Friday, January 10, 2003

The debate over US' approach to NK is definitely hotting up. The hawks and the doves are both coming out swinging as they try to work out an appropriate stance against the North. As the articles I've linked to in previous blogs indicate, I am more on the side of the doves and believe that negotiation is imperative to reduce tensions and that humanitarian aid and concessions to bring about stability and peace are not only the best strategy for dealing with the situation but morally requisite to help the plight of the masses in poverty and starvation in North Korea.

The situation at hand is one of a large powerful nation with massive resources and military strength playing a game of brinkmanship with a weak impoverished nation whose military might does not compare the techonologically advanced and more expereinced US. Like any game both have much to gain and much to lose.

Like any country bargaining on the international stage there are two main levels to coordinate, international and domestic. In interntional negotiations North Korea's key tools of leverage are its military threat and potential nuclear weapons. Moreover, the state of the economy and living conditions at home dictate that the power elite appear strong in the international arena to keep stability at home. Loss of face in the world could potentially cause dissent among the ranks and among the greater population. The ruling elite stands to lose its power and its country could become non-existent if it fails in this time to bring about greater security, international respect and aid. At present, regardless of whether NK produces nuclear weapons it will not achieve peace but it is likely produce stability at home by maintaining a strong position and not compromising to the 'great western imperialists.

The US has a lot to lose as well. In the absence of any incentive to stop its nuclear program in the current environment the US has little choice but to negotiate. The jingoistic policy of US is only serving to prolong the crisis. There has never been any indication by the North that they were unwilling to negotiate this issue and previous efforts in 1994 and more have persistently demonstrated that agreements can be reached, albiet fragile ones. Allowing the North to build up nuclear weapons is the worst case scenario for US but at present they don't seem to realise that offering the stick without the carrot is not going to help them achieve the desired outcome. As hard as it is to accept, sometimes big players have to realise that they cannot dictate their own terms on smaller nations. Sometimes they have to persuade, conjole and convince them to do as US wants and reward them for it when they do. Much to US' chagrin.

Failed negotiations along with some unfortunate events in the past 55 years have strained relations between NK and US but there are definite signs that aggregate improvement has been made in that time. It may be a case of three steps forward two steps back but the progress is there. The Agreed Framework reduced tensions for several year (and may do so again), the Summit between North and South led to family reunions and greater economic trade. To throw all this away now and return to outright mistrust, tension and perhaps war would be a travesty for the present generation and a foul legacy to leave to the next.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui