Thursday, March 03, 2005


The latest version of this frequently used trope is advocated by the Mansfield Center's Weston Konishi
Under the present circumstances, the idea of expanding—not cutting off—Japan’s economic ties with North Korea sounds outlandish to say the least (and it is suggested with that caveat fully in mind). But, done in the right way, expanding economic ties with the North would be vastly more threatening to Kim Jong Il than squeezing off the estimated 27 billion yen of trade that annually trickles its way between North Korea and Japan.

If Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi really wanted to punish Pyongyang, he could announce a major new economic development initiative for North Korea, with the ultimate aim of catapulting the North into the information age. Japan’s initiative would include a massive program to provide computers and high-speed Internet access to every household in North Korea. The only condition would be that, unlike the North-South industrial park in Kaesong, the project would have to be available to all North Korean households across the country.
Why would Japan want to do such a thing? Becuase it would bring about the end of North Korea!
If all this seems like more than North Korea deserves, consider what it would mean to Kim Jong Il’s regime. Nothing, save a military invasion, would be as threatening to the regime as a sudden influx of information and the empowerment of its people through the Internet. Like similar regimes, the stability of Kim Jong Il’s government depends on the restriction of free speech and the tight control of information.

Widespread access to the Internet in North Korea would immediately erode the regime’s ability to control information and public debate. Citizens would be exposed, for the first time in a generation, to information about the outside world and how much better off it is than North Korea. Kim Jong Il’s carefully crafted cult of personality would be dismantled, as North Koreans learned that their leader is not revered but ridiculed around the world. Perhaps best of all, North Koreans could find out for themselves about the true nature of their regime and its depraved abduction of Japanese nationals throughout the years.
I have entertained my own versions of this approach. They usually involve Bush visiting P'yongyang and essentially abasing himself before Kim Jong-il, apologizing to the North Korean people, and offering all sorts of aid, education, and trade to thhe DPRK. If accepted, this probably would be the beginning of the end of North Korea and the Kim Jong-il regime as we know it. And of course that is the problem with all of these proposals. Kim isn't stupid. He knows that opening North Korea's doors is curtains for him and for the system of juche-deification of Kim Il Sung and his descendants. So why would he ever accept such an offer? Konishi reaches the same conclusion, albeit for different reasons.
Of course, this scenario stands little chance of ever reaching reality. Even before North Korea’s recent announcement, Tokyo was too angry to offer such a deal and Pyongyang too paranoid to accept one. But the other reality is that Japan’s “stick” of economic sanctions against North Korea is actually more like a twig—unlikely to produce results beyond the gratification of further isolating an already reclusive regime. All the more gratifying, though, would be shining the spotlight on Kim Jong Il every time he turned down a “carrot” that helped his own people.


If a recent survey is representative, the times are a changin:
More than 43 percent of 16,947 married women aged between 24 and 35 said they are seeing someone other than their husbands and 57.3 percent of them are engaged in sexual relationships, according to a one-month online survey jointly conducted by Herald Media Inc. and Daum Communications.


Selig Harrison, who argued in January’s Foreign Affairs that American intelligence claims concerning a North Korean HEU program were exaggerated and that focusing on a possibly non-existent HEU program was counterproductive, continues his efforts to make the policy world agree with him.

In a revised version of a speech given to the Korea Society in New York, Harrison makes a series of arguments and observations:
My message today is simple. It's reckless to base policy on worst case scenario intelligence driven by ideology. We should take a good hard look at the intelligence we're given on North Korea to make sure we're not conned again by our own government or, for that matter, by the North Koreans.

We should take a good hard look at the North Korean claim last week that they have already "manufactured" nuclear weapons. Until they conduct a test, we should reserve judgment on that claim. I think it may very well prove to be a bluff for bargaining purposes to bolster their position in negotiating a settlement. At the same time, we do know that they have the capability to have reprocessed some or all of the 8,000 fuel rods at Yongbyon. This plutonium may not yet be weaponized but it could be transferred to third parties. Our policy should give priority to getting that plutonium under control and out of North Korea.

Here's where we see the dangerous results of worst-case scenario intelligence. Instead of focusing on the clear and present threat posed by the North Korean plutonium program, the administration has tied our policy in knots by giving priority to a suspected uranium enrichment program about which we know little.
This seems sensible enough, unless, of course, the worst-case scenario is actually the correct one.
In October, 2002, the administration announced that North Korea had a program to enrich uranium to weapons-grade and might be capable of producing one or two uranium-based nuclear weapons per year by "mid-decade". Well, it's 2005, and we've heard nothing since then about those two weapons a year. In fact, the administration has presented no evidence at all to back up the claim that North Korea has a program in place to enrich uranium to weapons-grade. They're trying to finesse the issue without admitting that they exaggerated. I challenged the administration in the January issue of Foreign Affairs to present the evidence. The State Department spokesperson issued a formal reply on December 10th that carefully omitted the accusation of a military uranium program and referred only to a "uranium enrichment program." No reference to weapons-grade. That's finessing the issue because enrichment as such is not prohibited by the NPT.
These seems excessively legalistic, deliberately obtuse or both. As I have repeatedly frequently on this blog, if the North Korean HEU program was intended for peaceful purposes, it would be a simple enough matter for the DPRK to declare such and allow IAEA inspections. Given that the DPRK has not done so, I have a hard time faulting the Bush Administration for suspecting the worst rather than hoping for the best.
Privately, people in the administration say they will eventually put forward what they know, but that they can't tell all they know without jeopardizing methods and sources, like telephone intercepts and moles inside the A.Q. Khan network. I would welcome an administration white paper putting forward credible evidence of a weapons-grade program. That would help to break the present stalemate in the six-party negotiations, putting North Korea on the defensive. China, South Korea, Japan and Russia have been openly skeptical of the weapons-grade accusation and critical of a U.S. diplomatic strategy that conditions the start of negotiations on resolving this issue. Putting forward credible evidence would lead to a united diplomatic front in confronting Pyongyang that the administration has so far been unable to mobilize. Alternatively, if, as I hypothesize, there is not enough evidence to justify accusations of a weapons-grade program, the United States should give priority to getting any plutonium so far reprocessed by North Korea out of the country, while providing for the elimination of any uranium enrichment facilities at a later stage of a step-by-step denuclearization process.
I, too, would like to see more “credible evidence” backing the Bush Administration’s claims on North Korea. It would make it far easier to try to understand North Korean intentions and to respond accordingly. But American intelligence agencies appear to be as secretive as the North Koreans.
Now there's a basic premise underlying what I'm saying, namely, that the ideological camp in the Bush administration exaggerated the intelligence relating to North Korean uranium capabilities with a broader agenda in mind: namely, reversing the Clinton policy of engagement with North Korea and, more particularly, abrogating the 1994 Agreed Framework.

The Clinton administration knew that North Korea was pursuing uranium enrichment, but they wanted to deal with the problem through quiet diplomacy. They wanted to avoid a confrontation with Pyongyang that would jeopardize the gains made in controlling the plutonium danger under the freeze agreement. By contrast, President Bush openly expressed his desire for regime change in Pyongyang soon after taking office. So his most influential advisors were looking from the start for an excuse to abrogate the 1994 accord. They were -- and are -- ideologically opposed to providing material incentives that would help to sustain the Kim Jong Il regime in exchange for denuclearization.
This makes sense to me. Of course spinning this as a purely partisan issue causes one to wonder why Bob Gallucci, the Clinton Administration’s point man on North Korea during the Agreed Framework, and presumably no fan of the Bush Administration would declare the following in response to Harrison’s arguments:
The United States, for a number of years, has had well-founded suspicions that North Korea has been working on the enrichment of uranium. Indeed, in both 1999 and 2000, the Clinton administration was unable to certify to Congress that North Korea was not pursuing a uranium-enrichment capability. (This fact alone should dispel claims of partisanship on this point.)

Harrison also asserts that the Bush administration has not made a "credible case" to Congress or to U.S. partners in the six-party talks. In fact, the case has been made and is credible. In both open and closed sessions, the intelligence community has briefed Congress on the evidence concerning North Korea's uranium-enrichment program. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly, and other officials involved in the negotiating process also have frequently briefed Congress on this issue.
The Bush Administration may have used allegations of the HEU program for its own agenda. But it may have been correct about the program nonetheless.
For two years the Bush administration had conducted policy review after policy review on North Korea, but was unable to come up with a policy. The North Koreans expected Kelly to open a new chapter. Instead, they thought he was overbearing, arrogant and threatening. So they reacted in the way that North Korea will always react when it feels it is being pressured. They felt compelled to talk tough. The generals who have the last word there thought it would be helpful to keep the U.S. guessing. General Ri Chan Bok told me in so many words that the uranium issue is useful because "it strengthens our deterrent to keep you guessing."
Poor North Koreans. They had no choice but to “talk tough” when confronted by Kelly’s overbearing arrogance. Never mind that whatever Kelly might have said could only be seen as mild in comparison to the daily dose of vitriol the DPRK hurls at the U.S., Japan or another target of the day. Never mind that if there were no viable program or if the program were intended for peaceful purposes only the DPRK could have declared this, allowed inspections, and left Bush with nothing but egg on his face (doesn’t anyone remember Kumchangni?) Never mind that a declared policy of keeping the outside world guessing is, on its face, a poor foundation for any sort of negotiation or agreement.

As for Harrison’s apparently unprecedented and unequalled access to hawks, doves and other factions in the DPRK, I am reminded of Brian Myer’s trenchant critique of this kind of reporting:
When he gets his next update on the hawk-dove struggle from officials in Pyongyang, a city where most foreigners count themselves lucky to learn their tour guide's name, he should perhaps keep in mind that North Korea has always viewed the existence of similar factions in Washington as the manifestation of a ludicrous disunity. No one under Kim Jong Il would describe his government in such terms to a Yankee visitor unless the goal were to extract more concessions from the outside world."
In the end, however, I find Harrison’s ultimate conclusion to be quite compelling:
The North Korean nuclear problem could eventually be resolved if President Bush would utter two little words -- "peaceful coexistence." We have to say explicitly that we are prepared to coexist with them regardless of differences in our systems. If we do that we can negotiate a step-by-step denuclearization agreement that will enable us to find out the truth about the uranium mystery. We can open up North Korea, let in the winds of freedom, and liberalize the totalitarian system there over a period of years as we are doing in China.
Such an approach risks much. It dooms the North Korean people to continued oppression for an indeterminate length of time, but, in a world in which all choices are bad, it may very well be the least worst choice of all.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


This humble blog gets the occasional hit from some unlikely sources and searches. This one takes the cake though (click on the image to enlarge):

Strange Google searches Posted by Hello

Answer? I have no idea.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005


Let's see...

Marc Hideo Miyake fears the dismemberment of Hawaii. He also has some interesting thoughts on English, Spanish and other "indigenous" languages.

Cathartidae notes that cell phone companies have entered the never-ending Tokdo/Takeshima controversy (more here).

Andy Jackson discovers a new face hawking beer in Korea.

Ann Althouse listened to the same Daniel Schorr piece on NPR as I did today and had the same jaw-dropping reaction: did I just hear Schorr say Bush "may have had it right"??? Daniel Schorr? Wow!

Annti Leppanen notes that the new "Chinese" pronunciation of Seoul, "Shou-er," seems to be taking off in China.

Kathreb doesn't much care for Nick Eberstadt's latest Washington Post op-ed. A snippet:
Having nuclear weapons gives the North no advantage over the US. It does not improve their chances of winning the on-going conflict with South Korea. The North does not need nukes to hit the American enemy, all they need do is fire across the DMZ. Moreover, if the aim is to prompt the US to withdraw troops it is likely to do the opposite.

Jeff Jarvis notes that all Christians in America are not alike:
I'm a Howard-Stern-loving, gay-marriage-backing, prochoice, Clinton-voting, separation-of-church-and-state, cabernet-guzzling Christian.
Hugh Hewitt might not approve.

Kotaji has some interesting posts on uprisings in North Korea, both real and imagined.

"Captain Ed" takes offense at Senator Robert Byrd's history lesson about Nazi Germany and potential parallels to our day. Methinks perhaps he doth protest too much. Just cite Godwin's Law and move on.

NK Zone continues its heroic efforts to keep the world informed as to the latest developments in North Korean gambling casinos.

Did South Korea's First Lady have eyelid surgery? Oranckay has the goods.

Daniel Drezner argues that we may have moved from "one step forward, two steps back" in the Middle East to "two steps forward, one step back." He also links to a quote about Paris Hilton that may very well be a sign of the apocalypse:
“It became obvious to her what was going on,” says the source. “She was pretty upset about it. It’s one thing to have people looking at your sex tapes, but having people reading your personal e-mails is a real invasion of privacy.”
I'm speechless.

Seeing Eye Blog continues its useful work of highlighting and translating the latest Korean political cartoons (you do read those, don't you?)

Virginia Postrel notes another reason why there are fewer women in science: globalization.
One reason there are so few women in science is very simple -- at least for math sciences and engineering fields -- it has to do with the status of women internationally, not here in the USA.
[*] men from every society on earth are applying in large numbers for graduate schools in the USA.

[*] women not from the US are very much less likely than men from the same country to be applying for graduate schools here in the USA.

[*] in many research universities there is a very small fraction of americans among the applicants.

Here's a concrete example: There are many Iranians in better Electrical Engineering departments nationwide. And Iranians are known to be among the best students of EE. However, very few of these prospective students are women.

They're searching for an English version of the March 1, 1919 Korean Declaration of Independence over at the Marmot's Hole.

The Party Pooper satisfies anyone's need for photos of has-been boy band sensation H.O.T.

Denevan doesn't like Oprah.

University Diaries follows the saga of murder by English Professor: Because
professors, when they murder, get noticed.

Even English professors!

Mark Kleiman argues that the Supreme Court voted to increase prison rape in California.

The woeful Bobcats just spanked the CWebb-less Kings.

That should be enough to keep y'all busy.


On the drive home from work a day or two ago, I listened to a one-hour radio program on Thurgood Marshall’s career before he became a Supreme Court Justice. Marshall was the NAACP’s lead lawyer on civil rights cases and was instrumental in the series of legal actions that ultimately led to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and beyond.

I was struck by the genuine decency of the man and the cause he championed. I think there are very few Americans who would disagree with the conclusion that the United States is a better place after the abolition of Jim Crow and the beginning of genuine efforts to secure equal rights and treatment of all Americans regardless of the color of their skin. We are far from perfect on this score, but we're better than we used to be.

A few other observations/reactions

1) Marshall argued against “separate but equal” in part because of the claim that separate systems could never be equal and always had an adverse impact on African-Americans. He based this claim on what he argued was irrefutable scientific evidence. I think the specifics of his “scientific” claims probably do not necessarily support his broad contentions. The fact that studies demonstrated that black children preferred to play with white dolls does not, in my mind, automatically translate into evidence that blacks felt inferior to whites (would the choice of a white rock over a black one lead to the same conclusion?). But more interesting to me is Marshall’s firm belief that if “science” determined a conclusion to be valid, then that conclusion must be accepted by one and all. I think in this day and age of skepticism concerning Western-style Enlightenment values and approaches and the proliferation of “alternative” medicine, science etc. it would be much more difficult to speak with such certainty about scientific fact.

2) Much more central to Marshall’s arguments was the fact that equality under the law was an integral part of American founding documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, not to mention the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments. Marshall simply, consistently, and eloquently called upon the United States to live up to its own declared values. I think that Marhsall would have had a much more difficult case to make had he not had these founding documents to point to. This is, to me, a testament of their importance and lasting impact. The U.S. has not always lived up to all of the values it purports to cherish, but the mere fact that it speaks of such values (and enshrines them into law) gives determined advocates the ammunition they need to assault bigoted and discriminatory practices.

3) Arrayed against Marshall and the NAACP were figures that ranged from hate-filled bigots to probably well-meaning folks who simply hadn’t thought through the ramifications of separate-but-equal or who simply choose not to fight the system whatever their opinions of it. It is difficult to look back on all of them with anything but wonder and at least a little scorn. How could they have sanctioned such obvious evil, such clear violations of all they thought that America stood for? Then I wonder what the Americans of our day will be judged for overlooking, neglecting, or refusing to act? Any number of candidates present themselves as potential possibilities. One that is high on my list is the American prison system. If pressed concerning the issue, I suspect that most Americans would be uncomfortable with a system that condemns all prisoners, even relatively minor, non-violent offenders, to the life of brutality, abuse, and dehumanization that many experience at the hands of both fellow prisoners and guards. But, aside from a handful of committed activists, what do we do about it? Nothing


Any car that wins in a head-to-head competition with an '87 Hyundai Pony gets my vote. Thanks to Garfield Ridge for recycling this.

Monday, February 28, 2005


According to the Korea Herald
Korea and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to conclude a fair-trade agreement on goods by the end of 2005 at the first round of negotiations held last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said.

During the first formal talks between Korea and ASEAN held Feb. 23-25 in Jakarta, trade officials from both sides agreed to eliminate tariffs on at least 80 percent of all goods by 2009 through trade negotiations.

I wonder if rice and other agricultural products will be included in the 80% of goods not subject to tariffs.

I also wonder whether there is any effort to seek a FTA with Taiwan. Such an agreement would make good economic sense (as long as one assumes FTAs to be generally good) but the political cost of angering the PRC probably would make such an agreement impossible.

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