Tuesday, July 22, 2003
THE LATEST FALLOUT FROM NORTH KOREA: I've been remiss in posting about recent developments in North Korea. However, as I argued back in January, one part of the U.S. strategy has to be convincing Russia and China that it is in their best interests to have a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula. One way in which this would happen would be for the countries in the region to see that a nuclear North Korea would lead to a nuclear Japan, which would trigger an unwelcome arms race across the region.

This leads to yesterday's New York Times report that Japan's nuclear taboo is slowly eroding. The key grafs:

For the first time in three generations a shift in public opinion has rendered ordinary the discussion of a more assertive Japan and left defenders of the "peace Constitution" on the defensive.

While China's expanding power is a growing concern, the most immediate spur for this change has been a year of starkly increased tensions with North Korea, which already possesses ballistic missiles and is pursuing nuclear weapons.

In March, Mr. Koizumi's defense minister, Shigeru Ishiba, told a parliamentary committee that if North Korea started fueling its missiles, "then it is time to strike."

But even if Japanese are more comfortable with such assertiveness, their neighbors may not be. Many continue to harbor suspicion of a country that they feel has yet fully to acknowledge the damage done by its militarization last century, or to atone for its colonial past. Relations with China have been strained for two years by Mr. Koizumi's repeated visits to a controversial shrine to Japan's war veterans, including 14 people judged as Class A war criminals.

When Mr. Koizumi reasserted last month that he would continue his visits, in what has become a summer ritual, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, warned, "Without a correct view on history, there is no guarantee to healthy and stable ties between China and Japan."

During the same time, there have been no visits between leaders of the countries, and China has watched the move toward a more muscular Japan with concern.

This slow change in Japanese public opinion might be part of the backstory for China's renewed pressure to get North Korea back to the bargaining table.

This pressure on North Korea appears to have permitted the U.S. to take the initiative, according to the Washington Post's front-pager from today.

Bush administration officials are considering granting North Korea formal guarantees it will not come under U.S. attack as part of a verifiable dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in what would be part of a diplomatic gambit by the Bush administration aimed at resolving a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Administration officials said that at this broader multilateral meeting, they would formally unveil a U.S. plan for ending the crisis, which has prompted intense discussion within senior levels of the administration about the form of the proposal and how it would be presented.

U.S. officials have indicated to Asian allies they would open with discussion of how the administration could reassure North Korea it does not face a U.S. invasion and then move toward what one official called a "whole gamut" of issues between North Korea and United States, such as providing energy and food aid if the North Korean government meets a series of tough conditions, including progress on human rights....

Since North Korea admitted in October the existence of a secret program to create the fuel for nuclear weapons, the administration has insisted it would not reward the government in Pyongyang for nuclear blackmail. But some officials said they believe they have succeeded in diplomatically isolating North Korea enough -- including enlisting the support of China, North Korea's main patron -- that they can begin to delicately and formally dangle the incentives available to North Korea if it ends its nuclear programs.


[Ahem, an entire post on North Korea and no mention of the Sunday New York Times story about the North Korean's having a second, secret reprocessing plans?--ed. The Post and LA Times stories from today suggest this has been more overblown than Nigerien yellowcake.]


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