Sunday, June 03, 2007

BDA as a Litmus Test for US-China Relations...and Maybe More

AFP reports:

US officials say Beijing has begun voicing frustration over Washington's handling of a banking dispute with Pyongyang which has held up implementation of a February agreement under which North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Chalk this report up to a State Department attempt to try to push the Bush administration to resolve the funds remittance by pointing out that the Chinese are upset.

The Banco Delta Asia ball seems to be squarely in Washington’s court—and neither the State Department nor the media seems to taking the effort to bat it back and claim, at least for appearances sake, that the North Koreans are somehow responsible for the US inability to get the money remitted from BDA to a Pyongyang account.

Apparently, Chris Hill was in Beijing for two days of jibber-jabber and I wouldn’t be surprised if the little issue of Banco Delta Asia is occupying a disproportionate amount of everybody’s time.

Nothing is going particularly well between Beijing and Washington, and the one thing that could go well—the Six Party Agreement—has fallen victim to a political squabble between the State Department realists trying to implement the agreement and hardliners intent upon derailing the agreement by preventing the remittance of the BDA funds.

This matter has dragged on long enough and the stalemate has become so obvious that President Bush's paralysis--or indifference--vis a vis the Six Party Agreement is itself going to emerge as an issue if it isn't solved soon.

I wonder if, to the Chinese, BDA has become a litmus test to see if the Bush administration can deliver anything with respect to the US-China relationship.

If President Bush yields to the hardliners and the Six Party Agreement falls apart, it can be taken as an indication that lame duckery and Washington bureaucratic infighting reached such toxic proportions that the next 18 months will see little more than dysfunctional bickering, sterile obstructionism, and political posturing in East Asian affairs.

There may be a larger context here as well: that the hardliners hope to win the struggle on the insignificant issue of BDA, so they can discredit the State Department as a source of reliable information, loyal advice, viable policies, and effective diplomacy in the much more important debate over how aggressively Iran should be confronted in the upcoming months—the long hot summer of 2007 that may be the last, desperate chance for the hardliners to pursue their grand dreams for the violent transformation of the Middle East.