Saturday, July 12, 2003

Shifting the Diplomatic Effort

There are some troubling signs afoot in regards to the dilemma of how to deal with North Korea. I am referring in part to the continued efforts to gain support for the blockade idea but more than that, I refer to US moving away from forming key alliances with critical countries such as China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Instead it seems to be trying to gather support from it Iraqi allies including UK, Australia, Poland, Spain, etc. Why is this troubling? Firstly, these countries arguably will only do the bididng of the US and will stand behind US serving only to make US look more willing to go to war. Secondly, bringing in extra parties among a group that can't find consensus anyway is not going to increase goodwill among the wanna-be Korean Peace Coalition countries if US tries to reinforce the ranks with its own supporters.

My main beef is with Australia. Its 'yes sir, how high sir?' attitude toward the US is sad. The recent attendance of John Bolton to Brisbane for a security conference and Australia's immediate acquiesence to his proposals for joining the blockade was typical of this attitude. As an Australian I feel particularly disappointed in John Howard's bellicose approach to foreign policy. Australia should not even be commenting on assisting the US in a blockade until the nation's directly concerned have agreed on a common approach to dealing with North Korea. If US demands on five way talks and multilateralism in dealing with the situation then they should abide by that stance. Seeking outside approval and token assistance for what is ulitmately a unilateral approach will not do anything to diffuse the nucleaur issue. Australia should be smarter and more circumspect than to act like such a lackey. John Howard is due to arrive in Seoul next week and it should be very interesting viewing to see how him and Roh discuss the blockade issue.

South Korea is now trying to encourage UK to take a mediating role. I am skeptical about the usefulness of such a suggestion. Firstly, Mr Blair has enough troubles over the no-show WMDs in Iraq to be commiting the necessary time and attention to playing such a role between North Korea and the "Korean Peace Coalition". Secondly, UK also is too much US's lackey to be objective enough in this position. A mediating figure may be a good idea but Mr Blair is not a viable candidate.

Moving away from that topic. The economy is in the gutter. The country has or is about to slip into recession. Interest rates were cut by 0.25% to stem the tide and the supplementary budget is in the pipelines but some are arguing it is too little too late. Perhaps interest rates could've been cut earlier but the supp budget was a given from the start. The country issues a supp budget every year over unforeseen events beyond their control. This years recent hit of negative press over SK, corruption and labour strikes didn't help them but then again, these kind of 'unforeseen events' happen every year. I like the bit in the article that asks why the Bank of Korea and KDI have had to slash their forecasts so drastically and why they didn't see this coming when it was so obvious a while ago that the eocnomy was in trouble. Silly question. Both the Bank of Korea and KDI are overseen by the government which is hardly going to let them publish anything so negative as the truth.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui