Hey, all you American taxpayers! Maybe North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and his son, junior-tyrant-designate Kim Jong Eun, aren’t on your Christmas gift list. But watch out. The way things are going, Uncle Sam might be getting ready to send them presents on your behalf.
Just this past weekend, North Korea was all over the news, threatening “catastrophic” retaliation if South Korea went ahead with a live fire drill on one of its islands where a North Korean artillery attack last month killed four South Koreans. The United Nations Security Council met in emergency session, spent hours behind closed doors, and got no where — China being apparently unable to discover anything in North Korea’s recent behavior worth condemning. (Not that UN condemnation of North Korea is likely to shake up anything much, anyway). Russia — drawing on its long experience as a paragon of brotherhood — counseled restraint by all. Ban Ki-Moon borrowed the usual page from the Miss Universe contest and came out in favor of world peace, or something like that … Crisis loomed.
South Korea, to its credit, decided not to let North Korea dictate the terms, and –having taken precautions to protect the Yeonpyeong island population and prepared to make North Korea pay for the threatened catastrophe –went ahead Monday with the live fire exercise. Lo! North Korea backed off, professing itself suddenly relieved of the need “to retaliate.”
That, in itself, says plenty about the virtue of standing up to North Korea’s threats. But there’s more… with North Korea, there’s always more. While the showdown was going on over South Korea’s military exercise, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was visiting North Korea, with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in tow. Please remember, on North Korea’s totalitarian turf this is not the kind of visit that just sort of happens because Bill and Wolf in a light-hearted moment decided impromptu to spend a weekend in Pyongyang. If Richardson is in North Korea with CNN, that’s because North Korean officials have their own plans to make use of such a visit.
Lo! So it happened. From the North Korean hard-cop threats of catastrophe, along came a sudden shift of stage scenery, and in rolled the soft-cop news that North Korean officials have told Richardson they are now willing to allow back in the nuclear inspectors they had previously kicked out (the inspectors were kicked out after they had been let in again, after being kicked out before that … there is by now a sort of rhythm to it). Enthusing about this development, Blitzer reported from Pyongyang that tensions have “eased significantly,” and this is all very “encouraging.”
Actually, it’s all very familiar, and apart from South Korea’s welcome display of backbone over its turf, there is nothing encouraging about it. This is the North Korea shakedown racket. It’s been going on for years, with the pioneering help of such American patsies as former President Jimmy Carter, former special envoy Chris Hill, and now, the winterwear-clad duo of Richardson and Blitzer. Remember the 1994 Agreed Framework (North Korea promises a nuclear freeze in exchange for for free food, fuel and two modern nuclear reactors; North Korea rakes in the goodies and cheats); the Six-Party Talks 2007 “breakthrough” (North Korea promises to stop its nuclear weapons program in exchange for free food, fuel, millions in hard cash, removal from the U.S. terror list; North Korea rakes in more goodies and cheats).
Since the mid-1990s, each U.S. president in turn, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, has gotten himself a North Korean nuclear freeze deal — and seen it dissolve. Each time, the pattern has been the same. North Korea ups the ante, brandishing its out-sized military and its nuclear pursuits, and issues threats about “seas of fire,” “war,” and “catastrophic” attacks. The U.S., the UN and related players hold fevered meetings and wring their hands over the crisis. Then North Korea puts out the word via some eager shill that it might be open to a deal. With relief, yabbering on about how “encouraging” it all is, America and allies sit down again at the bargaining table and pay wergeld to the Pyongyang regime.
Now it’s Obama’s turn. Since Obama took office, North Korea has conducted a nuclear test; tested an array of missiles (including ballistic); sunk a South Korean warship killing 46 members of the crew; hit Yeonpyeong with the worst artillery shelling since the 1953 armistice; carried on its sanctions-busting weapons traffic with Iran; and –after denying any uranium enrichment — unveiled an in-your-face uranium enrichment facility for visiting U.S. nuclear physicist Sigmund Hecker to observe and report home about.
In a saner world, these would all be among the long list of reasons for America and U.S. allies to devote themselves not to dignifying Kim’s regime at the bargaining table, but to undermining this totalitarian dynasty in every possible way — with the aim of bringing it down, at speed. But in this crazy old world, Kim Jong Il has every reason to believe that attacks, threats and a multi-track nuclear weapons program are all chips he can bring to the bargaining table — there to reap rewards for promising, again, to desist from things he should not be doing in the first place. That’s how his regime has survived since the collapse of its old godfather, the USSR. And here we go again. In sum, Kim Jong Il has just hung out his Christmas stocking, expecting Uncle Sam to again play Santa. No doubt we will soon be hearing more from Richardson and Blitzer about the happy news they believe they just discovered in Pyongyang. This North Korean routine — murderous, cynical and hideously destructive to any civilized order — does not deserve even a lump of coal.