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Heavy-Handed Politics

"€œGod willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world
without the United States and Zionism."€ -- Iran President Ahmadi-Nejad

Thursday, October 19, 2006

North Korea and the Limits of Multilateralism

Stratfor Intelligence has a good analysis of the situation with North Korea and multilateralism and alliance forming, while comparing it to the alliances that were formed in WWII, and the Cold War. Below is an excerpt looking at the four major players in the region, what their interests are, and why they are content with inaction.

Shared Responsibility and Inaction

"The driving assumption in the case of North Korea was that all of the powers involved were committed to regional stability, understood the risks of inaction and were prepared to take risks to maintain stability and the status quo. But that just wasn't true. There were very different, competing ideas of stability; the idea of inaction seemed attractive and the assumption of risks did not. There was no multilateral action because the coalition was an illusion.

Let's go down the list:
  • South Korea: Seoul does not want Pyongyang to have a nuclear device, but it also does not want the slightest chance of a war with North Korea -- South Korea's industrial heartland is too close to the border. Nor does Seoul want the regime in Pyongyang to fall; the idea of the South taking responsibility for rebuilding a shattered North Korea is not attractive. The South Koreans didn't want the North to acquire nuclear weapons, but they were not prepared to act to stop Pyongyang, or to destabilize the regime.

  • Japan: Japan does not want North Korea to have a nuclear device, but it is prepared neither to take military action on its own nor to endorse U.S. military action in this regard. Japan has major domestic issues with waging war that would have to be worked out before it could make a move, and it is no hurry to solve those problems. Moreover, Tokyo has little interest in posing such an overt threat that the Koreas, its traditional enemy, would reunify (as an industrial giant) against Japan. The Japanese don't mind imposing sanctions, but they hope they won't work.

  • Russia: Russia is about as worried about the prospect of a North Korean nuclear strike on its territory as the United States is about a French strike. The two countries may not like each other, but it isn't going to happen. Russia would smash North Korea and not worry about the fallout. But at the same time, Moscow wants to keep the United States tied up in knots. It has serious issues with the United States encroaching on the Russian sphere of influence in former Soviet territory. Russia is delighted to see the United States tied down in Iraq and struggling with Iran, and it is quite happy to have the Americans appear helpless over North Korea. The Russians will agree to some meaningless sanctions for show, but they are not going to make the United States appear statesmanlike.

  • China: China has major internal problems, both economic and political. The Chinese do not want to anger the United States, but they do want the Americans to be dependent on them for something. The North Korea test blast gave China an opportunity to appear enormously helpful without actually doing anything meaningful. Put another way, if China actually wanted to stop the detonation, it clearly has no influence on North Korea. And if it does have influence -- which we suspect it does -- it managed to play a complex double game, appearing to oppose the blast while taking advantage of its ability to "help" the United States. China, along with Russia, has no interest in serious sanctions.
The issue here is not the fine points of the foreign policies of these nations, but the fact that none has an overarching interest in "doing something" about North Korea. Each of these states has internal and external problems that take precedence, in their eyes, over a North Korean nuclear capability. None of them is pursuing stability, in the sense of being prepared to subordinate national interests to the stabilization of the region. The result is that the diplomatic process has failed."

Read the whole analysis here.


  • Since one of the players have any interest in solving the problem, what value would the talks be? This is a waste of time and energy. Once again we are left with a choice of ignore or go it alone.
    What persuasion tactics could motivate some progress on this issue?

    By Blogger ablur, at 1:59 PM  

  • Multilateral talks, as I see it, have no value other than taking the high road and "trying to look good" in the "global community." You know the drill.

    But as we both know, once we take any other sort of action other than the multi-party talks, the "brownie points" we earned for taking this route in the first place, will be lost as quickly as one can say 'Bush is a failure'.

    By Blogger HeavyHanded, at 2:20 PM  

  • The world has really become a cess pool. No matter the situation everyones full of shit. You can't avoid it.

    I get so pissed there isn't words.

    By Blogger ablur, at 6:48 PM  

  • I know - I feel your pain. Cesspool indeed. There's times I feel like we are up sh*t creek without a paddle.

    That's when I do as I am doing now - savor a beer and listen to Andrea Bocelli - and mellow out.

    By Blogger HeavyHanded, at 7:39 PM  

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