The “Let me give you all that you want” Diplomacy
Sunny days, summits and brotherly hugs in North Korea
photo courtesy of the Republic of Korea via Flickr
by Michael Vilímek
On a wonderful sunny day, a leader of one half of the Korean nation made the historic step and crossed the cruel boundary dividing the two Koreas. Perfect photo poses were struck and for few moments starry-eyed throngs of journalists were able to snap countless pictures of the historic moment of rapprochement of the two heads of state. In the following talks, speeches were made and it was agreed that, “The South and the North share the wish to terminate the existing armistice regime and to build a permanent peace regime, and cooperate to pursue issues related to declaring the end of the Korean War (…)”. Then, it all fell apart.
Naturally, I am speaking of the 2007 summit between the South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and the Chairman Kim Jong-il. I feel your confusion. You thought that I was talking about something completely different. Do not despair, because I shall fast forward to another day inscribed in the annals of history. On that day, North Korea signed a pivotal deal declaring its intention to freeze its nuclear programme in exchange for aid. This deal and planned talks enticed the US media to speak of cautious optimism and a palatable scent of hope was spreading. The deal was, of course, the Leap Day agreement of 2012. If before you were a bit annoyed with me, perhaps you are starting to feel the pangs of anger now. Maybe after I mention the spectacular failures of the negotiations dating to the Clinton era or the dazzling collapse of the years of the so-called Sunshine policy instituted by the South, you may reach the same mix of a state of Zen and a scalding hot anger that I have been experiencing since the first news of the most recent rapprochement.
If you ask an average Joe or Jane of the general Euro-American populace about the North Korean leader, you may get an expression of the prevalent belief in Kim Jong-un’s insanity or the opinion that he is bereft of the ability to think logically. These beliefs are deeply rooted among the people and the CNN talking heads do their best to reinforce them. Therein lies the poisoned needle that pricks our thin skin in negotiations that seem to crop up every decade or so. Kim Jong-un and his entire family are cruel monsters devoid of any ability to feel compassion towards anything other than their own wellbeing. Chairman Kim lacks all that makes us human, except for his sanity and superior reasoning abilities. There is only one truth in the whole situation and it is surprisingly simple. Based on the history of the last 60 or so years, we can confidently say that when ruthless regimes open to the democratic world, they fall. It is information that kills dictators and Mr Kim is very well aware of that fact.
Let's dispose of the absurd and entirely naive notions that the recent warming of relations has anything to do with a desire for peace. North Korean leadership has a set of very specific needs and it knows how to get what it requires. On the other hand, this time around, the talks really are historic. This time, we are giving them all that they asked for and even more without the protracted need to negotiate. In a way, it is a brilliant move by Donald Trump. It will save us the bother of negotiation and soon we will be able to get back to hostilities. North Korea is like a magician and Donald is like the wide-eyed kid that gets called out to the stage. The magician does what he does because he would like to make some money and if he is really good he can rely upon it as the sole income. North Korea is the best foreign relations magician in history, rivalled only by Putin’s Russia. The Sunshine Policy championed by the South at the turn of the century provided the much needed hard currency and enticed many foreigners (mainly of Chinese origin) to visit the socialist paradise and bring more of it with them. In the early 2000s, the South figured out that it is not really getting much back and the new governments stopped funding the North Korean nuclear programme, hence the summit and deals in 2007 and 2012 to lower the pressure. The new autocrat Kim and his sister have had many years to learn through observation and they did just that. Their current game surpasses anything that came before. The push for nukes ratcheted up tensions, allowing North Korea greater leverage, the result of which are the current magnanimous offers, including the destruction of the nuclear test site which had been rendered useless by landslides anyway.
Whatever meetings may happen or not, whatever deals may be signed or not, it does not change the fact that North Korea is getting everything it wants and we are getting zilch back. Once the moneybags are safely in, Kim will shut the door in Trump’s face and I shall be laughing bitterly. The real keys to North Korean freedom lie in Chinese hands.