Avoiding the Wedge

12 February 2018

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

North Korea Takes Diplomatic Gold, May Force Direct US Talks

North Korea took home the gold medal in Olympic diplomacy as American Vice President Mike Pence, and Kim Yo Jong, sister of Pyongyang's dictator, both left the games in South Korea. The North's charm offensive has taken in a number of softheaded romantics (Lenin's useful idiots), and Washington's pathetic response was a tepid "get off my lawn, you darn kids" that took in no one at all. There is a potential wedge North Korea can drive between Seoul and Washington, and that can't be allowed to happen.

The biggest problem for Washington is that the two Koreas are a little like the two Cold War Germanies were, artificial and the result of outsiders' interests. Koreans form a cohesive nation and a distinct culture. Under the norms of international practice, one state is logical for such a people. Kim Jong Un, his father and grandfather agreed. That one state should be the one they run. The athletes marched into Olympic stadium under a single flag, a light blue Korean peninsula on a field of white, but that isn't the flag the North wants to fly. When they speak of unification, they mean conquest.

Still, wishful thinking is a human trait found all over the world. The South Korean government offered this, "We believe that the North's announcement of the delegation shows its willingness to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula along with a message of celebration for the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games," it said in a statement. "It is significant that the delegation also includes Kim Yo Jong, who is Chairman Kim Jong Un's sister and holds an important position in the Workers' Party of Korea."

In addition to her visit, Ms. Kim brought an invitation to the South's president, Moon Jae-in, to attend a summit in the North. President Moon's response of "Let's create conditions to make it happen" was not the unalloyed and enthusiastic "yes" the North wanted, but the visit has to take place. Turning down an olive branch from a nuclear-armed sociopath-ocracy is not wise.

So, President Moon will go to Pyongyang. Some kind of success will be engineered so that some kind of agreement can be signed. The North will give in on some minor point to score a bigger one. When that happens, Washington will have to be ready.

The White House needs to write the statement now that says America is thrilled by the progress made, and in light of that progress, invites North Korea to direct talks in the South or in the US. The talks can get hung up on the color of the carpet or the shape of the table, but the offer needs to be made to prevent a widening of any gap between the US and South Korea.

This journal is under no illusions about the North Korean system. The whole country is a prison and the warden is a vicious gangster. Talking to such people is disgusting. Making agreements with them is vomit-inducing. But when the alternative could be unification by force, disgust and vomit are preferable.

Secretary of State Tillerson said Monday "As we've said for some time, it's really up to the North Koreans to decide when they're ready to engage with us in a sincere, a meaningful way." He's partially correct. It's also up to the US to ensure that America is seen to be willing to talk, even if it isn't sincere.

© Copyright 2018 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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