By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Recent market reforms, changes in its military and other signs show North Korea perhaps finally poised for change, yet the U.S., which has been calling for such liberalization, now seems to be getting in the way of change.
If Gore had won in 2000, I think North Korea would have evolved a great deal from its menacing state. It keeps saying it wants change and good relations. There can be more change if Bush loses re-election or exercises leadership now by following a consistent policy. North Korea, too, also has responsibilities in this. I don’t think it’s made up its mind to reform like China or Vietnam. While it’s behaved rationally, from the view of its own interests, the real danger is that for a long time it’s had no hope of extending its system south. That was always their goal in the past. Old hard-liners who fought the war are maybe going around thinking: If Bush wants to push this, it’s our last chance to unify Korea through force — we’ve got nothing from our attempts to engage Washington. Hard-liners here have their counterparts there. They’re both wrong. Kim Jong Il himself doesn’t have a policy of taking the South through force. I think he’s desperate to find a way out of North Korea’s troubles. But he’s in a patriarchy where age counts so much. Bush’s team seems split on whether to keep his regime involved in change or squeeze it. But wish for collapse and you’re wishing for the next Korean War, because they’ll go down fighting.
What can come of this week’s multilateral negotiations in Beijing?
North Korea’s package deal has to be taken seriously. It’s the essence of what they want. They proposed it in last year’s talks, this April’s talks and in 1993, which led to the agreement. It involves security guarantees, aid and normalization. The U.S. should go ahead and do it. It’s the one way we’d finally gain influence over North Korea.
The key is simultaneous, confidence-building steps, but Bush wants Kim to give it all up first, saying he won’t be “blackmailed.”
We’ve been threatening North Korea for 50 years with our own nukes. When Bush says blackmail, it’s just a sign he’s not serious. What’s easy is figuring out what works with North Korea. You push them around — it won’t work. You engage in tradeoffs and treat them as equal partners — it works every time. That’s what worked finally for Clinton. But to expect them to give up something for nothing is idiotic! Yet that’s what Bush wants them to do while we continue to threaten them.
It sounds like there’s no hope until after the 2004 presidential elections.
I’m much more worried if Bush gets re-elected absent any progress. In a second term, the administration might feel they have a freer hand to push coercively. They’d have troops for it. I hope the talks achieve some success or lead to more. But North Korea will probably table proposals attractive to everybody except Bush.
Let’s say the talks go well, the U.S. and North Korea come to a rapprochement. What’s the best-case scenario?
The future [that former South Korean President] Kim Dae Jung laid out in his “sunshine” policy: a prolonged peace as North Korea changes so that, decades from now, Korea unifies under a democratic system.
Worst-case: The negotiations keep tanking.
Then all bets are off. North Korea might declare itself a nuclear power, even test nuclear weapons. It’ll be Bush’s bomb. You can blame it on Bush because it didn’t have to happen.