Friday, March 07, 2003

The loose nukes crisis

The conundrum over how US and its allies should be approaching the North Korean issue is turning into a very interesting academic debate. Brookings Institution North East Asian Policy Centre has some articles similarly suggesting the optimal stance US should take to get the diplomatic ball rolling. There seems to be a rising consensus among these writers that while multilateralism is the best way to handle the situation, direct US-NK talks will be essential to get things started. This also would help to overcome the reluctance of China and Russia to enter the fray by giving them a chance to observe and see some progress made through goodwill before joining in a more active capacity to ease tensions. But again, I think the step that needs to pre-empt direct talks or coincide with talks with US-SK relationship building through proactive measure to overcome conflicting policy stances toward the North. Multilateralism for US needs to start with South Korea.

A Stanford University diplomat-in-residence and councillor of the Atlantic Council of the United States have also entered the debate with an article in the Financial Times. FT has found the issue of NK important enough to set up an in-depth page. This is a great source of information on recent events including the annual US-SK joint military effort. This annual event is notorious for making NK antsy and this is probably not the best time to be antagonising them. On the other hand, now is definitely the time to be training for the possibility of attack. And as we are often assured, its defense oriented not offensive.

But of course the best source on US policy to NK should be US Department of State. However this provided perhaps the most inconclusive information about what the US is planning to do to deal with the loose nukes crisis in NK. Their talk is at the same level of the academic writers indicating the inchoate state of affairs in US policy to NK.

I made the mistake of reading Bolton's piece on the situation - I should know better. I never agree with what he says. I think that man has a poor understanding of the history of South, North development and the US's historical impact in this region. To say that US didn't create the North Korea problem is misleading. The US carved up the nation with USSR and allies at the end of WWII, it cemented the division of the nation through pursuit of its own selfish interests in the country and failed to seriously seek to unify the country. It exclusion of Korea from its security zone in Asia had a direct impact on North Korea's decision to attack the South and US has since continued to be an important player in Korea and Asia at large. The US stance, actions and words have rarely done anything to make relations with NK stronger. US may not have intentionally created this situation and directly it did not, but the actions and reactions of US in Korea have indeed played a role in the lead up to this crisis.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui