After reading today’s Henry Kissinger op-ed in The Washington Post (he does seem to have those rather frequently, does he not?) on North Korea, I seemed to recall another one on the same subject from a couple months ago. Then, he seemed to be urging the Obama Administration to refrain from restarting the six-party talks just yet. A nuclear test and a couple more missile launches later, you’d expect him to sound the same skepticism, his much-ballyhooed talk of “no preconditions” notwithstanding. But, um…I count six here.
A long-term solution to the Korean nuclear problem cannot be achieved by America alone. Nor is it sustainable without the key players of Northeast Asia; that means China, South Korea, the United States and Japan, with an important role for Russia, as well. A wise diplomacy will move urgently to assemble the incentives and pressures to bring about the elimination of nuclear weapons and stockpiles from North Korea. It is not enough to demand unstated pressures from other affected countries, especially China. A concept for the political evolution of Northeast Asia is urgently needed.
I tried not to think that this was the same guy who attempted to engineer the “political evolution” of Southeast Asia 35 years ago. And while the op-ed is strangely wispy in its policy recommendations, full of broad hypotheticals and conditionals, the concluding note is certainly in the right tune:
There could scarcely be an issue more suited to cooperation among the Great Powers than nonproliferation, especially with regard to North Korea, a regime that is run by fanatics; located on the borders of China, Russia and South Korea; and within missile range of Japan. Still, the major countries have been unable to galvanize themselves into action. [emphasis mine]
“Action,” of course, is difficult, particularly with such a confounding regional situation, an enigmatic and intransigent regime, and two unjustly imprisoned American journalists, to boot. Kissinger doesn’t seem able to acknowledge that we can’t go back in time to prevent North Korea from reaching the nuclear stage it is at right now; nonproliferation, even the preferred multilateral kind that Kissinger rightly supports, must proceed from existing realities. Only then can we work on changing them.
(image from flickr user World Economic Forum under a Creative Commons license)
The sentence sounds Solzhenitsynian, the trial was certainly Kafkaesque, and whole affair smacks of dangerous Orwellian farce. But this is real life, and North Korea’s sham court convicted Laura Ling and Euna Lee, American journalists for Al Gore’s Current TV, for “grave crimes” against the Hermit Kingdom.
Whether this brazen sentencing is designed explicitly to challenge the brewing sanctions that the United States and UN are formulating, or whether it is simply a normal outcome of the reigning modus operandi in North Korea, is unclear. But this certainly throws a wrench into the already difficult negotiations over North Korea’s equally flagrant defiance of UN resolutions concerning its nuclear program.
North Korea may use the journalists’ freedom as a bargaining chip to avoid harsher sanctions, which strikes me as an unconscionable use of hostage-taking as diplomatic strategy. Even before this gambit, though, Pyongyang already seemed pretty resistant to one aspect of the potential new Security Council resolution in particular — that allowing inspection of suspect cargo coming into the country. And even though the two issues – nuclear proliferation and an egregious violation of press freedom – are nominally unrelated, they are both a matter of North Korean pride, and will therefore be all the trickier for the Obama Administration to deal with them separately.
UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman describes what Ling and Lee’s sentence might look like in practice.
Passport’s Annie Lowrey is “charmed” by my reading a legality-based counter-terrorism approach into “Scooby Doo,” but she doesn’t quite think it’s up to snuff. In her view, maybe Velma and the monster-hunting gang are more akin to Hans Blix and his team searching for WMDs.
If anything, I think of the Scooby Doo Five as a decent analog for the United Nations weapons inspectors: mobile and peripatetic, spooked by the astral, often kicked out of the amusement park, much derided but really fairly decent at digging out the truth.
I guess the lesson here is that if you are a little too eager to dole out Scooby Snacks (or “yellowcake” and aluminum tubes) to an paranoid, excitable title character (or leader), then the rest of the team can’t do its job, and the whole operation goes awry like a hungry Great Dane barreling into you at full tilt. And how’s Rummy or Cheney as the incorrigibly pugnacious Scrappy Doo…?
The only thing less surprising than the continued existence of the “axis of evil” for the Right is that it apparently also includes France now. Attempting to connect what he calls “the nuclear daisy chain” (with links even flimsier than daisies, evidently), the Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens gleefully lists all of the countries that have swapped nuclear secrets — including the cheese-eating surrender monkeys themselves:
Britain gave France the secret of the hydrogen bomb, hoping French President Charles de Gaulle would return the favor by admitting the U.K. into the European Economic Community. (He Gallicly refused.) France shared key nuclear technology with Israel and then with Iraq.
Whatever unspecified nuclear cooperation may have occurred between France and Iraq in this unspecified time frame, the deviously clear insinuation here is that Iraq once possessed nuclear weapons. Coupled with the cryptic formula that Stephens sketches out earlier in the post — that the “Newtonian law of proliferation [the action-reaction complex]…is only broken with the intercession of an overwhelming outside force” — this sleight of hand seems designed to (still!) peddle the falsehood that had the United States not invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein would have his hands chock full of nuclear weapons right now.
This revisionist history is worth taking into account when listening to some of the more spastic commentary on Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs. Not that they don’t pose a threat — but that the lesson the hawkish Right seems to have drawn from an entirely fabricated version of the Iraq war is that preemptive invasions are the only way to quell a danger that doesn’t yet exist. Worse, they cloak this war-mongering in the sheep’s clothing of nuclear non-proliferation — as if “moderniz[ing]” the U.S. stash of nuclear weapons or threatening “overwhelming outside force” to any potential nuisance constituted legitimate non-proliferation policies. In this perverse logic, the only way to prevent the nuclear proliferation of, say, Japan, is to, well, proliferate our own nukes – and launch a few preemptive strikes along the way.
(image from flickr user Publik15 under a Creative Commons license)
Matthew Lee obtains a draft copy of a Security Council resolution on North Korea. The resolution condemns the May 25 nuclear test and demands that DPRK fall in line with previous Security Council resolutions on its nuclear program. Still undecided, however, are what specific punitive measures would be included in a new resolution. This seems to be up in the air as the paragraph that would spell out these measures (paragraph 8) remains blank.
Meanwhile, it looks like we will have to wait until sometime next week for a final, sanctions-bearing resolution.
Unlike the foolhardy China alienation strategy of Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan, Robert Farley actually connects the right dots and sees how harnessing a relationship with Beijing will in fact be the only way to influence Pyongyang. In addition to the very real interests that China has in North Korea (preventing a refugee influx, avoiding a nuclear power across its border), Farley adds this key point:
China’s relatively close relationship with North Korea means that Beijing likely has a clearer understanding of the internal situation of the Pyongyang regime than the United States. China probably has a better notion than the US of the balance of power between factions in the succession crisis, and a better idea of which levers to pull in order to strengthen one faction over another. [emphasis mine]
North Korea’s missile tests, it should be emphasized, were almost surely the result of this internal political maneuvering (and most probably to appease the North Korean military apparatus). This storyline is decidedly in contrast to that reflexively assumed by many advocates of a “tougher” North Korea policy (or even the less hawkish): that North Korea’s actions were a bit of intentional muscle-flexing designed to provoke or “test” President Obama. Not that this factor might not have influenced the North Korean military’s calculation, but it reverses the lens with which this should be analyzed; the missile testing was likely directed inward at least as much as outward.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.