politics. Is Kim pushing an aggressive nuke stance now because he is getting encouragement from patrons in Beijing, because Beijing has shown signs of tiring of him and his endless confrontations, or for some other reason? I just don't know. I hope someone in Washington does, and hope that now more than ever American communications with the other regional governments are frequent and detailed.posted by: Zathras on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
> > This guy has no hand to play.
It's not much of one. What does he gain by it? A lot of people die, one of whom ultimately would have to be him.
People talk about the US being tied down in Iraq, but the US has elements of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, plus a full Marine EU and several other regiments of Marines in Japan. South Korea's own army is of course ready to defend its country. More important, the US has 100 or so aircraft stationed in Korea, with 350 more well within range in Japan, a couple dozen long-range bombers on Guam, plus the pacific fleet, which could bring a couple carrier battle groups into play in short order.
I don't think an invasion of the South would stand a snowball's chance, Iraq or no.posted by: Marc on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
NK is horrible, but wouldn't a collapse be a different kind of horrible? I mean who can re-build that country? It's a country of emaciated, brainwashed dwarfs at this point that have had 50 years of bizarre propaganda shoved down their throats. (seriously) What country or countries are going to re-build that place and create a healthy civil society? It's as if Mao's revolution had lasted 50 years.
SK won't want to do it when a push comes to a shove and it looks to be much more difficult than rebuilding Japan, Germany, or even Iraq. That is a very, very damaged society. How would the rebuilding take place. I'm really asking.posted by: matteo on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
Some important questions worth asking(?):
After decades of poverty, decay, likely corruption, and certain mismanagement, why should we believe that North Korea's industrial base is producing well-functioning conventional weapons (i.e. the much dreaded artillery that threatens to destroy northern SK)? Do they really have a credible threat here? Might their conventional forces lined along the border be mostly ill-equipped bluff?
And can they really feed, supply, equip, and repair these forces well enough to do significant damage to SK? How many of their big guns will actually function in a combat situation? etc...posted by: jprime314 on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
> Do they really have a credible threat here?
That is possible. Nice of the warbloggers commenting here to take the risk of having 500,000+ residents of Seoul assume the risk in finding out, while they are safe back in the US.
Crankyposted by: Cranky Observer on 02.11.05 at 10:50 AM [permalink]
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