Tuesday, July 11, 2006

North Korea: Talk About Problems or SOLVE Them?

The following is a short letter to the Editor sent to a few of my SC newspapers:

If you watched any of the Sunday news shows on July 9, you would have heard the same refrain from Democrats: A. The U.S. should consider talking one on one with the North Koreans and B. The North Koreans are now making more nuclear weapons than they ever did when Clinton was in office.

Interesting that after years of decrying any U.S. unilateral action, Democrats are demanding just that. Democrats also admit that while North Korea cheated on previous nuclear weapons deals, we should enter into another one because their cheating is less than what they are doing in the absence of a deal.

It's the old attitude whereby we do diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy, while the broader goal of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula is ignored.

What's worse is the precedent set by such an attitude. Will we do a deal with Iran and wink at their cheating as long as they only produce a couple of nuclear weapons?

The Six Party Talks produced an agreement last September to eliminate all nuclear weapons in North Korea. In return North Korea would receive a host of benefits and aid. North Korea would prefer to get the massive payoff promised in earlier agreements which they have broken before verifying compliance on a new deal.

Agreeing to that would not only be stupid, but dangerous with ramifications across the spectrum of international relations.

The Six Party Process represents the best opportunity to get a deal that actually solves the problem.
In a nutshell, that is the heart of current problem. But space in a letter does not permit the wider exploration of the history and issues necessary to a fuller understanding of the complexities of the fundamental national security and diplomatic problem.

A wider examination is called for. Here's a basic outline with the resources I found useful:

In the wake of North Korea's withdrawal from the Six Party talks, but still in advance of the 4th of July missile launches, a Seoul-Washington Forum was co-hosted in Washington, D.C. in May by The Brookings Institution and The Sejong Institute. The web site from the event contains the papers presented, including one by Leon Sigal, one of my professors in International Relations at Columbia University. Visit the Seoul-Washington Forum pages if you wish to further research the issue from sources on both sides of the aisle who have been key players in the process.

Where Now?

Following the launch of missiles on July 4th, A North Korean "diplomat" at the United Nations Office at Geneva declared that: "North Korea's missiles launching is successful and all Korean races should be proud of and happy with it."

Apparently that attitude is not without sympathizers in South Korea.

The Japanese have taken a very strong line for sanctions and action from the United Nations Security Council. But their efforts have been met with opposition by both China and South Korea, which described the Japanese position as a "fuss."

China, whose prestige, not to mention trade with the West, is on the line is currently in North Korea as they attempt to defuse the crisis. South Korea, with it's reliance on the U.S. defense umbrella must also play a key role in resolving the issue.

Any bets on the outcome?

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