A New Leaf for North Korea? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
A New Leaf for North Korea?

After several rounds of bilateral talks between the United States and North Korea in Beijing, North Korea has apparently agreed to a moratorium on uranium enrichment, nuclear tests and long range missile launches as well as allowing the return of IAEA inspectors to the Yongbyon nuclear complex and the resumption of six-party talks. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it represented “a modest first step in the right direction.”

And exactly how many first steps have we had with North Korea over the years?

This is a gamble for the Obama Administration. On one hand, there is the possibility (however remote it may be) that Kim Jong-un and his minions represent a break from the past. If they honor the agreement, it would be a big feather in the cap for the Obama Administration’s foreign policy accomplishments. On the other hand, if Kim Jong-un and his minions stay true to form and if a snafu should arise between now and November then the Obama Administration looks foolish, naïve and eager to accept the words of a historically unpredictable and unreliable actor at face value.

I am also not exactly encouraged when I see the following statement from the State Department:

The following points flow from the February 23-24 discussions in Beijing:

– The United States reaffirms that it does not have hostile intent toward the DPRK and is prepared to take steps to improve our bilateral relationship in the spirit of mutual respect for sovereignty and equality.

– The United States reaffirms its commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement.

– The United States recognizes the 1953 Armistice Agreement as the cornerstone of peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

– U.S. & DPRK nutritional assistance teams will meet in the immediate furture to finalize administrative details on a targeted U.S. program consisting of an initial 240,000 tons of nutritional assistance with the prospect of additional assistance based on continued need.

– The United States is prepared to take steps to increase people-to-people exchanges, including in the areas of culture, education, and sports.

– U.S. sanctions against the DPRK are not targeted against the livelihood of the DPRK people.

So we know what the United States is prepared to do. But what steps is North Korea to improve its relations with the United States? The United States reaffirms its commitment to the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. And what was that statement exactly? Oh yeah, North Korea was going to end its nuclear program. So the United States is essentially announcing that North Korea is agreeing to do what it agreed to do six and a half years ago.

As for the Armistice Agreement, North Korea hasn’t exactly adhered to it over the years as when in March 2010 it torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel killing 46 sailors. A year ago, they were jamming South Korean communication signals. It’s not our recognition of the Armistice Agreement the Obama Administration should be worried about.

It’s all well and good to provide food aid for starving North Koreans. But why exactly are they starving? They are starving because of Stalinist isolationist economic policies. If North Korea opened its borders to trade and had free markets chances are they wouldn’t need food aid in the first place. But North Korea uses food as a weapon. Feed us or we will launch a missile. North Korea has no incentive to allows it populace to prosper.

As for people-to-people exchanges, does this mean Secretary Clinton going to give Kim Jong-un a basketball autographed by Jeremy Lin?

I don’t think I am alone in thinking that today’s announcement is an exercise in wishful thinking rather than one grounded in the sort of pragmatic optimism championed by Ronald Reagan which said, “Trust, but verify.” The Obama Administration seems content to merely trust.

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