Thursday, July 09, 2009

Going Forward on North Korea with Kurt Campbell

Kim Jung Il has been very good to me. I have an article up on North Korea at Asia Times under the pen name Peter Lee, titled A convenient North Korean distraction.

Kim Jung Il has also been very good to the United States and Japan, providing a conventional security threat that plays to America’s most conspicuous advantage and justification for continued involvement in Asian affairs: our unchallenged military pre-eminence.

The point of the article, however, is that we won’t have Kim Jung Il to kick around forever, but we—especially the Japanese--don’t seem to be making contingency plans for what to do in Asia once the DPRK ceases to exist in its present form.

The two money quotes from the article are:

The North Korean crisis represents a collision of two anachronisms: the world's last Stalinist state versus a fading Cold War alliance ill-equipped to face the challenge of China, a burgeoning regional power determined to expand its influence through investment, trade and diplomacy and avoid confrontation on the United States' primary terms of advantage: military power.

North Korea is going to open up someday. Probably not through reform, regime change or collapse, or through the application of American or Japanese military force.

But it will open up.

There is too much money and strategic advantage at stake for the interested nations of North Asia to stand idly by and simply watch North Korea disintegrate.

Maybe change will come by means of a controlled implosion, jointly managed by China and South Korea, the two neighboring regimes that covet North Korea's cheap labor, resources and markets, and abhor the consequences of Pyongyang's chaotic disintegration in equal and extreme degree.

If and when that happens, Chinese and South Korean businesses will flood into North Korea and the entire Korean Peninsula will become part of the zero-sum equation bedeviling Tokyo. Japan may find itself on the outside looking in at North Asia's burgeoning new economic frontier ... together with the United States.

The article draws on the confirmation testimony of Kurt Campbell, founder of the Center for a New American Security, as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia. Laura Rozen reported on June 25 that he was finally officially confirmed when some Republican senator withdrew a hold.

To me, Campbell’s testimony was remarkable for three things:

First, Campbell’s clear unwillingness to support any attempt by Japan to establish its own regional security presence by unleashing the Self Defense Force, presumably since he realizes it will come at the expense of American influence and credibility in the region. That’s bad news for the LDP, which sees a forward military presence in Asia for Japan under the U.S. aegis as one of the few measures available to it to counter China’s rise.

Second, the unrelenting use of the term “going forward”. Apparently this is Obama-speak for “We don’t want to get dragged into politically distracting and costly battles over the transgressions and lapses of the Bush administration, so let’s just assume we’re starting with a clean slate.” Of course, the slate is nowhere near clean, the GOP will not display any gratitude or restraint toward the Obama administration for turning a blind eye to its eight-year reign of error, and it remains to be seen whether the president’s unwillingness to openly identify and repudiate the numerous authors of our national economic and foreign policy clusterfugue turns into a political advantage or a liability.

Third, the Democratic chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Jim Webb of Virginia, has a genuine bug in his ear about rapprochement with Myanmar.

He spent most of his question period pressing Campbell to acknowledge the logic of reaching out to the junta, instead of letting the situation fester indefinitely. Campbell, obviously unwilling to expend any political capital on this diplomatic backwater by needlessly antagonizing the left and right-wing supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, awkwardly but determinedly dodged the question several times.


Unknown said...

Re the shambolic fiasco of NIS's attempts to increase its budget by falsely claiming that DPRK had launched a cyber attack on ROK, one must wonder what other rubbish they have been feeding the decision makers in Seoul.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) failed to issue pre-warning on the massive cyber attacks this week, while its own cyber terror security center went down for three days after it was attacked, and hastily pointed out North Korea as the "usual suspect," without specific evidence to back its claim _ all undermining the credibility of the nation's top intelligence body, Hankyoreh said Saturday in its editorial.

Since Lee Myung-bak administration came into office, NIS has become arguably the most powerful government organ. Lee appointed one of his confidants as the head of NIS, who was granted private access to Lee.

With the elevated status, NIS officials behave more confidently than before, while regrettably some arrogantly, it said, adding some NIS officials also tried to suppress civil organizations that are critical of Lee's policy.

It pointed out that while NIS conducts through, even severe, investigation into security lapses of other government organs, this time when its own cyber security center was attacked, it was unable to recover for three days.

NIS, together with its U.S. counterpart, discovered signs of a possible attack as early as on July 4, but failed to minimize the damage, it said. "This time, NIS was not only incapable, but was dysfunctional," it said.

Unlike NIS, the U.S. government reacted more cautiously, without pointing out North Korea as the source of the attacks. Based on circumstantial conjecture, yet without evidence, NIS told the media that North Korea was "behind" the cyber attacks.

The intelligence body was persistent with its opinion even when it later said the cyber attacks came through Internet protocols from 19 countries and North Korea was not included, the newspaper said, adding all this adds mistrust on the agency

Unknown said...

It seems that the so called North Korean Cyber Attack" came from the UK, not Korea.

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