Monday, June 06, 2011

How do the North Koreans manage to con the Americans so easily?

The question South Koreans are asking, as they've asked regularly over the years, is how do North Korean negotiators manage to con their American interlocutors so easily. Here's a regime that has time and again rejected, deflected and derided any attempt at confirming the most egregious violations of human rights, and US Envoy Robert King apparently thinks he's going to get somewhere by accepting another invitation to Pyongyang.

King's got South Korean officials extremely nervous, if not infuriated, by giving the impression that he really thinks he's going to get anywhere in talks with the North Koreans. The whole goal of the North Korean game, they believe, is to dig a ditch between North Korea and the US - and relegate the South to the role of the "puppet" to whom there's no point in talking about much of anything.

King himself finally acknowledged what had been clear for some time, that South Korea really opposes US moves to resume providing food and fertilizer to North Korea. The US cut off aid in tandem with the South in the early months of Lee's administration, but pressure is mounting fast for a shift in US policy.

If North Korea can get King to come back on the pretense of talking about "human rights", it's a safe bet the North Koreans will come up with a scheme for addressing what King has called "our serious concerns about monitoring and outstanding issues related to our previous food program".

Among these issues is what the North Koreans did with 20,000 tons of food that the few Americans who were there never got to monitor as promised. They were ordered out of the country more than two years ago before that food was ever distributed. Another issue is the North Koreans don't want any Korean speakers on the American team - no need to have these interlopers snooping around chatting casually with someone with an inkling of what's going on.

--Donald Kirk  writing in Asia Times

No comments: