Sunday, June 12

Tehran-Pyongyang Three Ring Circus

Dear Pundita, I caught Bob Woodruff's interview for ABC with the North Korean official who told him that North Korea had nukes. If not for your warnings [in earlier Pundita posts] it wouldn't have occurred to me that granting the interview to ABC was directly tied to Roh's visit with Bush. It was patently obvious but only if you're aware that Kim Jong-il is playing China, South Korea and Japan against each other.

The US saw the six party talks as a means to pressure DPRK into giving up their nuclear weapons program. North Korea saw the talks as the perfect way to stir the pot. If the US State department had practiced some CSR [common sense reasoning] as you call it, they might have realized the North Koreans were taking their neighbors into account, as the US wanted, but not the way the US intended.
Jim in Duluth"

Dear Jim:
Well sure. Imagine yourself on the other side of the world and in Kim's position, then look at the Six Party Talks. Before the talks were suggested North Korea was just a beggar in relation to Japan, South Korea, and China. But the talks gave Kim an opportunity to force emperors to bow and scrape to a beggar, and he went for it.

However comma the need to practice CSR cuts both ways. For all the time Kim and his generals spend on the Internet and schmoozing with Chinese military brass, they are still looking at Washington from the viewpoint of the Madeline Albright days.

Kim should have asked himself, "Now if I were a very smart president of the world's lone superpower nation and running a global war, how would I view a despotic nuclear weapons proliferator who's trying to build a nuke weapon delivery system that threatens Hawaii, California and Japan?"

If you were listening to the John Batchelor show on Friday night, or if you closely study a map of the world, you wouldn't have to practice CSR. You'd know the answer--provided you also know about the connection between Tehran and Pyongyang, which John has been reporting on for years.

Kim Jong-il would say that the official didn't mention anything to ABC about a delivery system; only the weapons. But once two despotic governments set up a three ring circus with nuclear weapons in the main ring, they should realize they've got a captive audience.

From Kim's view, I can understand why he got deeply involved with Tehran. Aside from their common enemy (the US) and the hard currency that the nuke technology exchanges provided, it was a way of asserting North Korean power -- telling the big boys in the region that Pyongyang had friends outside the region.

However, the circus got underway when the EU Three (Britain, France, Germany) began negotiating with Tehran about their nuclear weapons program. Tehran, under pressure, began dropping big hints about their efforts to build a nuke delivery system. These included film footage of missiles paraded through the streets of Tehran. The missiles had "Israel" painted on them; that was clearly visible to the camera. But when shared with Pyongyang they would have "Japan" and "California" painted on them.

To boil it down, the Japanese have a right to defend themselves from the clear threat of a nuclear attack from Pyongyang. And because the US can't cover all bases, Kim's coyness is running us out of options.

As to how long it would take Japan to arm with nukes--fifteen minutes, if the nukes and delivery systems came gift wrapped. We wouldn't want to do that and certainly Japan doesn't want to be a nuclear weapons power. But the US and Japan cannot spend an eternity munching popcorn at the circus.

As for Israel, they know Tehran is trying to provoke them into a war; as I write these words Tehran is probably ordering Hamas or Hezbollah or one of those front mobs to lob more shells into Israel. This provocation has been going on for several weeks now.

The Israeli military has decided for the nonce to play it according to CENTCOM's advice. They are taking it on the chin, not rising to the bait. But this shelling can't go on forever for Israel, which puts tremendous pressure on the Bush administration to find a path to progress in dealing with Tehran and Pyongyang's nuclear weapons.

I add for your edification that Tehran and Pyongyang coordinate how they practice their idea of nuclear brinkmanship, which has created the circus. It revolves around one trick. They attach a long string to a piece of cheese, then just as the negotiators reach for the cheese they yank on the string.

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