Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Can See Hawaii From Pyongyang

Finally, some sanity about North Korea. 

Ever since June 6th with Secretary of State Clinton's musing that it may be necessary to relist North Korea as a terrorist state, Americans and Japanese have persisted in crazy talk. Each has tried to outdo the other in describing the coming danger of the DPRK. In Tokyo, the Prime Minister talked publicly about preemptive strikes and others about Japan considering a nuclear option.

Americans picked up on Japanese speculation that Pyongyang will lob its next missile at Hawaii! An excellent expose of this viral foolishness can be found on the indomitable Shisaku's blog. Senator Brownback (R-KS) held up confirmations of two State Department nominees (one being Kurt Campbell for Asst Sec for Asia) to express his strong desire to punish North Korea and to emphasize human rights issues. Adding to the frenzy, in an op ed last Sunday The Washington Times accused the Norks of fronting for China's military ambitions and nuclear proliferation.

Fortunately, the saner folks at the Pentagon decided that all this rhetorical escalation just plays into North Korean paranoia about threats to its sovereignty and security. On June 24th, at the daily DoD News Briefing, press spokesman Geoff Morrell put all the worries about the North Korean threat into perspective by describing them as "silliness":

Q     Geoff, the North Koreans today, they threatened to wipe the United States off the map.  Are you not taking that threat seriously? 

                MR. MORRELL:  I don't even know how I -- how I even respond to such silliness.  I don't -- I -- "wipe the United States off the map" -- for what and with what? 

                Q     "If the U.S. imperialists start another war, the army and people of Korea will wipe out the aggressors on the globe once and for all."  The official Korean central news agency said this. 

                MR. MORRELL:  Yeah, I don't think I'm going to dignify that one with a response. 

                Q     Can you stop North Korea behaving like this or affecting the region or regional relations without the help of China? 

                MR. MORRELL:  Oh, I think China is obviously key to this.  I'm not so sure that anybody has tremendous influence over Kim Jong Il or his regime, but if anybody does, it would be the Chinese.  Obviously they are crucial to our efforts to try to bring about a multilateral approach to preventing the North from developing a nuclear weapon, developing long-range-ballistic-missile capabilities, and from proliferating.
                They are obviously a linchpin to our efforts.   

                But as we talked about at Shangri-La last month, we are proceeding on a multilateral basis, a bilateral basis, even a unilateral basis, to take measures to protect ourselves and our friends and allies and partners in the region. 

                Q     Is China with the U.S.?  Because there was (an op-ed ?) in the Washington Times very recently that North Korea -- it was not North Korea's nuclear test but it was China's nuclear test in North Korea. 

                MR. MORRELL:  I think I got what you were asking.  You're saying somebody in the Washington Times wrote that it was a Chinese test in North Korea?  This is -- I think this falls into Jennifer's category.
                Q     Is China with the U.S.? 

                MR. MORRELL:  Is China with the U.S. -- ? 

                Q     On North Korea. 

                MR. MORRELL:  On North Korea?  Well, they voted with us in -- they voted with us and the rest of the world unanimously to pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, which gives us unprecedented authorities to deal with the North Korean threat. 

So let's all take a deep breath--later we can ponder China as a "lynchpin" and Japan as a "cornerstone." That's security architecture talk...

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