Friday, July 24, 2009

Trading insults with North Korea

Hillary Clinton has been trading insults with North Korea:
- first Clinton on ABC news "What we've seen is this constant demand for attention, And maybe it's the mother in me or the experience that I've had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention: Don't give it to them, they don't deserve it; they are acting out."
- then a spokesman for the foreign ministry in Pyongyang: Clinton "is by no means intelligent, We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady, as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community. Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping."
- Clinton's answer contained the claim that North Korea "has no friends left".

For more about the long history of North Korean insults see here.

A little analysis:
- comparing NK's leaders with children undermines their self-important attitude. The big question is: what does Clinton want to achieve with it? This looks more aimed at "regime change" than at solving problems.
- NK repays in kind. It sketches a caricature of Clinton that is close enough that some of it may stick.
- Clinton's conclusion that NK has no friends left looks rather silly. If it is really so they will find out for themselves.
- as so often: trading insults hurts both sides.

"Regime change" is a violation of international law - for good reasons - and I don't understand why the US keeps trying. What makes these half-hearted efforts at "regime change" even more ridiculous is that South Korea and the US are actually afraid of the fall of the North Korean regime as a unification could cost a lot.

I would prefer a different policy: give up on "regime change" and set out a path along which North Korea could grow towards a modern society. Give North Korea the option to join. But make at the same time all preparations for a sudden re-unification for the case that the North Korean leadership might implode. Prepare the South Korean population that it may become their "patriotic duty" to support such a re-unification. Let the US promise financial assistance. Get also full Chinese and Russian support - including the guarantee that refugees from the north from now on will no longer be sent back and can migrate to South Korea. These actions should not be misunderstood: they are not supporting actions for a US driven regime change. They should get minimal attention in the media and should not be used as a basis to threaten North Korea. It should also be added that such unification might both happen through an agreement with the NK regime and through a collapse of the regime. The implicit message to the NK leaders should be that its citizens have alternatives: both individually and collectively.

Recently both South Korea and the US have announced huge aid programs for North Korea - provided that they cooperate. For the moment North Korea has rejected the offers and said that the 6-party negotiations are over. But it was predictable that it would take time to convince them that the offers are real and that North Korea won't see the usual backpedaling once the West has to deliver.

The other side of the equation is less well developed. China has cooperated with sanctions in the Security Council but their actual behavior at the border may be different. Preparation for unification is nowhere.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hillary is correct in her statements.

However, since the NK dictator is like a petulant child, it's not the best to get this truth out there and provoke him.

The bratty child can have a temper-tantrum as a result. However, he can use his nukes and vast army as part of his tantrum.

Hillary would get a lot further with him by using flattering language on the international stage.