US co ordinator on North Korea Glyn Davies has come out of the Beijing talks with North Korea [23 February 2012] with a hopeful evaluation: ‘the talks’, the first since the rise to power of Kim Jong eun, were ‘serious and substantive’. And they will continue another day.
Since 2011, in the US and now in Beijing, the US and DPRK have met three times. After an exchange of views on North Korea’s nuclear programme, the first two session in July and October 2011, went nowhere.
The Obama administration has been trying to lure the DPRK back to six party talks for the last two years. A quick glance at the record will explain its failure: one, it has coordinated its policy with the revanchist South Korean president Lee Myung bak’s reactionary course of action to do everything to push Pyongyang to the verge of collapse; two, it has intensified sanctions and penalties, an ham handed, inept approach which led nowhere; three, it beefed up joint military exercises along the NLL within a spittle’s throw of North Korea waters; and last but not least, has intensified a propaganda war, the only effect of which was doomed to failure.
Now, has the US had a change of heart? Perhaps. Late 2011, Obama elaborated a new military doctrine aimed at isolating China. Does he think a softer policy towards an untested leader like Kim Jong eun could drive a wedge between him and his neighbour and ally China? If that idea has ever graced the minds of America’s policy makers, it is off the wall.
The US would be on more solid ground if it engaged diplomatically North Korea. And more to the point, in a rush to disengage in wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, it would do well to finally put an end to the Korean War by signing a peace treaty with China and North Korea.
[GuamDiary readers may very well know, that South Korea refused to sign the 1953 Armistice Agreement, and thus, technically, it has not place at the table.]
If Washington is unwilling to end the Korean War, well, it could be wise and large enough to grant North Korea’s wishes for direct talks without preconditions.
The US hides behind the smoke screen of not wanting to slight its clients in Seoul, but the US has enough clout to keep Lee Myung bak on a tight leash if it wants to. And besides, there is a strong undercurrent in South Korea wanting a more open and nuanced approach towards North Korea.
Let’s see where tomorrow’s talks will go. Guarded optimism is welcome, but one should be prepared for the usual do nothing by the Americans.