Steve's China Blog

Friday, July 07, 2006

The nut next door

Besides killing fish with expensive missiles, North Korea has been engaged in more bizarre behavior lately. Food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea from China have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It's no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical looney-tune North Korean solution to the problem.

Chinese/North Korean relations are kind of strange. I know that a lot of people think that China can easily force North Korea to do things, but it is not that easy for China. For one thing, the knucklehead in charge of North Korea is a major nutcase. Another problem is that the Chinese and North Korean goverments don't actually like each other much. In China's own twisted logic it is kind of a good thing to have North Korea as it is... They don't have to worry about the Koreas unifying which would mean having the U.S., a unified Korea, Japan and Tawain all allied on their eastern border; and if anyone is watching how bad human rights conditions are in North Korea they are less likely to look at these same problems in China.

Of course, with all the attention being focused on North Korean missiles lately, there has been no shortage of incompetent ex-politicos trying to make a statement. Asked by a TV interviewer about North Korea's launch of seven missiles, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had a ready answer: It's Bush's fault... "Frankly, Larry, I think the problem here is that we are watching the failure of five years' worth of American diplomacy", Albright said. Hmmm... let's take a little trip down memory lane...

1993: North Korea threatens to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. After conducting U.N. inspections there for a year and a half, former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Hans Blix warns he can't provide "any meaningful assurances" North Korea isn't making nuclear weapons.

1994: Under the "Agreed Framework" negotiated by the Clinton administration with help of ex-President Carter, North Korea agrees to stop building nuclear weapons. In exchange, it gets billions in aid, including food, oil and modern nuclear reactors. North Korea immediately starts cheating on the deal, acquiring nuclear know-how and material from Pakistan and China.

1998: A U.S. government report finds at least 1 million North Koreans have died of starvation as aid was used to kick-start the nuclear weapons program. Clinton's military chief of staff tells Congress North Korea has no active ballistic missile program. A week later, North Korea shoots a Taepodong-1 missile over Japan and toward Alaska.

1999: Clinton eases sanctions against North Korea. U.S. signs a $5 billion deal to build two nuclear reactors. North Korea diverts aid to speed up WMD program. Mass starvation reportedly continues.

2000: Despite continued breaches of the "agreed framework," Albright travels to Pyongyang, where she cheerfully clinks glasses with Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il. Media hail the meeting as a diplomatic masterstroke by Clinton.

2002: New York Times headline: "North Korea Says It Has A Program On Nuclear Arms."

That, essentially, brings us to where we are today. Albright actually had it right... North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons and ever-more sophisticated ballistic missiles (including the Taepodong-2C launched this week) were indeed the result of five years of failed diplomacy... It's just that the five failed years lasted from 1994 to 1999. Thanks, Bubba and crew.


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