Saturday, April 19, 2003

I'M NOT SURE WHAT TO MAKE OF THIS: Animal rights activist decrees that her body is barbecued and her skin turned into a purse. This is, of course, only after she passes away. There's more:
Ms Newkirk's will also holds bequests to two people. One is the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, who can expected to receive both her eyes, appropriately mounted, as a message that Peta will continue to watch the agency until it stops using animals in experiments.

The second beneficiary is Kenneth Feld, owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He can expect to receive her pointing finger to stand as "the greatest accusation on Earth" on behalf of animals used for public entertainment.

Friday, April 18, 2003

I'VE NOW BECOME ALMOST ENTIRELY SUPERFLUOUS AND REDUNDANT: The Command Post's North Korea blog is up and running strong

The reprocessing of the spent fuel rods was at the "final phase", KCNA reported.

"The Iraqi war teaches a lesson that in order to prevent a war and defend the security of a country... it is necessary to have a powerful physical deterrent force," the Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.

This would at first glance appear to confirm my long-held suspicion that the DPRK is determined to acquire nuclear weapons and is not merely using the prospect of gaining nukes as a bargaining tactic. Yet, it is far from clear whether the DPRK is actually doing what it claims to be doing:
However, officials from the US, Japan, South Korea all said on Friday that they had no information that reprocessing was taking place. Independent confirmation is difficult, however, because North Korea has expelled UN nuclear inspectors.

Perhaps the DPRK is attempting to gain the upper hand at the impending talks in Beijing. If so, I'm afraid that they underestimate the resolve of many in Washington to facilitate regime change if at all possible. In a staring contest between Kim Jong Il and "Texas poker" dubya Bush, I don't know if I would bet against Bush.

THIS COMES FROM WATCHING TOO MANY ACTION MOVIES: A man threw himself out of a courthouse window in Calvert County, MD.
After a Calvert County judge sentenced John A. Brock yesterday to five years in prison for beating his girlfriend, Brock was aghast. "Five years?" he said to the judge. "If you give me five years, I might as well throw myself out that window."

Which he did, headfirst through the glass.

Although Brock, 33, suffered cuts and several broken bones, he survived the 20-foot plunge from Courtroom 2 on the north side of the Calvert County Courthouse.

Of course in the movies, the heroes plunge through second-story glass windows all the time. After they land, they brush themselves off and continue running wherever it was they were going.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

But, contrary to most press reports, these new talks themselves at least arguably amount to as great a climbdown for the United States as for North Korea. I say that because this plan -- or something very near to it -- has been on offer since mid-January.
Of course what really matters is who blinks more often when the talks begin.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

LET'S TALK: The DPRK has agreed to talks in Beijing between China, the U.S. and North Korea. Not quite the bilateral talks the DPRK has insisted on but not the full-scale multilateral ones Washington has been backing. A sign of hope? Progress? Part of the answer depends on whether and when the ROK and Japan are allowed to join in. South Korea has expressed a willingness to be absent from the first round of "talks about talks but I suspect that neither Seoul nor Tokyo wants to be on the outside looking in for long. The CW is that the dramatic U.S. victory in Iraq has frightened Kim Jong-il and company. This seems to make sense. The big question is whether P'yongyang is frightened enough to really offer concessions.

South Korea joined 13 other nations today in abstaining from voting on a resolution adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights that condemns North Korea for "widespread and grave" abuses of human rights.

As representatives of 53 nations gathered in Geneva to discuss the first such resolution approved by the commission, the South Korean government's yearning for reconciliation with the North overrode domestic pressure to take a stand on an issue for which it has long been criticized for failing to act.

Sensible, statesmanlike, and yet somehow suspect.

Monday, April 14, 2003

IT STARTS: A NYT piece on how the United States is viewed in Europe includes the following:
"What cannot now be disguised, as U.S. marines swagger around the Iraqi capital swathing toppled statues of Saddam Hussein with the stars and stripes and declaring `We own Baghdad,' is the crudely colonial nature of this enterprise," wrote Seumas Milne, a columnist in The Guardian, the leftist British daily.

Note the reference to "swathing toppled statues . . . with the stars and stripes," referring of course to the short-lived but widely broadcast act of a single U.S. Marine, an act that was quickly rescinded with the American flag being replaced by an Iraqi one before the entire statue was toppled. Somehow I am not surprised that this is the image that will remain in the memories of many.

The jury is still out concerning the nature of the American regime in post-Saddam Iraq; it may well end up resembling the very type of empire decried by critics. However I think it is fair to say that at this point for British, French, Russians or other Europeans to compare contemporary U.S. actions in the world (Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) with their own empires of the past displays a strange sort of historical myopia.


MEANWHILE: Just in case you were wondering, the long-standing relationship between North Korea and Cambodian royalty is still going strong:
Pyongyang, April 13 (KCNA) -- Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia, sent a large floral basket to the DPRK embassy in Phnom Penh on April 8 on the occasion of the Day of the Sun, the birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung. Written on the ribbon of the floral basket were letters "We Pray for the Immortality of the Great Leader He Kim Il Sung. Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia."

DID THE DPRK JUST BLINK? It all depends on how much significance one reads into the following phrase of a Foreign Ministry spokesman:
If the U.S. is ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue, the DPRK will not stick to any particular dialogue format.

This would appear to imply a slightly opening window. However, in the same KCNA piece that contains this phrase are also all sorts of the usual stuff:
As the DPRK is not a signatory to the NPT, there is no ground whatsoever to internationalize the nuclear issue and any attempt to do so would make its solution quite impossible.

The outcome of the meeting of the UNSC held on April 9 clearly indicated that the nuclear issue is a matter to be settled between the DPRK and the U.S.

The DPRK's call for direct talks is aimed to confirm whether the U.S. has a political willingness to drop its hostile policy toward the DPRK or not.

More of the same or sign of change?
UPDATE: Some in South Korea are heartened by the announcement.

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