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How to Deal With North Korea & Q&A: Should U.S. Launch Direct Talks with N. Korea?
March 19, 2003 1:26 AM   Subscribe

Here are two thoughtful pieces on the North Korean Crisis.

From Foreign Affairs comes How to Deal With North Korea.

From the New York Times comes
Q&A: Should U.S. Launch Direct Talks with North Korea?

Here, by the way, is the fourth footnote from How to Deal With North Korea :

Had the Agreed Framework not been signed in 1994, the North's plutonium-based program would by today have produced enough plutonium for up to 30 nuclear weapons. Critics of the accord should not ignore this fact.
posted by y2karl (17 comments total)

 
A passage from Q&A: Should U.S. Launch Direct Talks with North Korea? :

I would advise him to find some way of starting direct talks. The last thing I sent to the White House was on December 31, and I said: "It is the unanimous opinion of every Russian, Chinese, South Korean, and American expert I have talked to that the only way to stop North Korea from becoming a nuclear power is direct talks with the United States."

There was an appalling story in the press recently saying that the United States is going around Capitol Hill saying there is nothing we can do about it, so we are preparing to deal with North Korea as a nuclear power. I think that the people in the White House are saying, once they really begin to reprocess, the Chinese will be galvanized into taking more action. The Chinese, who supply North Korea with most of its oil and most of its food, could play real hardball by cutting back on that, causing people to starve. I don't think the Chinese want to do that.

Everyone wants us to step up to the plate and start the talks because they know that it is we who threaten North Korea. North Korea knows that. And we're looking for cover. I think partially it is a face problem because of the things the administration has said about North Korea and there would be all kinds of questions asked, "Well, Mr. President after all the things you have called Kim Jong Il why is it you are now talking to him?"


The Sin of Pride is the first and foremost of the Seven Deadly Sins.
posted by y2karl at 1:28 AM on March 19, 2003


The problem, it seems, is that unlike Iraq (which has no weapons of mass destruction and therefore is a deliciously easy target for regime change), North Korea has a growing propensity towards a nuclear capability.

Much as the USA would like to attack North Korea, therefore, it wouldn't be sensible - there's the chance of extensive damage to the US military and even to other countries.

This seems to be one of those instances where jaw-jaw is better than war-war ... even to George Bush... ???
posted by skylar at 2:21 AM on March 19, 2003


BBC newsreader regarding DPRK's missile tests: "What exactly has changed, since this situation blew up?"
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:30 AM on March 19, 2003


and to add to skylar's point they don't really need nukes. Seoul is 50 miles or so from the border and NK has an estimated 10 000 cannons trained on it. In a few minutes after any conflict starts Seoul (and the millions of people who reside there) would be under a rain of shells the likes that has never been seen before.
posted by PenDevil at 2:31 AM on March 19, 2003


I would advise him to find some way of starting direct talks.

If the US concedes to direct talks, North Korea will have won the first battle toward its one intended goal: to blackmail and browbeat the United States into paying it to stop doing what it promised not to do. Bad idea.
posted by hama7 at 2:33 AM on March 19, 2003


Bad idea? Of course, can't have the US looking like it had to change its mind now, can we?
posted by Space Coyote at 2:54 AM on March 19, 2003


No, Y2, had that false agreement not been "reached," we would be where we are today, only then: likely to have to attack North Korea.

The difference between Iraq and NK is that the latter hell hole is surrounded by other countries of strategic significance, including China. Other differences: NK has a bigger army, and doesn't have oil to pay for the "after."

NK has to be blamed on the Clinton adminstration: if we couldn't truly know that NK was cheating, we shouldn't have entered into the agreement we did.

And don't be surprised if, after Iraq is under control, you wake up to learn that the US has executed massive air strikes on NK. That's going to be necessary if NK launches a few more missles, and shows no interest in a negotiated dismantlement of its nuclear programs.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:14 AM on March 19, 2003


Other differences: NK has a bigger army, and doesn't have oil to pay for the "after."

No you must be mistaken PP - the US isn't worried about fighting a bunch of pinko nutters and Iraq's oil money will not be used to pay for the war - can't imagine where you picked up such lefty nonsense.

And don't be surprised if, after Iraq is under control, you wake up to learn that the US has executed massive air strikes on NK.

Yes, that would be supremely sensible.
posted by niceness at 3:26 AM on March 19, 2003


Forgive my ignorance but what's so wrong with a "non-aggression pact"? To sign such a thing would simply be to recognise the reality that an attack on North Korea would be madness. It does not tie your hands to renounce the impossible. Or is some wonder-weapon in the works?
posted by grahamwell at 3:30 AM on March 19, 2003


Critics of the accord should not ignore this fact.

Indeed.

But then the wingnuts couldn't say "It's all Bill Clinton's fault!," could they?
And we all know there's no greater WMD than Clinton's penis!
posted by nofundy at 4:47 AM on March 19, 2003


Had the Agreed Framework not been signed in 1994, the North's plutonium-based program would by today have produced enough plutonium for up to 30 nuclear weapons. Critics of the accord should not ignore this fact.

What a joke. You are supposing if the Agreed Framework had not been signed, NK would have been left to do whatever the hell it wanted with its reactor. I seriously doubt that.
posted by Plunge at 6:15 AM on March 19, 2003


Paris -

Keep in mind that we had little recourse at the time in 1994. We could have told the North Koreans to "shove it" and ignored them, by which today we'd be in the same situation but most likely with more tensions on the penninsula than we have now.

Or, we could have followed the Bush doctrine of today (Wolfowitz's basis was around in 1994, anyhow) and made a preemptive attack. And since we all know how easy it is to bring America into war (this battle is two years in the making and is only easy thanks to that little event called September 11), surely it would have been a cinch.

Bologna.

Clinton didn't have a domestic mandate to do anything *but* negotiate at the time. I absolutely love Monday Morning historians.
posted by tgrundke at 6:44 AM on March 19, 2003


You're talking about North Korea's demand that the United States hold direct talks with them.

That's right. When I went to North Korea last April, I found an accumulation of questions on the North Koreans' part. Why is George Bush so different from his father? Why does George Bush hate Bill Clinton? Why does George Bush use such rhetoric against us? Why don't you understand us better? Why do you threaten us with your nuclear weapons? As I sought to deal with those questions--I told them that my only ground rule was I wouldn't criticize my president, any more than they would criticize Kim--I could see it was just tremendously cathartic for them to ask these questions and have some kind of dialogue.

Then I was invited back last November and a general, who had been just bristling at the first meetings, greeted me as an old friend. He said, why haven't you sent me a picture of our first meeting? He said you know we are making great progress. We are cutting down 50-year old trees in the Demilitarized Zone, and I have multi-channel communications with my South Korean counterparts. We are improving relations with the Russians who want to build a gas pipeline. What's the matter with you Americans? That's the line. So I just feel we need to talk to the North Koreans. And the Koreans, I think, understand us better than we understand them.

I think the situation is quite dangerous. The president feels that Kim Jong Il is evil. There is a demonization process that goes on. Mike Wallace did a horrible job on Kim Jong Il on "60 Minutes." Newsweek had a miserable column. And Kim really is easy to demonize. As I told the Senate when I testified on February 4, I almost feel like a Quisling, saying we ought to talk to this guy. But I think that talking to him is the only way to avoid a very dangerous situation.

posted by y2karl at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2003


Here's an interesting article from Reason on Bush's NK policy, and why it might work. I actually agree with it to some extent - China, Russia and Japan go entirely too soft on NK for the threat it poses to them, because they know the US will handle the situation whenever it flares up. The Bush administration is pushing for multilateral talks, not bilateral ones, so that China, Russia and Japan will finally take some responsibility for monitoring and controlling NK.

The thing to remember, after all, is that this is more nuclear extortion than the real threat of nuclear war. NK is building nuclear bombs to get food and fuel oil from the US not to build them, not because they seriously intend to attack Japan (and for all that we hear about Alaskan missiles etc., NK's first choice target is Japan, not America). The longer we wait, the more desperate their situation becomes, and the more they'll be willing to concede in exchange for supplies. It's brinksmanship, but the only other options are simply to cave into extortion, or to fight a long, bloody and costly war that will make Iraq look like a skirmish.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:59 AM on March 19, 2003


The Bush administration is pushing for multilateral talks, not bilateral ones, so that China, Russia and Japan will finally take some responsibility for monitoring and controlling NK.

How To Deal With North Korea promotes a 4 party guarantee of North Korean sovereignty as part of it's de-nuclearization. But guaranteeing North Korean sovereignty is unpalatable to the demonizers' vanity

The Bush administration is pushing for multilateral talks to cover their ass, it could be argued as well. After demonizing Clinton for opting for the Agreed Framework instead of that protracted bloody war you mention, the chickenhawks are loathe to tacitly admit they've bungled North Korea major.

The longer we wait, the more desperate their situation becomes, and the more they'll be willing to concede in exchange for supplies.

Wishful deluded thinking. From the Q&A:

The problem hinges on a fundamental misreading of the Korean character. I think that the president has always had real animosity toward Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader. He's made that quite evident. I think the problem is that Koreans are very different from Americans in terms of the way their psychology works. If you push Koreans into a corner and don't talk to them, they'll behave worse and worse. They will go right to the brink, and I think they would go down in flames if they were given no alternative..

Also,

"It is the unanimous opinion of every Russian, Chinese, South Korean, and American expert I have talked to that the only way to stop North Korea from becoming a nuclear power is direct talks with the United States." And finally, http://reason.com/cgi-bin/ads.pl?iframe is an ad banner. http://www.reason.com/rauch/031703.shtml is the link for your story. Which, upon reading, is weak indeed:

Suppose Pyongyang then broke the deal -- not a big stretch, given that North Korea promptly broke the 1994 nuclear deal

For a fact, thanks to the Gingrich House of Representatives, we broke it first.
posted by y2karl at 12:04 PM on March 19, 2003


I agree with the editors of the New Republic: "Given the inefficacy of sanctions and the nightmare of war, starting immediate, comprehensive bilateral negotiations with the North is the best of a bad set of options. The only kind of talks the Bush administration has been willing to contemplate are multilateral. (As Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute has noted, many in Washington have shied away from bilateral talks because they give Kim Jong Il too much credit as a negotiator, even though he has made major mistakes.) But no other country in the region has embraced such talks. And, in waiting for the unlikely multilateral option to present itself, the White House allows Kim Jong Il to determine the pace and tenor of the standoff and runs the risk that, by the time serious discussions begin, he will possess several more nuclear bombs."

And don't be surprised if, after Iraq is under control, you wake up to learn that the US has executed massive air strikes on NK.

"A U.S. strike that condemned hundreds of thousands of South Koreans to death (Rumsfeld recently suggested that the United States might withdraw its own troops from South Korea, presumably to spare them the consequences of such a strike) would be an inglorious first: Washington essentially killing an ally's people without their consent."
posted by homunculus at 2:08 PM on March 19, 2003


My bad on the link.

How To Deal With North Korea promotes a 4 party guarantee of North Korean sovereignty as part of it's de-nuclearization. But guaranteeing North Korean sovereignty is unpalatable to the demonizers' vanity

Well, yes, but I'm not "the demonisers". Also, I must admit that it's honestly unclear to me what the substantive differences are between a "4-party guarantee of North Korean sovereignty" and "multilateral talks" about disarmanent are, except that the latter seems unacceptable and the former does not.

After demonizing Clinton for opting for the Agreed Framework instead of that protracted bloody war you mention, the chickenhawks are loathe to tacitly admit they've bungled North Korea major.

I don't know if I'd agree with that strong a statement. Certainly, they haven't handled it well, but until the Second Korean War breaks out, I wouldn't say they've bungled it. I must admit that I remain unconvinced that merely bilateral talks are going to disarm North Korea. At the very least, even if they do begin bilaterally, Chinese, South Korean and Russian pressure, not the threat of American force, is the better tool to reign North Korea in.

Do I think we should be waving guns in their face? No. Do I think they should be waving them in ours? No. But I think the best we can do without multilateral talks in the long run is merely delay the shooting.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:19 PM on March 19, 2003


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