Archive | 8:53 pm

Quickly, Quickly! Bow to Pyongyang!

15 Jan

It’s like an early Lunar Mew Year’s for Kim Jong-il! Seoul never seems to cease demonstrating its servility to Pyongyang – with typical Korean haste. After a few harsh words for its southern neighbor, and mixed signals for the Obama administration, is Hwang Joon-kook the man the North Koreans wanted to see?

South Korean nuclear envoys left on a rare visit to North Korea Thursday aimed at advancing sputtering disarmament talks, days after the communist North issued tough terms for ending its atomic ambitions.

North Korea may try brinkmanship to increase its bargaining leverage with the team of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama after it takes office next week, President George W. Bush’s top Asia adviser said in Washington Wednesday.

No date has been set for the return of South Korean nuclear envoy Hwang Joon-kook, leading one of the few nuclear delegations Seoul has ever sent to its neighbor, the foreign ministry said.

Hwang told reporters in Seoul Tuesday he would discuss the purchase of 14,000 unused fuel rods from the North’s nuclear plant as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal the North struck with China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

The South might be able to extract material from the rods to use in its civilian nuclear program, an expert said.

The isolated North, which was hit with U.N. sanctions after its October 2006 nuclear test, cannot sell the rods overseas due to export controls and could try to dispose of them by having one of the five powers in the nuclear talks act as an intermediary.

The rods, if processed in a reactor, could produce enough plutonium for at least one or perhaps two nuclear weapons. The five powers have been in talks for months about their export.

All this assumes even more salience in light of Steven Hadley’s Leak.

Maybe Seoul is trying to sneak a deal in under the wire before the Obama administration leads Pyongyang to forget just what Seoul’s significance is.

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A Normal Relationship for Japan with America

15 Jan

Tobias Harris argues that the incoming Obama administration should just back off on the issue of Japan’s normalization.

The problem is not political gridlock in Tokyo, which has become a convenient scapegoat for a number of deferred goals. Rather the problem may be that while Ambassador Schieffer talks of contributions to the international community, what many Japanese see are contributions to the US-Japan alliance, with Japan’s serving as a spear carrier in US campaigns but receiving little in return for its contributions other than expressions of gratitude from US officials. Mr. Schieffer claims to desire an “alliance of equals,” but in practice his ambassadorship and the administration under which he served did little to make an equal partnership a reality. An equal partnership appears to be the prize awaiting Japan after it has made the changes desired by Washington.

But to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you go to war with the ally you have, not the ally you want.

All too often under the outgoing administration pushing for a new (or “beautiful”) Japan substituted for working with the Japan that exists, accepting its limitations and acting accordingly. While the Bush administration pushed for a new security relationship, little changed in the economic relationship, with, it seems to me, the greatest economic accomplishment being the avoidance of the “destructive aspects of trade disputes that plagued our relationship in the ‘80s and ‘90s.” Moreover, the ambassador had little to say about China or the region more generally. This last point is revealing: while naturally as ambassador to Japan Mr. Schieffer’s remarks were concerned with developments in the US-Japan relationship, it is unfortunate that so few of those developments concerned the alliance’s role in the broader region.

This is the picture of an underperforming relationship. It is not underperforming solely or largely because of Japan’s reluctance to bear a greater burden. It is underperforming because neither Washington nor Tokyo has put too much effort into building a relationship that acknowledges Japan’s limitations and sought to find a bilateral approach to constructive engagement with China. The US government needs to stop pushing so hard for Japan to become a “normal” nation and let Japan find its own way. By pushing Japan, the Bush administration has created the unmistakable impression that contributing more to the international community means in practice contributing more to the US-Japan alliance. The Obama administration must work to undo this impression — and by doing so, it may find that Japan may be willing to contribute to alliance cooperation. A less “close” alliance could be a more productive alliance.

Little pinkies? What a condescending comment by an American professor! “Piracy is an opportunity to do something that isn’t really the use of force to settle an international [problem].” Excuse me, so why does Japan need to ditch pacifism? Do we need to debate the efficacy of teaching swimming by pushing a person into the deep end? Or, is that unrequited love?

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Ishihara: Let the Chinese Take Over DPRK

15 Jan

KBS spins a speech by controversial Tokyo mayor, Shintaro Ishihara, with max nationalist rage, emphasizing his call for PRC and DPRK to merge (~5:35). Korea Times obliges with an editorial.

Ishihara made the latest remarks while issuing a statement, as chairman of a governors’ group, to North Korea, demanding a prompt reinvestigation of the abductions of Japanese citizens. “The easiest way to resolve problems with North Korea is for it to be integrated into China,” he said. “This would be the easiest way, even for the United States … I wouldn’t imagine that China would object, although there might be some opposition from South Korea.”

The Straits Times quotes a little further:

Koreans historically fought Chinese influence over the peninsula. Both Seoul and Pyongyang were angered several years ago when Beijing appeared to deny that parts of northeastern China were originally a Korean kingdom.

But Mr Ishihara said that Seoul would benefit if North Korea became part of China.

‘If South Korea agrees to the idea, I think that country (North Korea) would collapse naturally and it would bring back a civil society’ instead of just dictatorship, he said.

The US Secretary of State-designate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, just might disagree with Ishihara’s trashing of the Six-Party Talks format.

Clinton also stated that she and President-elect Obama felt that the six-party talks had advantages in bringing the North Korean nuclear issue to an end and said that the talks also presented an opportunity for the United States and North Korea to come into contact. These statements indicated that bilateral dialogue between the two countries will be conducted in tandem with the six-party talks. This concept does not differ greatly from the structure of a comprehensive parallel resolution of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations, which has been advocated by Obama’s advisers and progressive U.S. think tanks.

So, above all, I guess Jang Song-taek’s opinion isn’t needed! I can’t imagine the North Koreans would support the loss of their sovereignty.

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