Sunday, July 30, 2006

[world] the other powder keg - korea [2]

This is not a journalistic article – it is merely collated research and you can draw your own conclusions.

Further to part 1, the other powder keg - korea, hopes of a re-opening of the six nation’s talks under the umbrella of the ASEAN conference depend on the real positions of the various combatants.

There is national interest involved and the complication of forthcoming elections, creating posturing on the part of potential national leaders and though historical precedent and lingering resentment have not in the past, in themselves, resulted in war, nevertheless they do provide convenient pretexts for pre-emptive strikes.

For example, Asia Times reported, in 2004 that:
The abduction of 13 Japanese nationals by North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s is the major stumbling block to improving diplomatic relations. When Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made a historic trip to the North in September 2002, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il admitted that government agents abducted the Japanese nationals, eight of whom reportedly died.

As for the tone of the reaction to the missile firing, Japan Times reported:
South Korea, which has pushed rapprochement with the North, condemned Pyongyang's action. Russia joined in the criticism, saying the missile firings complicated the situation surrounding North Korea's nuclear program. China declined comment at first, but said later it was watching the situation closely and urged the countries concerned to remain coolheaded.

One complication is the amount of sabre rattling from the North. The Taipei Times reports this sort of rhetoric on the part of General Kim:
"The general has declared that not even a tiny concession will be made to the imperialist US invaders, our archenemy," said a broadcast on North Korean state television.
Kim, who never speaks himself in public, said that if the US took "revenge," it would mean "all-out war."
"It is not empty talk for the DPRK [the Democratic People's Republic of Korea] to respond with revenge to any revenge by the enemy and with all-out war to an all-out war," the TV said.

Bloomberg reported yesterday:
"North Korea is the key player, so without North Korea's participation, there is no way we, Asean, can facilitate the dialogue,'' Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. "All six members are here, so one way or another, we should encourage any meeting.''
Representatives from 16 nations will take part in the 13th Asean Regional Forum on July 28, according to Asean.
Rice will arrive in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow and hold a joint press conference with Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar at 5:05 p.m. Malaysian time on July 28, Asean said in a statement. North Korea's Paek has confirmed his participation, Syed Hamid said today.

ASEAN regional forum adds that:
South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Chun Yung-Woo told reporters that a five-nation formula was "one option that is being considered but the goal at the moment is to hold six-party talks."

However, RIA Novosti was more pessimistic:
Moscow sees little chance for a resumption of six-party negotiations on the Korean peninsula's nuclear problem, especially a five-nation meeting without North Korea at an Asian security forum, a Foreign Ministry source said.
"There have been proposals to conduct negotiations in Kuala Lumpur - not specific proposals, however, but just an idea that was aired in Beijing on the level of experts," the source said. He said a multilateral meeting on the problem in Kuala Lumpur was unlikely, adding, however, that "everything could yet change."
But he said Russia would hold bilateral contacts with all parties to the six-nation dialogue on North Korea's nuclear program.

Herein lies one of the stumbling blocks – Russia wishing to play the negotiator, the US with the big stick and China essentially keeping its own counsel.

Spacewar, which is not a source I would ordinarily quote from, reports the words spoken by US Envoy Christopher Hill:
He said he was also ready to meet North Korea bilaterally if Beijing succeeded in organizing a round of informal six-way talks in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.
"Even within the informal six-party talks? Yes, I can," Hill said. "I just can't do it when they are boycotting the six-party talks," he said after meeting South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon.
The United States has had more than once met bilaterally with the North on the side since 2003 so this is a departure.

So the ARF, which began on July 28th, is the last realistic chance for some time to bring North Korea back to he negotiating table but your guess is as good as mine as to whether the postulating is simply jockeying for a better negotiated result or whether there is a real chance that national agendas must irrevocably clash and the flashpoint be reached.

And that has been the basis of the major wars since the mid 20th century, only here we are dealing with Eastern temperaments and national pride.

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