Friday, October 20, 2006

North Korean Regime Change R.I.P.?

Passionate regime changers will have some problems with Bush administration spokesperson Tony Snow’s remarks this morning:

The United States said it does not want to dominate or humiliate North Korea and is instead offering "a pretty good deal" of economic and diplomatic benefits for giving up nuclear weapons.
"As to the central charge of trying to humiliate or to make them go to their knees, it's just the opposite," White House spokesman Tony Snow said in response to a North Korean general's comments to ABC television.

"Not only do we not want North Korea to kneel down before (us), but what we're trying to do is offer them a better deal -- better economy, more security, better relations with their neighbors, integration into the global community, as opposed to isolation. A pretty good deal," he said.

"What we want to do is give North Korea an opportunity to enjoy the same kinds of privileges and prosperity that are available to other nations in the region," said the spokesman.

"What we've tried to do in the case of the government of North Korea is not to engage in personal insults about Kim Jong II but to talk directly about what the government has been doing and how we're trying to work with people in the neighborhood to help out North Korea," he said.

Maybe the White House saw this headline on MSNBC, woke up and, as we say, smelled the coffee:

Report: Kim sorry about N. Korea nuclear test
He is said to tell China that six-party talks could restart under conditions

Maybe the White House has belatedly realized that its aggressive policy to isolate, pressure, and destabilize North Korea has simply played into Beijing’s hands by pushing Pyongyang firmly under the thumb of its massive neighbor. Now prospects for North Korea to behave as anything other than a Chinese satellite—and a helpless pawn in the PRC’s efforts to button up the Korean peninsula as a Chinese sphere of influence—are extremely remote.

Previously, I argued:

Indeed, fresh, legitimate, and reinvigorated North Korean leadership—or a prosperous North Korean economy--may be the last thing China wants. What I believe China wants is a North Korean regime that is profoundly isolated, helpless, and totally reliant on Chinese good offices to survive.

Right now, Kim Jung Il—and the United States and Japan—are pretty much doing China’s work for it.

Ironically, by this reading, the United States could profit from the estrangement between China and North Korea by embarking on a swift rapprochement with Pyongyang.

Instead , we are doing everything within our power to force North Korea under China’s heel and, in the process, prolong the same North Korean regime and system that we have sworn to destroy.

Unfortunately,it looks like it’s a little too late for a dramatic rapprochement with Kim Jung Il’s humiliated regime, though Mr. Snow makes a valiant effort to smooth things over:

"It is not unusual for the North Koreans to use strong rhetoric," said Snow. "We, right now, are focused on using all of our efforts on a diplomatic path to work with that government of North Korea so that they're going to do things that are going to be good for all of them.

"What we've tried to do in the case of the government of North Korea is not to engage in personal insults about Kim Jong II but to talk directly about what the government has been doing and how we're trying to work with people in the neighborhood to help out North Korea," he said.

"And, you know, there are disagreements, but also a lot of times what happens is people engage in some public diplomacy," he said.

All that nasty stuff we used to say about Kim Jung Il? You know, like this:

[I]n a taped interview with Bob Woodward, [President Bush] insisted, "I loathe Kim Jong Il!" waving his finger in the air. "I've got a visceral reaction to this guy, because he is starving his people." Bush also said that he wanted to "topple him," and that he considered the leader to be a "pygmy." Woodward wrote that the president had become so emotional while speaking about Kim Jong Il that "I thought he might jump up."

Just kidding! A little bit of public diplomacy joshing by our high-spirited chief executive.

And “Axis of Evil”? You know, from the President’s State of the Union address?

North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. (Applause.)

Fuggedaboutit! Just a bit of diplomacy enabling rhetoric.

North Korea can now be evaluated as a squandered opportunity by the Bush administration. It reversed a policy of engagement with North Korea that could have drawn Pyongyang away from Beijing and sustained Kim Jung Il’s regime as an independent and potentially useful variable in North Asian affairs.

The White House substituted a policy of confrontation.

However, the failure to find WMDs in Iraq and the creation of a bloody quagmire there stripped America of the diplomatic and military means of forcing its policy of confrontation through to its final, logical, and necessary conclusion.

The US had an opportunity to abandon this unworkable approach and change course when the second Bush administration took office in 2004, but chose not to.

Instead we persisted in our refusal to engage with North Korea and escalated the confrontation through the financial sanctions that triggered the Pyongyang’s nuclear test, the ensuing UN sanctions, and the crowning Japanese, Australian, and US unilateral sanctions.

The Chinese then took advantage with economic and financial pressure designed to cut the heart out of North Korea and Kim Jung Il pathetically capitulated.

To China.

Not to us.

Now an isolated and battered North Korean regime understands it has no alternative to a straitened existence under China’s heel. South Korea will undoubtedly acknowledge the China’s determination and ability to drive events on the peninsula and continue its drift away from America into China’s orbit.

If we want to know what’s going on there, we can always ask the Chinese. And they’ll tell us.


“The Chinese are emphasizing the need for six-party talks to begin again and for the North to re-engage in the talks,” Rice told reporters in Beijing. “They (North Korea) urged us to be open to returning to those talks without preconditions, which for us is not difficult,” she said after talks with Tang.

But Rice did not hear of any concrete assurances or any kind of apology from North Korean during the talks with Tang, or even specifics on how North Korea might be drawn back into the six-party talks, sources at the meeting told NBC foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell. The talks were described not as a breakthrough but as possibly the start of a long diplomatic track.

I wonder if China will even decide to dismantle North Korea’s miniscule nuclear arsenal as a sop to the West. Or preserve it as Beijing’s personal bargaining chip when discussions turn to Korean unification—or Iran.

That’s what you get when you lack both the means to destroy a regime and the will to engage with it.

And I think that’s going to take more than a few press conferences to turn around.

1 comment:

mahathir_fan said...

You came up with some stories about China wanting to keep NK poor.

But let me ask you a very simple question: Why does US not want to normalize relations with NK?

If it is true that China has intentions to keep NK poor, China should be supporting the US in urging the US not to normalize relations. How has China shown to have been in active engagement with the US to not normalize relations with NK?