The Adults In The Room

20 Dec

Props to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her appropriately worded statement to the North Korean government.

The United States appeared to offer an olive branch to North Korea’s new leadership late Monday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent America’s prayers to the country’s people following the death of their leader Kim Jong Il.

“We are deeply concerned with the well being of the North Korean people and our thoughts and prayers are with them during these difficult times,” Clinton said in a statement.

She added that it was America’s hope that North Korean leaders “will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by honoring North Korea’s commitments, improving relations with its neighbors, and respecting the rights of its people.

“The United States stands ready to help the North Korean people and urges the new leadership to work with the international community to usher in a new era of peace, prosperity and lasting security on the Korean Peninsula.”

“Prayers”? Meh. Let it go…

…and, let the food aid issue go away, too.

Unconfirmed reports from South Korean media said the U.S. would, in return, resume food aid that had been suspended since early 2009, when North Korea ejected aid groups monitoring the distribution. The two sides had also been discussing the resumption of a program to bring home the remains of U.S. servicemen killed in the Korean War, another attempt to inject a measure of trust into their relationship.

Those initiatives are now on hold, U.S. officials said, at least during what is expected to be a lengthy mourning period in North Korea. The administration’s caution may also have been dictated by sensitivity to the Chinese government, parts of which are deeply suspicious of American intentions on the Korean peninsula.

U.S. officials also publicly downplayed the possibility that the succession question was propelling North Korea to take risks. They said they had detected no unusual troop movements, or changes in military readiness, since Kim’s death. The alert status was not raised for the nearly 30,000 U.S. troops based in South Korea.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the Pentagon had not seen “any change in North Korean behavior that would alarm us.”

Dempsey also played down North Korea’s launch of two short-range missiles Monday, saying the tests apparently were planned before Kim’s death.

Are you watching, Seoul? Just cut and paste and change the country names.

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