4 January 2003
North Korea's born-again Stalinists have been making trouble lately, and the Bush administration hasn't come up with much beyond "You break your end of the nuclear agreement and you expect us to pay you for it?" A reasonable response blackmail is not something to be encouraged, after all but probably not enough to banish Kim Jong Il to the back burner.
Even the Democratic Leadership Council thinks this is a reasonable response, but they balk at the notion that the US can go it alone:
[T]he Administration needs to abandon the unilateralism of past policy towards Pyongyang and quickly engage South Korea, Russia, China and Japan in regional talks aimed not only at containing but in reducing the perennial danger posed by a bankrupt state with loopy leadership and loose nukes.
These five-way talks should begin with ensuring the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear program, but should quickly encompass a broader deal in which U.S. troop levels in South Korea are scaled down in exchange for a stand down of North Korean artillery and rockets aimed at its neighbor. Moreover, the talks should focus on a deeper solution to North Korea's economic problems that will not leave Pyongyang perpetually rattling a saber with one hand and rattling a cup with the other. Economic assistance from the United States or from anywhere else should be made strictly conditional on two things: an end to North Korea's one big export program dangerous weaponry and an agreement to emulate China's free enterprise and trade zones, opening up a semi-medieval country to fresh winds of change and genuine economic development.
I have some qualms about this. Were I to recommend free-enterprise role models, I think China would be fairly low on the list; while there are plenty of proper money-grubbing capitalist dogs making actual money, Beijing still seems be obsessed with the glory days of being the Protector of Albania and other counterproductive Maoist memories. Still, if anyone can get Kim's attention, it's the Chinese. Which makes me wonder: why drag Japan and Russia into this?