Thursday :: Apr 13, 2006

Have Nukes - You Grovel

by pessimist

King George's fantasies of someday being Dr. Strangelove are getting uncomfortably close to being realized. In addition to (and buried by) reports of planned atomic attacks against Iran, and of US naval 'manoeuvers' (which could result in what's left of Caracas glowing in the dark), there are strident acts directed at Pyongyang that are only achieving a complication of the situation - and pissing off Asian allies and business partners:

Hill Snubs N.Korea’s Chief Nuclear Negotiator

It is considered bad form in diplomatic circles to offend the other side without a very good reason, a convention that makes it all the more puzzling that the U.S. chief negotiator in talks on North Korea’s nuclear program refused to see his counterpart from Pyongyang this week. The U.S. appears to have decided that cranking up the pressure is more efficient now it believes the North driven into a corner than engaging with the Stalinist country.
But the manner in which it has demonstrated this is unlikely to be effective.
Hill has snubbed North Korea’s second ranking diplomat, who was willing to meet him without any conditions attached, humiliating the man and forcing him to return home empty-handed. Kim is left with no good explanation when he reports to the North Korean leadership. Officials from South Korea, China, and Japan struggled to arrange a post-conference sit down between the two parties, but in vain.
The episode has also left a sour taste in the mouths of the other nations in the talks,
all of whose delegation chiefs were in Tokyo,
sending a message that their influence counts for little in Washington’s eyes.
Press coverage of the event confirms that perception, homing on the fact that a widely expected meeting between the two sides foundered on Hill’s refusal.

So far, sulking has been a North Korean specialty. Now it seems the U.S. has decided to give it a try.

The more complete coverage of this juvenile Bu$hCo diplomatic development begins below the fold.

Russia, who hasn't been too pleased with US interference in Byelorussia's electoral process, is still interested in preventing a nuclear war on their doorstep:

Russia urges for U.S., N. Korea to continue nuclear talks
11/ 04/ 2006

TOKYO, April 11 (RIA Novosti, Andrei Fesyun) - A high-ranking Russian diplomat said Tuesday that ongoing differences between the parties to the six-nation talks on North Korea's controversial nuclear program which stalled in September could be resolved through bilateral talks, particularly with the U.S. "North Korea and the United States should come to an agreement on the form and content of their bilateral relations," Alexander Timonin, deputy head of the foreign ministry's Asia department, said.

At the latest round of talks in September, North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees, but later refused to rejoin the talks until Washington lifted financial sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its alleged involvement in counterfeiting and other illegal activities.

The US position is that the North Koreans can bring up their complaint at the talks - after it's a done deal:

U.S. may discuss sanctions against N. Korea in 6-way talks
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Apr. 12, 2006

The United States is willing to take up the issue of financial sanctions against North Korea during six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear program and conveyed its stance to North Korean officials, according to a U.S. government source. The U.S. side's apparent willingness to allow the issue to be taken up during the discussions may push North Korea to consider returning to the negotiation table, observers said.

One may question the importance of this asset freeze to Pyongyang. This next article reveals why:

Why N.Korea Insists on Getting Its US$24 Million Back

The Supreme People's Assembly of (North) Korea disclosed that the nation’s budget for this year will be 419.7 billion North Korean won, more than $2.93 billion according to the North’s official exchange rate. The U.S. chief delegate to the talks Christopher Hill on Thursday agreed it is difficult to understand why the North is making an issue out of the amount, which he said was less than one week’s worth of the energy offered to Pyongyang in the six-party negotiations. The money is less than 1 percent of North Korea’s annual budget by the official exchange rate.
But in the North’s black market, $1 buys some 3,000 North Korean won,
more than 20 times the official rate.
That makes $24 million something nearer 20 percent of North Korea’s annual budget.
Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia in Washington on Wednesday reported that Macau, which has a reputation as a haven for North Korean money-laundering activities, will see a new anti-money laundering bill go into effect in October. The territory’s legislature passed the bill to prevent money laundering and aiding terrorist activities on March 23. Macau promised to freeze the North’s accounts and take measures to prevent illegal financial transactions after the U.S. slapped financial sanctions on Banco Delta Asia last September.

Still, North Korea experts say there are other reasons for the demand besides the money itself. Paik Hak-soon, the head of the Sejong Center for North Korean Studies, said Pyongyang apparently wants to take advantage of the situation to stop a certain pattern of behavior the U.S. has shown of pressuring the nation even while engaging in dialogue with it. Kim Kye-gwan, too, said the people of North Korea were 'resisting' pressure given the impression that the U.S. interpreted North Korea’s agreement last September to dismantle its nuclear weapons as a 'weakness'.

Following is an example of the US 'diplomacy' that concerns Pyongyang:

US, China meet to bring N Korea back to table

Chinese and US negotiators held talks in Tokyo on Tuesday to seek a way to bring North Korea back to six-party talks on its nuclear weapons programme, but Washington's envoy insisted the ball was in Pyongyang's court.

US assistant secretary of state Christopher Hill said it was time for North Korea to make up its mind to return to the negotiations, which have been stalled since the last round in Beijing in November. "They've got to get themselves to Beijing, bring some position on how they are going to denuclearise," Hill told reporters.

But Hill added that he saw little need to meet his North Korean counterpart, who is also attending a conference in Tokyo. "We've had plenty of talk. We need to see more action."

This is the sort of action that is going to result - and it isn't what was desired:

Prospects for Resumption of Nuke Talks Become Darker

The possibility of an early resumption of the nuclear talks apparently became even more remote, given that North Korea and the United States failed to have a bilateral meeting in Tokyo despite numerous chances for doing so during a private security conference.

Before returning to Beijing, chief Chinese negotiator Wu Dawei said there was no possibility of reopening the six-party talks this month, calling Washington's financial restrictions on Pyongyang the main obstacle.

The United States has said what it took against North Korea in September was "law enforcement" actions that are unrelated to the nuclear talks' main topics ... scrapping North Korea's nuclear weapons programs in return for financial aid and security guarantee.

Aren't these the same people who protest loudly that America is not the world's policeman?

Having this U.S. stance as his backdrop, Hill declined to have a one-on-one meeting with his North Korean counterpart Kim Gye-gwan, despite the repeated efforts of Seoul and Bejing to arrange the bilateral contact.
Such an attitude of Hill was a clear signal that the flexible negotiator
has been under severe check from Washington's hardliners ...
Hill's refusal to have the bilateral meeting with Kim also came a few days after Washington's announcement of a new policy, prohibiting Americans from owning, leasing, operating or insuring any vessel flagged by North Korea. The revised U.S. foreign assets control regulation that will become effective on May 8 is allegedly designed to put stronger pressure on North Korea by limiting Pyongyang's trade with other countries.

International restraint of trade? It doesn't seem to be working:

"If the U.S. tries to pressure us, we will only take stronger measures. We will employ our traditional tactic of direct confrontation. How can the negotiations be possible without our participation?
Talk as much as you wish. It won't bring about our denuclearization
- Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea's chief delegate in stalled six-party talks

The blowback of this diplomatic faux pas could be most serious:

N Korea vows no compromise on nukes

North Korea on Thursday vowed no compromise on its nuclear program and said it would keep boosting its military amid the stalemate in six-nation disarmament talks.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-Gwan denied feeling snubbed, saying it was an 'achievement for us' to meet bilaterally with China, Japan, Russia and South Korea -- the other nations in the nuclear talks that began in 2003. "The US delegation came to Japan just to get away from being held responsible for the stalled six-way talks," Kim said.

Kim said he managed to gain some understanding from Japan in his talks on nuclear and abduction issues with Japanese officials during his stay in Tokyo.

"There is no room for us to be flexible," Kim told reporters in Tokyo at the end of a private conference that brought envoys from the six nations in the stalled talks. "The US position is sanctions and pressure", said Kim, North Korea's chief negotiator at the talks. "That being the case, we will take a hard line. We will fight in our own way.

"Even if the six-way talks are delayed, it is no problem for us. We will only increase our protective measures while the talks are delayed," he said. "During this period, we can build up our deterrence."

While the North Koreans aren't impressed with the US proposal, clearly American citizens are expected to be:

US says NKorea should return to talks or risk losing nuclear deal

'We have a very good deal on the table. It is a deal that serves everybody's interests,' US envoy on North Korea Christopher Hill said at a lunch hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce. 'North Korea will come to understand that this is a very good deal that they will not have forever to consider.'

Oh, I don't know about that, Mr. Hill! They may have a lot more time than you appear to give them.

For one, even military experts say that the US assets are strung out dangerously thin. Add in any actions to be taken against Iran and/or Venezuela (among many others!), and the danger grows exponentially. Even if Bu$hCo were to impose it's own nuclear option - institution of the draft - it would take months just to get the new inductees trained.

We won't go into how long it would take to equip them - assuming that our nation's foreign suppliers continue to extend credit.

Diplomatically, the US is at the thin end of a thin branch and sawing away like mad. Economically, we all just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under us. Militarily, making any additional levees runs the risk of the parents in Red State America beginning to ask uncomfortable questions, and looking for a new leadership that doesn't hide behind the letters 'GOP' as the answer to everything.

Thus, time is on North Korea's side. Unless, that is, you Bu$hCo moron$ are ready to vaporize us all just to show us - and the North Koreans, the Iranians, and the Venezuelans - how very bad you are:

Major Kong: "Stay on the bomb run, boys. I'm going to get them doors open if it hare lips everybody on Bear Creek." [wav]

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pessimist :: 1:42 PM :: Comments (2) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!