Monday, July 07, 2008

US Removal of North Korea from the Terrorist List Shocks Japan

The Bush administration’s decision to remove North Korea from the terrorist list has given a tremendous shock to the Japanese public. Japan and North Korea are clashing over the abductee issue. Japanese nationalists are infuriated with the bolt from the blue, and blame that the United States betrayed its best ally in the Asia-Pacific region to ignore such a vital humanitarian issue.

Their resentment is understandable, but the Japanese public should not be obsessed with the abduction. I am not saying that the Japanese be cold-blooded like Tesundo Iwakuni , Japanese Democrat Member of the House of Representatives, who remarked “Japanese people are kidnapped with the abductee issue on North Korea.” I firmly believe that Japan be allied with the global community to pressure the dictator in Pyongyang. Also, I am concerned with early removal of North Korea from the terrorist list.

At this stage, the global community has not succeeded in eliminating all nuclear weapons in North Korea. Also, this country has been engaged in illicit economic activities, such as export of drug, counterfeit of hard currency, and so forth. This is the reason why I feel it too early to take North Korea away from the list.

On the other hand, Japanese must remember that the primary objective of the six party talk is denuclearization of North Korea, and various security issues are intertwined. Therefore, the following aspects must be taken into consideration.

1. De-nuclearization of North Korea:
Ultimately, Japan shares common interest with the United States. If forced to choose, Japanese people will save 120 million citizens in Japan, instead of hundreds of abductees taken by Kim Jong Il. Nuclear bombs are far more serious threat to Japan than kidnappers. Japanese people want no more Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Though current US administration is going to take North Korea out of the list, it has not abandoned all nuclear bombs yet.

2. Geopolitical rivalry against China:
Historically, Korean Peninsula has been a buffer against continental powers like Russia and China. This is the vital reason why Britain and America approved Japan to colonize Korea in early 20th century. China plays a substantial role in this deal, and will early removal of North Korea from the list strengthen Chinese influence in the Korean Peninsula?

First, let me review an article by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (“Diplomacy is Working on North Korea”; Wall Street Journal; June 26, 2008). This article focuses on nuclear non-proliferation, and issues like Japanese abductee and geopolitical rivalry with China are not mentioned.

Despite this, I agree with Secretary Rice that there is no alternative to the six party talk. Also, I have to mention that the Secretary argues important points in negotiations with North Korea.

If it chooses confrontation – violating international law, pursuing nuclear weapons, and threatening the region – it will face serious consequences not only from the United States, but also from Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, as it did in 2006 after testing a nuclear device.

If, however, North Korea chooses cooperation – by fulfilling its pledge from the September 2005 Joint Statement to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" – a path is open for it to achieve the better and more secure relationship it says it wants with the international community. That includes the U.S. We have no permanent enemies.

However, should we wait and see whether North Korea really intend to give up nuclear programs, as Rice maintains? This notorious scoundrel has been lying and deceiving the global community. Unlike Libya, North Korea has never been defeated by the United States. To the contrary, it boasts a victory against America in the Pueblo incident in 1968 as I mentioned before.

Steve Clemons, Senior Fellow and Director of American Strategy Program at New America Foundation, points out political interaction behind softening approaches to North Korea (“BREAKING: Bush Administration to Ask Congress on Thursday to REMOVE North Korea from TERROR WATCH LIST”; June 24, 2008 and “Chris Hill BEATS John Bolton: Bush Declares New Track for US-North Korea Relations”; June 26, 2008. Both in the Washington Note.). He questions Bush’s engagement to North Korea while pressuring on Iran. Clemons says that the deal results from political interaction between multilateralist dove Christopher Hill and neoconservative hawk John Bolton.

In order to understand problems associated with terrorist list removal, I would like to mention two articles by Former Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, currently Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In his article to the Wall Street Journal (“The Tragic End of Bush's North Korea Policy”; June 30, 2008), Bolton reminds us that North Korea has been breaking major agreements with the United States since its national foundation.

Bolton points out corrosive impacts of removal of North Korea from the terrorist list. It will help Kim Jong Il stay in power and maximize political and economic gains. In addition, he mentions that North Korea assisted nuclear bomb programs in Syria and Iran, terrorist sponsor states. Furthermore, relations with Japan and South Korea will be damaged, as North Korea has abducted hundreds of citizens from both US allies.

In the Daily Telegraph (“North Korea Nuclear Deal with U.S. ‘Like Police Truce with Mafia’”; July 1, 2008), Bolton criticizes this deal furthermore.

The only real progress in de-nuclearising North Korea came via Israel's air force last September 6, when it pulverized a nearly-completed clone of Yongbyon on the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria.

As one keen observer put it, negotiating with Iran or North Korea is like the police sitting down with the Mafia to discuss their common interest in law-enforcement. President Bush's North Korea deal reflects the Administration's lame-duck status.

I agree with John Bolton, and I am afraid it too early to remove the notorious scoundrel from the list.

On the other hand, I do not find one side criticism to the Bush administration of much help. Come to think of it, it is the Koizumi administration of Japan that decided to normalize relations with North Korea with the Pyongyang Declaration. However, Junichiro Koizumi has not convinced the Japanese public why Japan needs diplomatic relations with Kim Jong Il. Nor have his successors, who have not officially abandoned the Pyongyang Declaration.

Technically speaking, the Japanese government is more soft-liner to North Korea than the White House. The Bush administration is just negotiating for denuclearization. Remember this, Japanese rightists!

Above all, we must not allow North Korea any lies and deceits in the nuclear talk. Honesty in nuclear weapons will lead to honesty in abduction, illicit economic activities, and so forth. US and Japanese approaches to North Korea must be reviewed critically from this perspective.