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Major Breakthrough in North Korean-U.S. Diplomacy
March 1, 2012 3:58 PM   Subscribe

In a surprise announcement this week North Korea agreed to halt nuclear weapons tests, enrichment of uranium and long-range-missile launches and allow the return of international inspectors in exchange for a pledge of "no harmful intent" and 240,000 metric tons of food aid from the U.S. The announcement is seen as a major breakthrough by the State Department after years of stalled negotiations and the first major foreign policy action by Kim Jong-un.

Timing may have been a factor in Mr. Kim’s decision; he needs food aid this year for the national celebrations of what would have been the 70th birthday of his father and the centennial of his late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the North’s founding president. However, the agreement does not resolve the threat still posed by North Korea’s existing nuclear arsenal. China backed the agreement while Japan and South Korean hailed North Korea's commitment to suspend so many aspects of their nuclear program.

The State Department has a background briefing on the announcement and broader implications:
QUESTION: Yeah, thanks for doing this call. A bit of a broader question: This obviously comes just a couple of months after the death of Kim Jong-il. Just wanted to see what sign, if any, you saw on continuity on the North Korean side, what this – what if anything this says about the transition and how it’s going in Pyongyang.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ONE: Sure. We spoke to this a little bit, actually, on the days we were discussing this in Beijing. I think this – well, a couple of things. One is we were sitting across from essentially the same North Korean negotiators who have been at this in some cases, for – well, for decades. In particular, First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, who is a veteran North Korean negotiator and has seen lots of guys like us come and go, and many of his team are familiar faces. So the people were the same.

The way that they presented the issues was quite familiar to us. The basic arguments they used, the requests they were making of us, the rationale that they were employing – and here is the point. I think that’s important because I think it shows that the new, call it, administration in Pyongyang is picking up where the previous one left off. And that’s great; that’s good. And they’re doing it within the 100-day mourning period that’s self-declared in North Korea. So it shows that they’re interested with some alacrity to reach out, to get back to the table, and begin to try to make diplomatic progress, and I think that’s a positive sign.

So I think overall, you – what we are seeing is a sign of continuity. I think overall, the early stages of this transition have been relatively uneventful as soon as near as we can divine what’s happening inside North Korea. So that’s about as far as we could go, not being in Pyongyang, but rather being in Beijing and talking to, as I say, a fairly familiar cast of North Korean negotiators.
posted by 2bucksplus (119 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
North Korea agreed to stop mucking about with weapons in exchange for food? I don't think "surprise" is the word for it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:59 PM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nice use of the "diplomacybitches" tag
posted by Hoopo at 4:03 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Um, what happens after they've eaten the food? Maybe they could put the nukes in escrow or something.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:06 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Down the road is always murky, but it at least bodes well that Kim Jong-un's first foray into international politics is along this path. Here's hoping it continues
posted by edgeways at 4:10 PM on March 1, 2012 [29 favorites]


I imagine that the state department isn't really allowed to say that the policy in North Korea has changed, since the regime probably wants to present the front that nothing is changing to their own people
posted by empath at 4:10 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Um, what happens after they've eaten the food?

Or what if instead of eating it they use it to make a deadly food bomb?
posted by aubilenon at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Mmmm, 240,000 metric tons of birthday cake...
posted by darksasami at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Um, what happens after they've eaten the food? Maybe they could put the nukes in escrow or something.


So they'll do what they always do, saber rattle when they need more food. It's a racket. He learned his father's game well.
posted by dibblda at 4:12 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am sure there is an ominous and pessimistic way to read this news but thank goodness I am not cynical enough to imagine any details about what that might be.

I feel like singin' For He's a Jolly Good Fellow!
posted by bukvich at 4:14 PM on March 1, 2012


As I am seriously cynical about North Korea, I am sorry to say that I thought about 2002 and that old adage about "fooled me twice, shame on me."
posted by bearwife at 4:18 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or what if instead of eating it they use it to make a deadly food bomb?


So that's where Saddam's yellowcake ended up!
posted by dubold at 4:33 PM on March 1, 2012


Hmm. I wonder when they'll agree to halting:

1. their concentration camps
2. torture
3. biological weapons production (experimented on their camp prisoners, might I add)
posted by The ____ of Justice at 4:33 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


saber rattle when they need more food. It's a racket.

It's obvious that they're bluffing, but it's a cheap racket. I vaguely recall from some discussion about aid to Afghanistan that "a ton of food" costs about $500 on average, and at that rate, this aid proposal represents a $120 million commitment from the USA. Compared to any sort of military activity whatsoever, that's pocket change. It might pay for, I don't know, half a dozen UAVs to circle around overhead for a few months.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:35 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Given Jong-Un's propensity to touch things, I believe a goodwill shipment of cacti is in order.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:36 PM on March 1, 2012


They'll resume to randomly shelling South Korea and lobbing missiles over Japan before the year is out. Seriously, what our young Jong-Un needs to do is conduct a purge and liquidate 20% of the senior party cadres.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:43 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


The whole DPRK nuclear weapons thing is theater. They want us to take them seriously, even though they can't make a long-range device to save their lives. The real reason DPRK is scary is because they have enough conventional weapons trained on Seoul to wipe it off the map in short order.

Still, this is a good sign because it could mean that DPRK is ready to engage with the rest of the world. Really, though I don't think we can expect much from them.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:46 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


They're not giving up much since their nuke didn't work. They don't have a nuke. They have what might be a pretty effective dirty bomb, but that's it.

Here's what happened: There are, as you probably know, two basic types of atomic bomb. All atomic bombs work by assembling a critical mass from a subcritical mass, and introducing a neutron to start the chain reaction. This has to happen very fast, because the initial stages of the reaction begin blowing the bomb apart as the reaction proceeds, and this can ruin its criticality.

Gun-type bombs like Little Boy work by blasting a slug through a ring, making a critical mass as the slug passes. Fun fact -- there's no stop for the bullet; the reaction happens so fast once it's started that the bullet's firing velocity doesn't matter.

Implosion type bombs like Fat Man and just about everything built since work by squeezing an assembly with spherical symmetry; in Fat Man this core was solid and the explosives compressed the metal, but later bombs have hollow cores for more implosion velocity.

There are also two basic atomic bomb fuels, Uranium 235 which is hard to make because it has to be separated an atom at a time from U-238, and Plutonium which is relatively easy to make because it can be separated chemically.

What they found at Los Alamos was that Plutonium reacts more quickly than U-235, which means it has to be assembled faster for the bomb not to blow itself apart before the reaction completes. They decided that a Plutonium gun bomb was unworkable, and that's why they put so much effort into the much more complicated implosion scheme. U-235 production could make a few bombs a year, but Plutonium production could potentially produce hundreds, a quantity sufficient to give the Russians pause.

Anyway, what North Korea tried was building the easy gun-type bomb with the easy Plutonium fuel, and it didn't work. It does create a small atomic explosion, but not the target yield and the unreacted plutonium goes all over the place. They have probably figured out what Los Alamos estimated 60 years ago, which is that chemical propulsion just isn't up to generating the bullet speeds necessary to make a plutonium gun bomb.

It was probably Kim Jung-Il's baby, and the new regime knows it's an albatross.

Oh, and Richard Rhodes now has to put an asterisk by that line in The Making of the Atomic Bomb where he reminds us that every country that has ever tried to build a nuke has succeeded on the first try.
posted by localroger at 4:46 PM on March 1, 2012 [58 favorites]


P.S. The nuclear industry has a technical term for what happened to the Korean bomb; it's called a "fizzle." Yes, that is the term of art.
posted by localroger at 4:47 PM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


240,000 metric tons of food aid from the U.S.

Yeah, but how much of that is kimchee?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:51 PM on March 1, 2012


Is there any chance that this is a sign that Jong-Un might be a reformer who is rejecting his father's regime's practices?
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 5:01 PM on March 1, 2012


240,000 metric tons of food aid

...and a pack of smokes and a Sprite, thanks.
posted by griphus at 5:05 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but how much of that is kimchee?

Feeding 24 million people kimchee all at once would violate the international ban on chemical and biological weapons
posted by Hoopo at 5:06 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


This really undermines the case for bombing Iran.
posted by humanfont at 5:06 PM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, and Richard Rhodes now has to put an asterisk by that line in The Making of the Atomic Bomb where he reminds us that every country that has ever tried to build a nuke has succeeded on the first try.

When I read TMotAB, I felt that Rhodes really downplayed the accumulated brilliance that was the Manhattan Project.

In that desert, you have assembled like 75% of the really first class scientists/mathematicians/physicists on the planet at one time, and they solved the shit out of that one problem they were given.

That being said, I hope for our sakes that this is leading toward a new age in dealing with the horrendous problems that North Korea faced and is still facing.
posted by Sphinx at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or what if instead of eating it they use it to make a deadly food bomb?

식품 싸워라 !
posted by Flashman at 5:22 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


How many times has the US appeased NK? Will it ever stop? Why didn't China give them more food?
posted by caclwmr4 at 5:32 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


there's a new guy in charge. Hopes aren't terribly high but it's worth a try, isn't it?
posted by Hoopo at 5:34 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kim Jong-un is 28 years old and is essentially more Swiss than Korean.

I think there will be a lot of pleasant surprises.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:52 PM on March 1, 2012


[Kim Jong Un] needs food aid this year for the national celebrations of what would have been the 70th birthday of his father and the centennial of his late grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the North’s founding president.

*Calls up dad*..."Hey dad, can you put a little more money in my account?"
posted by steamynachos at 5:58 PM on March 1, 2012


Kim Jong-un is 28 years old and is essentially more Swiss than Korean.

People said the same thing about the British-trained ophthalmologist currently running Syria...
posted by BobbyVan at 6:13 PM on March 1, 2012 [13 favorites]


We give them food, and it shores up their dictatorship that much longer.

It's a moral dilemma if you should help starving people (at the cost of prolonging a pretty tyrannical dictatorship), or let them starve in hopes that they overthrow their own government and institute a more equitable system.

Not to mention, considering the rampant corruption and abuse in north korea, it's highly doubtful any of the aid will actually get to the people who need it most; probably be a lot of senior party members having feasts, though.
posted by dethb0y at 6:36 PM on March 1, 2012


Kim Jong-un is 28 years old and is essentially more Swiss than Korean.

The generals will fix that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 PM on March 1, 2012


Major breakthrough? Is this Groundhog day? Another Clinton already bought and paid for those nukes.

"In 1994, faced with North Korea’s announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid."

This is just a PR ploy to make sure the heat and the focus is not removed from Iran. Worthless and weak Obama administration. Worthless and weak.
posted by three blind mice at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


People said the same thing about the British-trained ophthalmologist currently running Syria...

Right, but, like, this is a guy from the Far East, who conducted his studies in French, and has returned to rule a Communist country. Name one example where that's ever gone wrong, smartypants!
posted by Sys Rq at 6:39 PM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Name one example where that's ever gone wrong, smartypants!

Just the one?
posted by Rangeboy at 6:41 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh noes! Something kind of good may have happened somewhere in the world through liberal diplomacy that it ever so slightly decreases the chance that right wingers will get a chance to turn yet another region of the world into a big, bloody, cynical mess to provide cover for their opportunistic weapons-dealing! Quick, find fault with it! Before it spreads and destroys our business model!
posted by saulgoodman at 6:42 PM on March 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


"...that it ever so slightly decreases..."
posted by saulgoodman at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2012


so slightly decreases the chance that right wingers will get a chance to turn yet another region of the world into a big, bloody, cynical mess to provide cover for their opportunistic weapons-dealing!

This increases the chances that the right wingers (and many pom-pom waving Democrats) will have their war on Iran, but please, don't let that stop you from claiming it to be a victory for liberal diplomacy.

I can hear it already... "Diplomacy that worked in North Korea failed in Iran (they don't need American money obviously) and now that North Korea is secure we can move on to addressing the real threat to peace and security - IRAN."

And you are ignoring the fact that this "liberal diplomacy" has been tried before with North Korea and resulted in nothing.
posted by three blind mice at 6:55 PM on March 1, 2012


How many times has the US appeased NK? Will it ever stop? Why didn't China give them more food?

Yes, disgusting appeasement. Let's call their bluff! We could use another war! All those people in North Korea only have the brutally repressive military dictatorship out of choice, after all. As for the South Koreans, well....fuck em. Anyway, I'm no appeaser.

You want to stop "appeasing", yes? I presume then that you're going to fight in any war that comes from it.
posted by howfar at 7:00 PM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


three blind mice or, to paraphrase what you just said: War is peace.
posted by howfar at 7:02 PM on March 1, 2012


And you are ignoring the fact that this "liberal diplomacy" has been tried before with North Korea and resulted in nothing.

Nonsense. The Agreed Framework stopped work on NK's nuclear program and placed it all under international inspection, which halted it until Bush abrogated the framework. It was in response to the Bush administration halting the Agreed Framework that the NKs restarted their nuclear program. Had the Bush administration merely continued the status quo, they wouldn't have a nuclear bomb, fizzle or otherwise.
posted by fatbird at 7:05 PM on March 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


How many times has the US appeased NK? Will it ever stop? Why didn't China give them more food?

China do give them quite a lot of aid, military and otherwise, so you should probably do some reading before shooting your mouth off. Further, I should imagine appeasement will be continue to be used so long as it remains cheap, effective, and humane. None of those adjectives could apply to Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan etc.
posted by smoke at 7:14 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mmm. Delicious butter.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:18 PM on March 1, 2012


Headlines on this story in the media and what they really say.

NYTimes.com:
North Koreans Agree to Freeze Nuclear Work; U.S. to Give Aid

We at the New York times are dedicated to giving you concise and factual newspaper style headlines using semi-colons even when we are on the internet that there is no need to do so.

Foxnews.com:

"NKorea says it will halt some nuclear activities"; "Why the North Korea nuclear moratorium means next to nothing"
(opinion)

Downplaying Washington's role; As long as a Democrat is in the White House nothing good ever happens.

msnbc.com:
North Korea-U.S. deal revives hopes of nuclear disarmament talks.

Hooray! A US foreign policy breakthrough!

aljazeera.com
China backs US-North Korea nuclear deal

Look, we're Al Jazeera. We're not in the business of writing good things about US foreign policy. We will give you this rather interesting story about China however.
posted by Winnemac at 7:22 PM on March 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


They have probably figured out what Los Alamos estimated 60 years ago, which is that chemical propulsion just isn't up to generating the bullet speeds necessary to make a plutonium gun bomb.

But if they stole a railgun from the navy...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:29 PM on March 1, 2012


It was in response to the Bush administration halting the Agreed Framework that the NKs restarted their nuclear program. Had the Bush administration merely continued the status quo, they wouldn't have a nuclear bomb, fizzle or otherwise.

This is demonstrably false. North Korea was secretly developing nuclear weapons when the Bush Administration halted the Agreed Framework.

NYTimes: October 17, 2002 --
Confronted by new American intelligence, North Korea has admitted that it has been conducting a major clandestine nuclear-weapons development program for the past several years, the Bush administration said tonight...

The next day the North Koreans acknowledged the nuclear program and according to one American official said they, ''have more powerful things as well.''
posted by BobbyVan at 7:43 PM on March 1, 2012


the Bush administration said tonight.

Well, as long as you've got an unimpeachable source on who has a secret weapons programme...
posted by howfar at 7:56 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


OK, don't want to take it from Bush Admin, fine.

North Korea seems to have been working secretly with A.Q. Khan on acquiring nuclear technology as far back as 1997 (also in .pdf w/ citations here) - three years after the Agreed Framework was established.
1997
• Khan is suspected of beginning nuclear transfers to North Korea around this time, though the dates of the first transfers are highly uncertain. Transfers to North Korea are believed to have continued through 2003, but the Pakistani government claims these transfers ceased in 2001. Over this period, Khan may have supplied North Korea with old and discarded centrifuge and enrichment machines together with sets of drawings, sketches, technical data, and depleted uranium hexafluoride.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:16 PM on March 1, 2012


I've only spent a few minutes checking, so I might be missing some, but at a quick glance it rather appears that all the relevant sources in that survey draw their information from ummmmm....intelligence released by the Bush administration. Surely it should be easier to demonstrate something to be false when it is "demonstrably false"? Why not just link to some primary news sources that report reliable third party intelligence, instead of making me play hunt the thimble with this stuff?
posted by howfar at 8:34 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


You want to stop "appeasing", yes? I presume then that you're going to fight in any war that comes from it.

NK could not sustain any war. They would STARVE. It's a joke. If they started anything at all they would deplete themselves in only a few days. It's a joke. It's a joke. It's a joke. It's a 60 years long joke.

Now consider who really profits from supporting the charade of NK as a potential troublemaker.

We should not send them any aid, we should laugh at them and ignore them and allow them to self destruct.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:46 PM on March 1, 2012


We should not send them any aid, we should laugh at them and ignore them and allow them to self destruct.

Yeah we're gonna look like suckers sending food aid to starving people!
posted by Hoopo at 8:50 PM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm glad they're not mainly systemically brutalised human beings then. Else proposing laughing at them starving would seem disgustingly callous and inhuman. So, yeah, good thing really.
posted by howfar at 8:51 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is how you do it. Quiet, patient diplomacy. Engaging with China, keeping firm when needed, being flexible when required, influencing and collaborating with those involved. No bombast or empty rhetoric, no slogans or empty electioneering. Professional, patient diplomacy. Will it work? Who knows, perhaps it is just another example of the North Korean version of the shell game. But this is an infinitely preferable approach than sabre-rattling. And this from a Democratic administration with a President and Secretary of State who are competent, intelligent and focussed on getting the right result. Any thoughts as to whether the current crop of Republican candidates are capable of such nuances?
posted by vac2003 at 8:52 PM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah we're gonna look like suckers sending food aid to starving people!

Sending to NK, yet again, WE DO.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:52 PM on March 1, 2012


NK is not going to get a revolution anytime soon because nobody there has the resources for it. This is why the government there is keeping such a tight hold on the food. A not-insignificant percentage of the country at one point starved to death in the Arduous March. To death. They didn't just go hungry at night. They died. If they didn't have an uprising over that, then they were missing something they need to have that happen, and giving them more food is not going to delay a revolution. The self-destruction that is going to happen there is not to the government. It's to the rest of the population, which is not to blame. If anything, the US owes them. We were the ones who split Korea with the Soviets along lines that made no sense and left them a pauper's portion of arable land.

That doesn't mean we owe anything to the government, and we should definitely do whatever we can do to make a regime change happen, but if they were going to be starved out, it would have happened ages ago.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:53 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here you go, howfar, from the International Institute for Strategic Studies:
A.Q. Khan’s nuclear export business took a new turn in the late 1990s when he provided North Korea with a number of gas centrifuges, associated material and technical assistance, expanding on deals in which North Korea provided No-dong missiles to Pakistan. His foreign network associates were not known to be involved in these transactions – only Khan and his fellow Pakistani collaborators. In his 2006 autobiography, Musharraf wrote that in early 1999, when he was serving as army chief, he discovered that some North Korean nuclear experts, operating under the guise of missile engineers, had been given secret briefings at KRL. As described below, North Korean interaction with KRL regarding ballistic missile exchanges was permitted as a secret government-to-government deal, but the Pakistani government claims that A.Q. Khan was not authorised to interact with the North Koreans on nuclear matters. Musharraf wrote that he summoned him to explain his interaction with the North Koreans on nuclear technology, but Khan flatly denied the charge.

After Khan was arrested in 2004, Pakistani officials claimed that he had confessed to having transferred centrifuges and related technology to North Korea, beginning in the late 1990s. The Clinton administration reportedly learnt of the transfers in 1998 or 1999. The first media claim of a North Korean enrichment programme came in March 1999, sourced to a US Department of Energy intelligence report. The CIA concluded, however, that North Korea began its centrifuge-based uranium enrichment programme in 2000. This conclusion derived in part from imagery analysis of unmarked containers loaded on Pakistani C-130 transport aircraft.

The most detailed account of the enrichment technology transfer comes from Musharraf’s autobiography, in which he stated that ‘A.Q. Khan transferred nearly two dozen P-1 and P-2 centrifuges to North Korea. He also provided North Korea with a flow meter, some special oils for centrifuges, and coaching on centrifuge technology, including visits to top-secret centrifuge plants.’ Musharraf’s 2006 account is curious in two respects. Firstly, in 2005 he mentioned only half that number (‘probably a dozen’). Western governments believe that the actual number was about 20. Secondly, it was the first reference to P-2s going to North Korea; previous reports about Khan’s confessions mentioned only P-1 centrifuges. According to a government official who briefed the press after Khan’s televised confession, Khan, in a 12-page signed confession, accepted full responsibility for ‘supplying old and discarded centrifuge and enrichment machines together with sets of drawings, sketches, technical data and depleted hexafluoride (UF6) gas to North Korea’.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:53 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The US owes nothing to NK - or to any other country.
posted by caclwmr4 at 8:55 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The US owes nothing to NK - or to any other country.

...aside from the odd six hundred billion dollars here and there.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:03 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Cheers BobbyVan. Looking at those sources I'd still say that the original statement looks "demonstrably debatable" rather than "demonstrably false". I'll look at it properly in the morning. Contrary to what one might think, insomnia is not cured by chasing down sources on the reliability of Pakistani intel claims.
posted by howfar at 9:04 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


The US owes nothing to NK - or to any other country.

$15,418,992,357,931 when I looked.
posted by panaceanot at 9:05 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Although that's not *all* owed to other countries)
posted by panaceanot at 9:06 PM on March 1, 2012


Bollocks. As usual, as it goes every single time the NorKs dangle a carrot leads to celebrating latest 'breakthrough', they're just manipulating the Americans and the rest of the international community to get what they want, and they'll turn around within months (after a few shipments of fuel oil or food or Nintendos and doughnuts for the Pudgy Boy King), recommence with their nuclear noodling and crappy missile 'testing' and threaten yet again to turn Seoul into a lake of fire, and CNN will shit its pants and trot out the swoopy 3D graphics again, and around we'll go again.

Go ahead, you goofy bastards. Prove me wrong.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:06 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


$15,418,992,357,931 when I looked.

Well, yes, quite right. I was replying to the earlier message that said

If anything, the US owes them.

As for that $15+T, that's another topic. Part of that now is the cost of 240,000 tons of food we are giving NK while getting nothing in return.
posted by caclwmr4 at 9:11 PM on March 1, 2012


If you go and you break something at somebody else's house, you owe them a replacement. We did a lot more in this process than just knocking over a lamp.
posted by gracedissolved at 9:18 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Part of that now is the cost of 240,000 tons of food we are giving NK while getting nothing in return.

Is doing something good for a change (even if you have to be tricked into it) really so bad?

Or would you prefer to only be known as that country that goes around murdering innocent civilians by the hundreds of thousands?

If this is a PR stunt, understand that it doesn't just benefit North Korea.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:18 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't fault anyone for being cynical and expecting the worst, but to just flat out refuse this opportunity would be a waste. Kim Jun-Un may turn out to be just like his father or controlled by the military, but you're not really losing much here. Foreign policy-wise, there are far worse things the US can do in this situation.

Part of that now is the cost of 240,000 tons of food we are giving NK while getting nothing in return.

LOL. Do the math. It's infinitesimal. Plus if they fuck the US on this, Kim Jong-Un has spat in the USA's face at his first opportunity and set the tone for future dealings. He has far more to lose than the US does in sending food aid.
posted by Hoopo at 9:22 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


How did I just write Jun-Un?
posted by Hoopo at 9:31 PM on March 1, 2012


I'm not seeing how the U.S. is losing much by giving 240,000 tons of food to starving people who need it and in the process opening up a line of communication with North Korea.

Undoubtedly, North Korea (and China) will use this as evidence to show how the U.S. and Obama are weak and Jun-Un is strong. Most likely North Korea will start trouble again at the soonest opportunity.
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:41 PM on March 1, 2012


This is just a PR ploy to make sure the heat and the focus is not removed from Iran. Worthless and weak Obama administration. Worthless and weak.

This is a well-reasoned and informed analysis of an admittedly complex global geopolitical situation.
posted by joe lisboa at 10:11 PM on March 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


(As in: it's like ten-thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.)
posted by joe lisboa at 10:16 PM on March 1, 2012


localroger, do you have a source for your claim that NK's fizzle was from a gun type bomb, but using plutonium fuel? I haven't read that anywhere, and it seems more likely that they tried implosion, but couldn't get it to work.
posted by metaplectic at 10:28 PM on March 1, 2012


(As in: it's like ten-thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.)

It's a woeful and inaccurate attempt at giving an example of irony?
posted by howfar at 10:31 PM on March 1, 2012


Undoubtedly, North Korea (and China) will use this as evidence to show how the U.S. and Obama are weak and Jun-Un is strong.

If this is not sarcasm it's an almost breath-takingly naive and misinformed view of foreign policy in general and the history of NPK relations.
posted by smoke at 10:38 PM on March 1, 2012


panaceanot: "(Although that's not *all* owed to other countries)"

Slightly less than a third of it is owed to foreign and international investors.
posted by wierdo at 10:57 PM on March 1, 2012


Or would you prefer to only be known as that country that goes around murdering innocent civilians by the hundreds of thousands?

My response to that line would violate terms here, so I will not respond.
posted by caclwmr4 at 11:03 PM on March 1, 2012


HAHA U JUST DID
posted by Hoopo at 11:12 PM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


As a foreign policy related thread with a Canadian participant continues, regardless of the content, the probability that discussion eventually turns to America as the Great Satan approaches one.
posted by Winnemac at 11:22 PM on March 1, 2012


There's a lot of Canadians here. Only one has done anything close to what you're suggesting.
posted by Hoopo at 11:26 PM on March 1, 2012


Just a play on Godwin's law and another common feature of the internet.
posted by Winnemac at 11:44 PM on March 1, 2012


As a foreign policy related thread with a Canadian participant continues, regardless of the content, the probability that discussion eventually turns to America as the Great Satan approaches one.

I'm Canadian. I've lived in Korea for 13 years. Satan doesn't exist. America's overrated. Venn diagram that, buddy.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:56 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK
posted by Winnemac at 1:25 AM on March 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


That is above and beyond the call of duty, and I doff my metaphorical cap.

You, sir, would be my Internet Hero Of The Day except that I have been careful for many years now to eschew internet-lecturing in favour of just talking shit and seeing what happens, so the conceptual core of your Vennage, magnificently loopy and splendidly pastel as it might be, is porous, rickety, ad-hominential and likely to collapse.

Also: hail Satan, fuck America (but hooray for lots of swell Americans), and a thundering celestial shitrain upon Kim Jeong Eun!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:45 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


NOT OK Winnemac ;]
posted by panaceanot at 3:04 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Feeding a large number of starving people is not nothing or even a small thing.
posted by humanfont at 3:44 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nations that are trading tend not to be nations that choose to fight to get what they could have traded for. This is a good start, and bully for the team/people involved here.

She destroyed unfinished atomic bombs, secret papers and her atomic bomb plans only hours before the advance units of the Russian Army moved into Konan, Korea, site of the project.

North Korea has had access to fission weapons for some time, if the above link is to be believed.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:01 AM on March 2, 2012


What will the world’s tyrants learn from the Libyan War? Get nukes.
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:10 AM on March 2, 2012


What will the world’s tyrants learn from the Libyan War? Get nukes.

World Tyrant [waking up bleary eyed after a night of douchebaggery and repression] "Bring me the Minister for Science!"

Minister for Tyrant Science: "Good morning Mein Dictatorial Poobah!"

World Tryant: "We need nukes! Did you see what happened to Quadhaphi?"

Minister for Tyrant Science: "I'm on it! I'm ever so glad you gave the green light to my side project!"
posted by panaceanot at 4:25 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


localroger, do you have a source for your claim that NK's fizzle was from a gun type bomb, but using plutonium fuel?

Not offhand; it was something I read back in the day and it made enough sense that I took it for granted. IIRC it was from one of the few sources that were pointing out that a < 2 KT yield should not be considered success. It seems unlikely that a failed implosion scheme would have even yielded the > 1 KT they got. But of course nobody knows exactly what went down, just that whatever it was didn't work.
posted by localroger at 5:25 AM on March 2, 2012


It's a woeful and inaccurate attempt at giving an example of irony?

Meta-irony, dude. Meta-irony.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:07 AM on March 2, 2012


This is just a PR ploy to make sure the heat and the focus is not removed from Iran. Worthless and weak Obama administration. Worthless and weak.

Gaaaah. No it isn't. It's a small amount of danegold for a Dane who might have a 1% chance of levelling Seoul (via artillery, not nukes). If the cost is less than 1% then it's a good deal (and certainly is a very good deal compared to the cost of sending another carrier in response to mutual sabre rattling).

What's so complex about that?
posted by jaduncan at 6:37 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is just a PR ploy to make sure the heat and the focus is not removed from Iran. Worthless and weak Obama administration. Worthless and weak.

This from a guy who has repeatedly extolled the superiority of the Chinese system of government over American-style liberal Democracy in the context of other discussions on MeFi.

Look, as far as I can tell, you don't really like the American system or want it's Democratic institutions to succeed in the first place, TBM, so you'll have to forgive me for being skeptical of your criticisms. And your evident preference for "strong" leadership (as opposed to "weak and worthless" statesmanship of the kind any diplomatic success represents).
posted by saulgoodman at 7:04 AM on March 2, 2012


oops... meant to continue at the end of that last comment with something like: "And your evident preference... does little to persuade me you have any genuine interest in seeing American diplomacy succeed in NK or anywhere else in the world.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:06 AM on March 2, 2012


I'm really pro-not-having-nuclear-war.
And, guns, butter, whatever it takes to achieve that is ok by me.

A lot of the commentary (here, and elsewhere in the news) seems like people don't want to bend. Or feel like they're bending and losing face or the U.S. is humbling itself.

I would dance around in clown makeup wearing granny panties live on NK television if it meant avoiding nuclear war.

What I see developing in the world is a race to reasonableness. I suppose we have Bush and crazies around the world to thank for that. But I'm happy to see it either way.
Diplomacy and reasonableness is (albeit slowly) becoming clout.
It seems natural under a unipolarity force. You can't really fight the U.S., given the spectrum of dominance, not just military force.

And if the U.S. is being a dick, then you act reasonably and gain world sympathy, which itself brings pressure to bear.
So the tactic itself starts to look good and everyone starts one-upping. "Oh yeah? Well, I'll f'ing concede the fishing rights if you guys just have to have it" "What? Up yours! We'll give you the fishing rights, plus throw in a nice trade deal!" Etc.

Happens with any tactic really. If an opposing power gains supremacy in a given area, you change the terms of the engagement.

And that really is what is wrong with the "we don't negotiate with 'x'" policies. It eventually leads to your downfall because you can't demand absolute submission from everyone at all time in all areas. You wind up fighting everyone on everything. And you're going to run out of manpower, money, etc. really quickly.
Of course, Bushco (that is, the admin and everyone involved) were only clocked in for eight years.

I wonder if that almost cyclical thing isn't by design. Like a parasite. Leech. Bleed the host almost dry. Then back off and let the host recover. Repeat.

Ah, whatever, it's nice to back the hands off a bit from midnight on the doomsday clock.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:08 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


A discussion on MPR yesterday (part of this I think) stated that this deal has nothing to do with a new era of NK rising with Kim Jong-Un or his influence over the top generals and everything to do with the deceased Dear Leader and the seeing of his plan to completion out of respect. It would seem though that it was wrong to believe that anything would change when Jong-Un took power.
posted by koucha at 9:31 AM on March 2, 2012


A lot of the commentary (here, and elsewhere in the news) seems like people don't want to bend. Or feel like they're bending and losing face or the U.S. is humbling itself

We cannot appear weak to the Chinese. The Obama administration has neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. We can no longer sit back and allow Chinese infiltration, Chinese indoctrination, Chinese subversion and the Chinese conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.
posted by Hoopo at 10:05 AM on March 2, 2012


I'm a big fan of Nothing to Envy and Pyongyang. I'm also a big fan of Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean comic books (manga, manhua, manhwa). I'd prefer to U.S. give North Korea food in part because I want to see the cool, likely dystopian comic books North Korean artists make someday. I know that seems petty, but so does letting hundreds of thousands of people starve to death to win an argument. If it's a bad political idea to keep hundreds of thousands of people with families and lives from dying slowly and horribly from malnutrition, what use are politics? It's weird to me to treat a country like a stray cat: "Don't feed it or you'll never get rid of it!"
posted by nicebookrack at 10:35 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Using the recent bombardment of Yeonpyeong as a model we can conclude that in a shelling of Seoul the casualties would be substantially lower than 99% of the population. Out of a population of 1300 and about the same per square mile the number of dead or injured was just over 1%. Even though the north fired over 180 shells and multiple rockets over two bombardments. With ten million inhabitants and a higher population density casualties are likely to be terrible, but your odds of survival if the conflict remains conventional are greater than 90%. That would still be 1 million dead or wounded. Therefore your assumption of a 1% chance of survival is incorrect.
posted by humanfont at 11:02 AM on March 2, 2012


Is there any chance that this is a sign that Jong-Un might be a reformer who is rejecting his father's regime's practices?

I don't know whether he, personally, is a reformer, but he has certainly been positioned as one, with official communiques reporting him saying things like 'food is more important than bullets.'

In Asian society in general (and IMO a dictatorship in particular) leaders can't afford to be seen as flip-floppers - better to go down in flames or starve your people than lose face by changing your stated position and making a laughing stock of yourself (and by implication, your whole family/village/country). So the transition of power from generation to another is an opportunity for expressing (somewhat) new and different ideas without undermining consistency. KJU could focus (or be focused by his handlers) on economic growth and improving living conditions while still paying periodic lip service to his father's 'heroic resistance to imperialist tyranny' or somesuch.

Given that the comments above were reported before he ascended to the leadership, I read it signalling a shift in their long-term priorities. It's encouraging that this has led to some official commitments so early, as opposed to demonstrations of the young leader's iron resolve and unshakeable will in military matters; because the agreement takes place within the 100-day mourning period for Kim Jong Il, it's 'what he would have wanted.'
posted by anigbrowl at 11:10 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anybody even remotely aware of the wider world around them already knows that North Korean regimes have a history of making insincere deals for food aid, it's not like they tricked us and only a handful of you have the magic They Live sunglasses to see through the lie.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:04 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'd prefer to U.S. give North Korea food in part because I want to see the cool, likely dystopian comic books North Korean artists make someday. I know that seems petty, but so does letting hundreds of thousands of people starve to death to win an argument. If it's a bad political idea to keep hundreds of thousands of people with families and lives from dying slowly and horribly from malnutrition, what use are politics? It's weird to me to treat a country like a stray cat: "Don't feed it or you'll never get rid of it!"

I know the "Aquariums of Pyongyang" isn't on everybody's booklist, but wow, I'm really startled by comments like these. And other comments how we should feel good we're feeding starving people.

NK is the family with the barbed-wired complex down the block. The parents keep their kids in the basement, a good number of which (200,000 by estimates) which they keep in the DEEP basement, and torture them in unimaginable, and by that I mean unimaginable, ways. If you want to keep your faith in "the natural goodness of humanity" intact, don't ever read accounts from former escapees and prison guards.

Every once in a while, the parents of this family come around, asking for canned donations from you and your neighbors. "If we don't get this food" they say, "we'll just have to keep building our meth lab." So you toss them a couple of cans, and they head on back into their complex.

They eat the food you've given them. Those kids in the basement? Yeah, all you've done is pretty much give the parents enough strength to keep beating the shit out of them. And those kids who manage to escape to the neighbors (China)? Haha, they get sent right back to the complex.

If you give them food because you don't want the meth lab, I can't fault you. Hopefully they won't build their janky little lab, or whatever they say they won't do. But please stop this garbage about feeding the North Koreans. You aren't fucking helping the people in the basement, mostly composed of the ones who actually spoke out against the government. Just realize that, please, before you express your sentiments about "helping the North Koreans."

If you want to "help North Koreans," I'd think the humane approach is getting them to free the kids in the basement before giving them food. Or at least demand to see their fucked up basement. But why would they do that, when all they gotta do to get their donations is to periodically threaten to build their meth lab?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:50 PM on March 2, 2012


That metaphor makes absolutely no sense.
posted by howfar at 3:21 PM on March 2, 2012


Howfar, why not?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:28 PM on March 2, 2012


If you need a simpler metaphor:

NK is a huge prison with appalling human rights violations.

Sending food to them is sending food to the warden and his administration.

The warden has one interest: maintaining power and keeping his prison intact.

The food will be ultimately used towards that end purpose. Anybody who has any quibbles about the prison, well, they can just continue to suffer.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:40 PM on March 2, 2012


NK, China, Russia, etc., are all laughing at the US. Probably the very first thing in the death letter left by old Kim Jong to Baby Kim Jong was "Try to screw the US again. See how many times you can do it. Over and over. It's a great and fun game that will keep you in power forever."

Giving food to NK does nothing, nothing whatsoever, to really help the "poor starving people of NK". It only prolongs and solidifies their continuing misery, and keeps this new Kim Jong in power.

And it costs us money, which we likely borrowed from China, which is having a grand laugh about it.
posted by caclwmr4 at 4:02 PM on March 2, 2012


Neither metaphor makes any sense because they both presuppose the existence of an authority that is capable of regulating the misbehaving entity. The USA is not such an entity, nor does such a thing exist in relation to the conduct of nations. There are no rules, no governing bodies, no police and no principles. We're all just making it up as we go along.

caclwmr4 you're simply raving now. Bless your bizarrely sinister yet incredibly simplistic view of international politics, though. It's like reading diplomatic dispatches from Stan Lee.
posted by howfar at 4:49 PM on March 2, 2012


localroger: "Anyway, what North Korea tried was building the easy gun-type bomb with the easy Plutonium fuel, and it didn't work. It does create a small atomic explosion, but not the target yield and the unreacted plutonium goes all over the place. They have probably figured out what Los Alamos estimated 60 years ago, which is that chemical propulsion just isn't up to generating the bullet speeds necessary to make a plutonium gun bomb."

Out of curiosity: How could you, a well-read but presumably-not-a-nuclear-scientist American, know about this while the North Koreans did not? I know the general population is isolated, but I'd think the leadership would give the engineers working on their country's chief bargaining chip free reign to access publicly-available information about decades-old nuclear research that would let them avoid embarrassing rookie mistakes like that.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:07 PM on March 2, 2012


Neither metaphor makes any sense because they both presuppose the existence of an authority that is capable of regulating the misbehaving entity. The USA is not such an entity, nor does such a thing exist in relation to the conduct of nations. There are no rules, no governing bodies, no police and no principles. We're all just making it up as we go along.

Okaaaaaay, neither of them presuppose such an authority. Did I mention police at all? the point was to illustrate that the country is a prison for its citizens and that it is extremely foolish to believe that "aid" is in and of itself commendable because it helps "the people". We're feeding prison guards and the elite. We're keeping a system of torture and atrocity in place, and unless we stipulate changes in their human rights policy we should at least be honest enough to admit we are helping keep that system in place.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 6:44 PM on March 2, 2012


unless we stipulate changes in their human rights policy we should at least be honest enough to admit we are helping keep that system in place.

Better get stipulating then. I didn't realise these problems were so simple, but there you go.
posted by howfar at 6:58 PM on March 2, 2012


Better get stipulating then. I didn't realise these problems were so simple, but there you go.

Never said they were simple, but I find it odd how you get such a kick of putting words in people's mouths. Do you have a point you'd actually like to make here?
posted by The ____ of Justice at 7:11 PM on March 2, 2012


Is your position is that we should refuse food aid to North Korea, based on the idea that this will expedite revolution and the end of the regime?
posted by howfar at 7:14 PM on March 2, 2012


Obviously you haven't been bothering to read what I've written. But you apparently have a kneejerk way of categorizing responses to the NK situation into ones that fit into your neat little diagram. And I'm accused of being the simple one? Jesus.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 7:17 PM on March 2, 2012


Well, from my point of view, you've couched it all in such bizarre metaphors that it's extremely difficult to see what you are saying. Presumably then, that "we" ("The West", or whatever) should demand human rights reform as the price of providing this aid. But your metaphors imply that there actually is a "prison governor" or some "bad parents" that can be negotiated with on a rationally self-interested level in a stable context, rather than a corrupt and Byzantine tyranny that needs to be engaged diplomatically, and in the context of regional and global politics, in order to avoid wider catastrophe for North Korea. You're insisting that diplomacy should be moral, something with which I agree, but you are choosing metaphors that neglect the realities of doing it.

You also appear to be making what I think is a really odd claim, that by depriving North Korea of food aid, we would stop feeding the "prison guards". What makes you think that a member of the elite in a regime as brutal as that of North Korea would not simply take enough food to feed themselves, and leave as many starving as need to? The history of the last 20 years rather suggests this to be the case.

The problem with arguing politics by metaphors is that the metaphors have to be sufficiently complex and robust. To me, yours are neither.
posted by howfar at 7:30 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're feeding prison guards and the elite

The food aid we're planning to provide them is actually designed to get around this problem. It is in the form if baby formula and nutritional biscuits.
posted by humanfont at 8:14 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well, from my point of view, you've couched it all in such bizarre metaphors that it's extremely difficult to see what you are saying.

Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:06 AM on March 3, 2012


Humankind is simply materialized color operating on the 49th vibration. You would make that conclusion walking down the street or going to the store.

Well so what? What's wrong with being sexy?
posted by howfar at 3:49 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"By demonstrating Iraq’s vulnerability, the attack on Osirak actually increased Hussein’s determination to develop a nuclear deterrent and provided Iraq’s scientists an opportunity to better organize the program. The Iraqi leader devoted significantly more resources toward pursuing nuclear weapons after the Israeli assault. As Reiter notes, “the Iraqi nuclear program increased from a program of 400 scientists and $400 million to one of 7,000 scientists and $10 billion.”"

WaPo
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:11 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Senate Republicans accuse Obama of North Korea 'appeasement'
posted by homunculus at 4:17 PM on March 16, 2012


Out of curiosity: How could you, a well-read but presumably-not-a-nuclear-scientist American, know about this while the North Koreans did not?

I'm sure they knew that we had figured the Pu gun bomb would be hard, but they may have figured it to be a hard but solvable problem that we didn't bother with because we went with implosion, a daring approach with many more paths to failure. I can see a scientist thinking that the one variable of really high gun velocity is approachable with resources that could not hope to attack all the angles of an implosion device.
posted by localroger at 5:15 PM on March 16, 2012


Surprise, surprise. I hate to be the 'I called it' guy -- I always hate that guy -- but:

US suspends food aid to North Korea. Official says Pyongyang has "broken its promise to refrain from missile launches and cannot be trusted".
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:46 PM on March 28, 2012


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