Kirk: “North Korea falls off the tracks”
Donald Kirk, via Asia Times, discusses recent events in North-South and North-US relations. Here are some excerpts.
Kirk on the recent cancellation of the North-South working talks:
North Korea has signaled its unhappiness with Lee by canceling a meeting to discuss repairs to the vital railroad from the industrial zone of Kaesong to the Chinese border in time to carry visitors from South Korea through North Korea for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.
Kirk on Jay Lefkowitz’s recent comments:
…Lefkowitz does speak for important elements within the US administration, notably those surrounding Vice President Richard Cheney, all more or less forced into silence as Hill pursued the vision of a nuclear-free Korea. As North Korea stalls, his remarks may be a wake-up call for anyone who thinks the North this time will keep its word.
Kirk on the State Department’s rebuttal to Lefkowitz:
The remarks of the State Department official may be read as an exercise in diplomacy calculated to mollify the administration of Roh, who has dedicated his five years in office to building on the Sunshine policy of his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung.
Kirk on the new tenor of North Korean policy:
One result of the shifting mood is that finally the South Korean and US presidents may share similar views on North Korea after years in which Bush had to move from a hard line to a more moderate position for the sake of rapport first with Kim Dae-jung and then with Roh. Lee is expected to call on Bush in March, and they’re sure to agree on the need for North Korea to give up its nukes as a prerequisite for anything other than humanitarian aid.
Nor is Lee likely to want to continue the North-South cultural and political missions in which South Korean activists routinely journeyed to Pyongyang for love-ins with their carefully selected opposite numbers. Lee made plain his unhappiness with these meetings when he announced plans to dissolve the Unification Ministry, responsible for authorizing and arranging such visits as well as North-South negotiations on a wide range of levels.
In the midst of revision of policies and priorities in both Washington and Seoul, no one seemed to want to go on talking about removal of North Korea from the State Department’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism and conclusion of a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. Somehow those topics have begun to seem outdated, or at least postponed, all in accord with the advice of Lefkowitz that the US “consider a new approach to North Korea”.