Friday, February 25, 2005


Bill Clinton visited Seoul recently to celebrate the Korean-language version of his memoir, My Life. In a speech, Clinton made all the usual appropriate comments:
``I still support a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, I still believe there can be a peaceful resolution of the Korean crisis,'' Clinton said, according to a pool report. ``I hope that China and all friends of the Korean people will make it succeed.''

Also attending and speaking at a dinner was former ROK President Kim Dae Jung who, among other things, made the following statement:
``If only President Clinton had had one more year, the issue of nuclear weapons would have been resolved,'' Kim Dae-jung said.
In my humble opinion, this is historical revisionism of the most blatant kind. And it is revisionism that ignores several salient facts:

1) The DPRK began its clandestine HEU program in the last years of the Clinton Administration. This was known by intelligence officials at the time who briefed the incoming Bush Administration about the program. This is hardly a sign that the DPRK was on the verge of agreeing to a deal to eliminate all of its nuclear weapons programs. Some have attempted to argue that the HEU program was either a) not as developed as the Bush team has claimed or b) actually intended for the peaceful purpose of creating an indigenous source of nuclear fuel for the light-water reactors that KEDO was supposed to be building for North Korea. Even if one grants either or both of these propositions, the fact remains that the program was secret and the DPRK reaction to Bush's accusations concerning the program was not full disclosure and explanation but further obfuscation.

2) According to Clinton's own account of events, in the last days of his administration he was faced with the choice of focusing on either the Palestinian-Israel issue or on North Korea. He chose the former and, as the story goes, ran out of time and couldn't solve the North Korea problem before he left office. Well, as we all now know, Clinton's efforts in the middle east were not terribly successful (due more to Arafat's recalcitrance than to any failure on Clinton's part). Given that failure, which would have been more likely if Clinton had been granted another year: continuing to seek a solution to the still unsolved Palestinian-Israel issue or turning attention to North Korea?

3) If memory serves, Clinton and Albright both claim to have been on the brink of an agreement concerning North Korean ballistic missiles, not nukes. A missile agreement would have been nice but that is not the same as a comprehensive agreement securing the verifiable elimination of all North Korean nuclear programs.

4) Also, if memory serves, the sense that an agreement on missiles was even possible was based almost entirely on an off-hand remark Kim Jong Il was supposed to have made to a visiting Russian diplomat. Hardly grounds for concluding that a deal was imminent.

5) The Albright visit to P'yongyang was successfully spun in North Korea as the latest in a string of American capitulations and a willingness of the United States to abase itself before the glory of Kim Jong Il. Recall the huge pageant put on for Albright and co. in which the Secy of State was recorded dutifully applauding a football stadium card depiction of a Taepodong missile.

Bush's hard-line approach toward North Korea may not have moved the parties involved closer to a deal. But to assume that all it would have taken was a few more months of golden-tongued Bill to change North Korea is a bit of a stretch. It expresses at the same time a naivete about North Korea and a hubris about America.

Just my two bits.


The Ward Churchill saga is the gift that keeps on giving. University Diaries is on the case (see here and here). Note to Ward: if you manage to secure a tenured faculty position even though your Master's degree is from a somewhat sketchy interdisciplinary program that apparently may not have even required an MA thesis, don't attract undue attention to yourself with "little Eichmanns" speeches and the like. Especially if you are also into copying others' artwork and passing it off as your own. Some folks just can't leave well enough alone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Had an enjoyable discussion about all things North Korean on the VOA radio program "Encounter" last Friday. The program did not air until Sunday and for various technical reasons, the web version of the show wasn't available until even later (it should be accessible here now). Also on the show was Bob Templer, the Asia director of the International Crisis Group. My impression is that he projected a cool, competent detachment while I rambled and mumbled a great deal. Still, fun to do.

It goes without saying that the swift pace of events have made some of our speculations anachronistic.

Monday, February 21, 2005


CNN seems to think so. "North Korea 'reverses' on talks" is the headline. The lede:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il says his country is willing to resume talks with its neighbors and the United States if Washington "would show trustworthy sincerity and move (its stance)," Pyongyang's official news agency has announced.

"We will go to the negotiating table anytime if there are mature conditions for the six-party talks thanks to the concerted efforts of the parties concerned in the future," the state news agency KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Of course the reality is a bit more fuzzy. Just as the dramatic "We have nukes" announcement of a few days back wasn't really all that significant a change from what DPRK officials had been saying for months, stating that North Korea will come back to the table if the incentives are sufficient isn't all that new or startling either.

But in our shallow headline-driven media, sound-bite perception trumps complex reality any day of the week. So I suppose it is a "reversal." Tuesday's
announcement is the latest twist in a series of heated accusations and statements over the past week and a half, which sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity.
They got that right.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?