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As the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and the two Koreas prepare for the next round of talks aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear standoff, many senior Bush administration officials, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice among them, have publicly expressed the view that “time is running out” on North Korea. Triplett, with some thirty years of foreign policy experience and expertise on China, agrees with the view and adds the warning that China is the key to unlocking North Korea.
In a recent interview, Triplett revealed that his book was almost titled China’s Knife. “If you take China out of the North Korea nuclear program, there is no North Korea nuclear program,” he noted, adding that “China does not want a democratic country on its border.”
In Rogue State, he writes that China has done very little for North Korea, which he refers to as its client state. The minimal economic aid China offers does little more than to prop up the terror regime of Kim Jong-Il and his “army first” policy, he adds.
TRIPLETT GOES ON TO explain that socialism is not the guiding ideology of the Kim regime, which has made the military a priority over any pretense of bettering the condition of the “working class.” In a chapter devoted to human rights, he reveals how Kim, whose father Kim Il-Sung was hand-picked by Joseph Stalin from among numerous Korean military men to rule North Korea because of his unflinching brutality, has moved even a step beyond Stalin in his methods.
While Stalin’s purges focused on men he thought posed even the slightest challenge to his political authority, Kim’s gulag state takes the nightmare to the next level by imprisoning entire families for the political transgressions of one of its members and, the author notes, opens the door to new abuses with the presence of young women in the camps. Triplett admitted in an interview last month that the human rights chapter of his book was, “difficult, as a writer, to handle.” And indeed it’s likely to be difficult for many readers to handle, with details of the Kim gulags including everything from human experimentation to rape and forced abortion.
On this count Triplett is particularly critical of Madeleine Albright and the Clinton administration and shows how the administration that wanted to inaugurate a new era of “moralpolitik” deliberately ignored human rights issues in North Korea, instead pursuing a policy of “engagement,” in which Albright herself became a prop for the Kim regime when visiting North Korea in 2000. Pursuit of this unsentimental policy included the Agreed Framework, a deal whereby Pyongyang received two new nuclear reactors to supply power in exchange for freezing its old nuclear program. It didn’t take much foresight to realize that this “realistic” approach was a big giveaway to North Korea, which would soon start up its supposedly frozen nuclear programs again.
Triplett applauds the effort of the Japanese who, in the context of the multilateral talks with North Korea, have begun exploring ways of incorporating human rights into the negotiations, and many have concluded that, like Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-Il must go. Triplett noted recently that “a diplomatic deal leaving Kim in power is not satisfying to me because of what they do to their people.” Unfortunately the difficulties the U.S. has faced thus far in Iraq are likely to pale in comparison to even the best-case scenario for ending the North Korea stand-off.