And so we saw yet another concession to Kim Jong Il last week coming from US President George W. Bush: the removal of North Korea from the list of terrorist-sponsoring states.
Bush promised to do this as early as June, when the North Koreans agreed to dismantle their facilities at Yongbyon; but the US postponed the delisting after Pyongyang refused to agree on the method for verifying the dismantlement of the programs. Last month, Kim ordered to restore the plutonium-producing facilities and talks of another nuclear test began to leak, prompting the Bush administration to finally remove Pyongyang off the list.
In return, the North Koreans resumed the dismantlement of the Yongbyon plant and agreed to let experts inspect the declared nuclear facilities. But they still won’t give these experts complete access to the North’s undeclared nuclear facilities.
This means that, since the experts can inspect only the sites that have already been cleaned by North Korean authorities, the inspectors would never get the real score on Pyongyang’s nuclear program. In other words, the North Koreans have once again made a fool out of Bush.
Of course, with the global financial crisis consuming the US’s energy, Washington have limited options on the Korean situation. Another nuclear test on the Korean peninsula would be a nightmare for the Bush administration, which is rushing to solve this problem before the president’s term ends. This dilemma is further exacerbated by rumors that Kim Jong Il is, well, ill. If the guy dies before the North Korean nuclear program is dismantled, the situation would be fucked up. Hence the desperate move to appease the North Koreans.
But we all knows that appeasement hardly works. Especially when you use it with dictators.
The delisting is expected to be followed by the removal of economic restrictions imposed by the Trading With The Enemy Act. This would give Kim Jong Il better access to wines, caviars and other things he enjoys.
Of course, giving Kim better access to these things isn’t really a bad thing if doing so will assure us of stability on the Korean peninsula in particular and in the region in general. But as I see things, it won’t.
As I have said in a previous blog entry, North Korea is now a nuclear-capable state. It now possesses the know-how to create a nuclear bomb. Even if the Yongbyon facility is dismantled, there’s no assurance that Pyongyang would be unable to restart its nuclear program again anytime it wants.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Shoinichi Nakagawa has called Washington’s removal of Pyongyang from the list of terrorist-sponsoring states as “extremely regrettable.” Senator John McCain, on the other hand, lambasted the administration’s failure to consult Japan and South Korea first before going on with the delisting.
Indeed, the White House informed Prime Minister Taro Aso only an hour before the decision was announced. The Japanese media sees the delisting as a bypass of Japan. Mainichi Shinbun even went to the extent ofsuggesting that there might be a need for Tokyo to rethink its foreign policy. On the other hand, the families of the abductees, along with conservative politicians, are calling the act a “betrayal” on the part of Bush, who had previously pledged not to “abandon” the abductees.
Although Taro’s predecessor, Yasuo Fukuda, had already acknowledged that the abduction case should be a bilateral issue between Tokyo and Pyongyang, Japanese politicians still expects the United States to see it as a major issue in the Korean situation. Of course, Washington’s interests are grounded solely on the context of nuclear arms; but, as a loyal American ally, Japan believes the United States owes to support its interests, too. And in this particular instance, Japan has limited leverage on Pyongyang so it needs America’s help. But Japn’s problem is, the Bush Administration’s leverage is limited too at this point.
At any rate, the delisting could really be “extremely regrettable” too for Taro Aso and his Liberal Democratic Party. Since his being foreign minister, Aso has been know to subscribe to the US-centered worldview of Japanese foreign policy. And this “betrayal” by the United States could help Leader of the Opposition Ichiro Ozawa prove that the LDP’s pro-US policy has been at the very least not beneficial for Japan.
As for me, I think more than nuclear capability, abduction of innocent people is a form of terrorism. Common sense dictates that a state that abducts innocent civilians from another country is a terrorist state.