Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Diplomacy with North Korea

Donald Gregg was a CIA official since 1951 and a liaison to President Carter's National Security Council and, National Security Advisor to Vice President George H.W. Bush and U.S. ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993. He's now chairman of the board of the Korea Society.

First: Don't panic. Kim Jong Il's objective is survival and eventual change in North Korea, not suicide. The diplomatic situation in Northeast Asia will be immensely complicated by the North Korea test, which I think was a huge mistake on their part, but missiles are not about to start flying.

The test may indicate the rise in influence of a hard-line faction in the KPA, which is holding sway, at least for now, over others more interested in transformational change in NK. The initiation of a strong bilateral dialogue between NK and the US would strengthen the moderates, and ease the situation in general, but that is not at all likely to happen.

Second: Why won't the Bush administration talk bilaterally and substantively with NK, as the Brits (and eventually the US) did with Libya? Because the Bush administration sees diplomacy as something to be engaged in with another country as a reward for that country's good behavior. They seem not to see diplomacy as a tool to be used with antagonistic countries or parties, that might bring about an improvement in the behaviour of such entities, and a resolution to the issues that trouble us. Thus we do not talk to Iran, Syria, Hizballah or North Korea. We only talk to our friends -- a huge mistake.

Why do I keep thinking that diplomacy is to the administration what substance abuse treatment is to a user?

All you readers that started sniffing as soon as you saw the name "Carter" up there at the start need to calm down and read further. Donald Gregg is not one of those babies tossed out with the bath water. He has been around for a long time, including a role in the Iran-Contra Affair. He is a diplomatic pit bull so don't sell him short.

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