Saturday, January 04, 2003

South Korea has much reason to be proud. Like many countries, they had a long history of subjugation before world war two. Unlike most of them, they successfully developed into a democracy with the military firmly under civilian control. Democracy is nothing without free speech and freedom of the press - what's the point of voting when you're not allowed to head what the other side has to say? They are a developed nation that competes economically rather than receiving foreign aid. I say all this as an American, with what I believe to be a largely American audience.

The reason this is so worth emphasizing is that in some ways this is a frustrating time for Americans. Some South Koreans, especially younger ones, seem to feel either that America and North Korea are equally responsible for the current crisis, or even that America is somewhat more responsible. Oddly enough, I don't think even the North Koreans really want us to believe that. They want us to know that they will not let their people die of hunger and cold until their is a revolution, nor will they spend less on their army to care for their people and improve their economy. These demands for a non agression pact with the United States are not really caused by a fear of invasion - as always they want to get us to the bargaining table so they can extract economic aid in return for commitments they already made previously.

Nobody really wants a war with North Korea. Since South Korea is justly proud of all their economic achievements and wants a relationship of equals with the United States, they should be prepared to shoulder a large share of the costs - after all sunshine is the policy they favor, and they live much closer to North Korea than we do. These costs can also be investment opportunities. Nobody is really willing to spend more and more to feed the ever increasing demands of a nation that puts military spending first while demanding others support their people. This aid should come in the form of foreign investment in North Korea. Those South Koreans who firmly believe the North is bargaining in good faith should not consider the risks unacceptable.

Although of course the North Koreans began building nuclear bombs before George Bush even became President, his remarks about axis of evil and two wars at once accomplished nothing. After the various claims and demands and accusations of the North Korean government over several decades have been contemplated we might not owe them much of an apology, but we should regret any misunderstandings that have been fostered in South Korea. In addition, since even George Bush appears not to want war, and since the North Koreans will not back down, and since we don't want to let them manufacture bombs until they decide to do something more drastic to force us to bargain with them, we have no choice but to negotiate. That being the case, remarks which make these eventual negotiations into a loss of credibility to the United States are regrettable.

I believe these are good starting points as guiding principles for negotiation.
1. Trust nothing not verified - and think hard how they could circumvent the verification before accepting it.
2. North Korea doesn't actually want a war, because they know they would lose.
3. North Korea will start a war if they believe their freezing and starving people are on the point of revolution.
4. If they succeed in getting more and more by demanding it, they will continue. One point is non-negotiable - the aid must come in a form that will more North Korea towards being a self sufficient nation with something to lose.
5. Foreign investment is also the path to a freer North Korea.

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