Wednesday, May 27, 2009

North Korea and the Nukes

It pains me to say this, but the first phrase that popped in my mind after hearing North Korea was testing their nuclear capabilities was "I learned from watching you Dad." The old and terrible anti-drug commercial from the 1980's that we all remember now comically with a son's reply to a pot smoking father. I wouldn't necessarily liken America to a pot smoking father rather we are more like the recovering pimp/ crack dealer attempting to tell his kids not to do drugs.

The quest for nuclear proliferation has long been sought by nations across the globe. It was a sign of sophistication and a power play; however America remains to this day the only nation to use nuclear weapons. And we cannot forget that.

Yesterday and today's headlines persist with a consensus of condemnation of such actions and rightfully so. It is a modern era. Today's world has learned from the choice America made in WWII and the aftermath thereafter. It has led to a long and tenuous relationship with the Japanese for many years. But some argue an administrative blow should be levied by Obama and it is clearly misguided rhetoric that lacks historical competency.

The outright defiance by North Korea should though come as of no surprise. They are above all an Asian nation. They are closer to the reality of the nuclear weapon its capability, its lasting effect and its symbolic fortitude. To ask for North Korea to simply lie down with heat from the United Nations is rather simplistic. It is important to understand not only foreign relations, but also the country and the culture of North Korea when engaging their leaders. America should play caution to the reality of North Korea’s nuclear chess game before any decision and divisive policy is implemented.

As Kaplan notes:

So for the moment, Obama should keep the Asian allies secure and calm, try to lure China onboard, squeeze the North Koreans as hard as U.N. resolutions allow, and forget about the six-party talks, which have outlived their purpose. (If diplomacy gets serious again, it will be in the form of U.S.-North Korean bilaterals.) Above all, Obama should put the whole subject of North Korea on the back burner, at least in terms of public statements. Don't react to Pyongyang's screams and threats, which will be as hollow as they are torrential. Don't play North Korea's game.

At the same time, Obama should watch for the slightest hint of an overture—and be ready to respond immediately, though maybe in a way that refrains from official commitment. At some point, sending an "unofficial" envoy might be useful—someone like Bill Clinton or Madeleine Albright, who has credibility with the North Koreans, just as Jimmy Carter was the envoy who smoothed the way to opening talks during Clinton's presidency.

I have long thought—and still do think—that North Korea, above all, wants a deal for aid and security, and that its nukes and its missiles are the only bargaining chips it has. It bargains hard, sometimes maddeningly so, but negotiating a deal is possible. It has in fact been done under both Presidents Clinton and Bush 41.
Under the current circumstances, though North Korea—whoever winds up in charge—has to make the first move. Believing otherwise is delusion.

The last thing we need is more Cowboy Diplomacy.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message.

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