Thursday, February 13, 2003

BEFORE YOU START TO COMPLAIN, just remember that you probably didn't come to America in the dashboard of a car


THIS IS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED: Japanense Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba apparently declared that Japan might launch a pre-emptive attack on North Korea "if it had firm evidence Pyongyang was planning a missile attack." This will do little to calm the fears of a still rather Japanophobic DPRK. Does it signal a possible break towards supporting Bush's more hard-line or will the Japanese government backtrack and repudiate the statement? I suspect the latter.

"Kim Jong Il's attempts to parlay the North's nuclear program into political leverage suggest he is trying to negotiate a fundamentally different relationship with Washington, one that implicitly tolerates the North's nuclear weapons program," Mr. Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

So now what do we do?

In recent weeks, President Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell have complained loudly that China should be doing more to defuse the nuclear crisis in North Korea, China's reclusive neighbor and closest ally.

On Tuesday, Chinese officials returned the volley, saying that their diplomats had in fact been working hard to help mediate between North Korea and the United States, but that the two sides would have to find a solution themselves.

Seriously, the PRC is sharply constrained by its keen desire to neither foster a North Korean collapse (and unleash a flood of reugees across the Chinese border) nor acede to American-led military action. Given these constraints, what can the PRC really do?

A British-based Islamic news agency said Wednesday it had a new tape recording of Osama bin Laden in which the Saudi militant allegedly predicts his own death this year in an unspecified act of "martyrdom."
Although I have previously posted about Osama bin Laden's actual whereabouts I have to confess that I still think that the guy is dead. If he wanted to unequivocally demonstrate his continued existence on this earth he could easily do so with a videotape of him holding the front page of yesterday's New York Times or even by merely commenting on the fact that the Bucs won the Super Bowl shows how decadent America is, or whatever. The fact that he hasn't done so is a sign to me that he is incapable of doing so--because he's dead. This prediciton of martyrdom only increases my convinction. It is too convenient. So too is the alacrity with which the Bush administration declared the latest videotape to be legitimate.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

CAREER ADVICE: Don't be a sports mascot

"North Korea has an untested ballistic missile that may have the capability of reaching the western United States, intelligence officials said Wednesday." So says the Washington Post Well, I have an untested machine in my basement that may be able to turn lead into gold. But I won't call any reporters until tests demonstrate its capabilities.

EU FOREIGN POLICY OFFICIAL: Sanctions against the DPRK will only make things worse.
"In any case, my recommendation is to try to take measures which don't amount to escalation," Javier Solana said at a news conference, which wrapped up his three-day visit to Seoul.

"I don't think it is the moment to impose sanctions. I think sanctions will contribute to the opposite of what we want to take - which is to defuse the crisis," he said.
This is, of course, perfectly sensible. And it sends a message to the DPRK that the EU doesn't really care whether North Korea becomes a nuclear weapons state or not. Get used to it.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. The U.S. appears to be seriously considering reducing its troop presence in South Korea. If, as many in the younger generation of South Koreans believe, the DPRK no longer harbors intentions of unifying the peninsula by force, a U.S. troop withdrawal might be a good thing for Korea. If not . . .

IAEA TO NORTH KOREA: You are in breach . This is, of course, a surprise to no one. However, the announcement does start the ball rolling toward the UN Security Council and potential sanctions (or worse) aimed at the DPRK. The North Koreans insist this is a bilateral U.S.-DPRK issue. The Bush administration differs:
"This is something we've sought for some time," a senior administration official said on Tuesday. "What the North has done is not just a bilateral dispute with the United States, and it's not just a crisis in Northeast Asia. This is a direct challenge to the basis of the nonproliferation regime."

Of course one can argue that India, Pakistan, and Israel also constitute challenges to the non-proliferation regime, challenges that don't seem to have elicited the same horror and sense of urgency that the DPRK has.

What will the response of the DPRK be? Those who argue that this is merely Kim Jong-il's latest adventure in brinkmanship cling to the notion that, if given the proper incentives, the DPRK will back down. My sense is that the DPRK has no real incentive to back down, particularly given the Bush Administration's reluctance to offer any carrots to Kim, and every incentive to plunge full speed ahead.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

ISENGARD IN GAZA? We report, you decide. (link courtesy of Instapundit)

BIN LADEN IS ALIVE AND CALLING ON MUSLIMS TO AID IRAQ. This sounds fishy to me. The timing is a bit too convenient.

UPDATE: the great Instapundit agrees with me; I must be right!

Monday, February 10, 2003

FRANCE TO IRAQ: We mean business!



THE TWO FACES OF AMERICA. We're tops (among industrialized nations) in both GDP and poverty, in university graduates and homicide (and in all other sorts of things). What do we do if these facts are correlates rather than anomalies? In other words, if having higher homicide rates is the price paid for having the most college grades, is the price worth paying? In other words, as observed by the author of this piece: "To a remarkable degree the United States seems to have exchanged social cohesion and a broad-based middle class for economic dynamism and personal freedom." Is this what we really want?

DUDE, YOU'RE GETTING A CELL; So says the Smoking Gun about the arrest of the ubiquitous Dell barker on maraijuana posession charges. Why doesn't this surprise me?

North Korea has issued a fresh warning that the Korean peninsula faced war if what it called United States "aggression" went unchecked.

STICKS AND STONES . . . Aidan Foster-Carter on name-calling, Kim Jong-il and the DPRK A snippet:
True, the "evil" part of George W Bush's infamous "axis of evil" tag is a no-brainer (though the "axis" bit is a non-starter). When Newsweek gave Pyongyang the palm as world's worst regime, I had no complaint. North Korea's horrors are hardly news - but still worth remembering as new data come in, and in case anyone (in Seoul, for instance) is tempted to play them down, misguidedly, in the quest for detente.

Yet I also support that quest for detente. I certainly don't see how any non-Korean has a right to try to stop Koreans from seeking reconciliation. And we can surely agree that North Korea is one tough nut to crack. As many an analyst has noted, in dealing with Pyongyang there simply are no good options.

The abominators beg to differ. No shades of gray for them: North Korea is vile, and they're apoplectic. True, behind all the growling they have no more clue than the rest of us on how actually to de-fang the beast. But they know whom they hate, and it isn't just Pyongyang. Those lily-livered deluded types who believe you can appease Kim Jong-il - buy him off, even - why, they're almost as bad as he is.

Take, for example, a sour little item in January 27's Asian Wall Street Journal, headed "The not so intelligent Kim". This bridled at any suggestion that Kim Jong-il might be in possession of a brain. No matter that the Dear Leader's brinkmanship looks to be running rings around Dubya currently. For the AWSJ, the fact that North Korea is "tottering on the brink of collapse" (can they be so sure?) suffices. Kim is a "nasty dictator ... brutal tyrant ... brutal [again], evil and duplicitous". Ergo, not intelligent.

SUDDENLY EVERYTHING BECOMES CRYSTAL CLEAR: Why haven't the two Koreas been able to resolve their differences and re-unify? Becuase the all-powerful tourist lobby fears losing the revenue from 150,000 tourists that visit the DMZ every year. Where's Oliver Stone when we need him? NOTE: I am fully aware that the NYT article doesn't really argue this.

ASIAN ECONOMIES EXPECTED TO GROW MORE SLOWLY: so says the Asian Development Bank. Specifics:
The bank calculated its growth outlook by using forecasts provided by the London-based Consensus Economics Inc. The company said the most drastic forecast revisions for 2003 were for Singapore (from 4.7 percent to 3.8 percent), South Korea (from 5.6 percent to 5 percent), Malaysia (from 5.2 percent to 4.7 percent), and Indonesia (from 4 percent to 3.6 percent).

Forecasts for China (7.5 percent), Thailand (4.1 percent), and the Philippines (3.9 percent) were unchanged.
I'm not an economist and I don't even play one on tv. Still, I'm not entirely clear on what revising the ROK growth projections down from 5.6 percent to 5 percent actually means. As long as the economy is growing, I presume that is generally good, right? I obviously need to read more Brad DeLong or something.

THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF GRADUATE SCHOOL: I never went squirrel fishing at Harvard but I can attest that the squirrels were tame enough to climb onto your lap in search of food.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

CRISIS, WHAT CRISIS? USN&WR report on the generation gap in South Korea when it comes to the North Korean threat. (Thanks to Instapundit for the link)

THE "PAPER OF RECORD" READS: Fears of Missile Launch Mount Among North Korea's Neighbors For the intrepid soul who actually reads beyond the headlines, one finds that the only "neighbor" discussed is Japan. And when one digs deeper, one finds that "Japanese officials were not immediately available for comment" on a Japanese newspaper report claiming that if the DPRK launches another missile, the Japanese SDF will mobilize and the Japanese government will consider sanctions against the DPRK. I guess "No evidence found to support Japanese newspaper's provocative claims" isn't quite as exciting as the headline the grey lady chose.

UPDATE: More on the Yomiuri Shinbun article here

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