John Kerry Gets US-North Korea Horizon Right


clinton north korea.jpgBill Clinton is flying back to the US with just pardoned journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling who were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea.
It’s great that they are free — but deploying Bill Clinton to secure their release was not about bringing a complicated human drama to a close — but rather to steady North Korea’s unpredictable behavior and to hopefully set up a face-saving opportunity to resume nuclear negotiations.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry gets the tone exactly right in his public statement about the release of the journalists. In his statement, he quickly moves to the strategic issues that need attention.
Kerry states:

North Korea is doing the right thing by granting Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Lee amnesty and letting them return to their families. I hope this goodwill gesture will create a new, more positive tone in U.S.-DPRK relations. This joyous day belongs to them and their families, who never gave up hope that the women would be released.

The statement from his office goes on:

Senator Kerry has called on the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to promptly resume talks on denuclearization. According to Senator Kerry, “This moment shouldn’t be lost. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a threat to regional security and stands as an obstacle to what the people of North Korea most want: respect, security, development, and peace.
But the United States, in concert with the Republic of Korea, Japan, China and Russia — our partners in the Six Party Talks — remains willing to engage in a mutually respectful dialogue with the DPRK to accomplish the goals of denuclearization and normalization and to create a permanent peace mechanism for the Korean Peninsula.”

Chronic North Korea-name caller John Bolton is furious — but Bill Clinton has pulled a rabbit out of the hat and given the Obama administration a new opportunity to rein in North Korea’s nuclear proclivities.
I’ll post my video segment about this high wire diplomatic act from Keith Olbermann’s Countdown shortly.
— Steve Clemons


13 comments on “John Kerry Gets US-North Korea Horizon Right

  1. jessica says:

    This moment shouldn’t be lost. North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is a threat to regional security and stands as an obstacle to what the people of North Korea most want: respect, security, development, and peace.
    nice blog.
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  2. Kathleen G says:

    Jane Hamsher and team at FDL need $$$. Read why and spread the word


  3. Jorie says:

    All I know is that WJC is the Man.He did a masterful job.This only the beginning.Anyone in their right mind should be happy about this turn of events. We have an opportunity to stop NoKo. We need to grab this and run with it.
    Unless off course you are a republican.


  4. ... says:

    i 2nd arthurdeccos comment on johnh’s commentary here.. thanks johnh.


  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    John Kerry is the featured quoted supplicant on the AIPAC website these past coupla weeks as well. Does he have that “right” too?
    “When a government pursuing nuclear capability asks its people to imagine a world without Israel, we must take that threat seriously.”
    —Senator John Kerry (D-MA)
    Threat against whom, John? In addition to the billions we piss away to Israel, are we also paying you to be Israel’s parrot?


  6. arthurdecco says:

    Kudos, JohnH, for your always incisive discernment.


  7. JohnH says:

    PunditWatcher–think about it. One of my constant criticisms here is that the media talks about everything but what’s really at stake. The items that you list Clemons talking about all involve the state of the relationship, not what animates tensions in the relationship. It’s the same coverage given political candidate–the horse race, not the horse.
    It’s the same media coverage that won’t tell us why we’re occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, or why we’re threatening Iran. The coverage is all about the current state of the Occupations, the current state of the threat to Iran, and how awful the Iranian regime is. So, you tell me, what’s at stake in all these instances? Or don’t you think we deserve to know?


  8. eberit says:

    On second thought and after spending some time at the National Portrait Gallery last week as well as an Annie Leibowitz exhibit last year in SF, I feel the composition and color palette of the photo attached to your post seems to speak volumes (besides being a gorgeous photo). Who are the people and what is their role?


  9. Pundit Watcher says:

    JohnH, I think you are not on target. I watched the show tonight and Clemons was pretty much the only substantive part of the program. He talked about “face”, about the history of interactions with North Korea, talked about the likelihood of getting back into talks, talked about “steadying things” and said President Kim Jong Il behaved differently when engaged directly vs. engaging ‘his minions.’ That’s good pundit TV and taught me some stuff. You may just be in a bad mood or something but Clemons was on target tonight and deserves a thumbs up for educating the ignorant.


  10. JohnH says:

    Steve’s comments on Olbermann provided some interesting history surrounding Clinton’s relations with North Korea, though, as usual, the segment was substance free. Apart from the nuclear issue, which is as much a symptom of a larger issue than being the core issue, there appears to be no earthly reason for tensions between the US and North Korea, at least not any reason that can be articulated publicly, even in passing.
    Accordingly, Steve reports that Evan Reeves said that he had “intense and useful, even positive, exchanges” with the North Koreans. Of course, we’re not to know any of the substance, or even the topics that might have been discussed.
    To hear it told by Clemons, North Korea’s main goal was to get Clinton to show up with Kim Jong Il. In that regard, it’s similar to the April 9 comment, in which he asserted that Kim Jong Il’s main goal was to get attention. Somehow I don’t think the US will accomplish much if it simply continues attributing childish, three year old behavior to leaders of foreign nations.
    Somehow I think that addressing the North’s real grievances would be bear more fruit.


  11. eberit says:

    I know this is terribly off topic but,…who is the artist that photographed or painted the backdrop? It’s beautifully staged.
    And what’s with the Af1shoe nonsense?
    As to the actual subject, from my non-insider perspective, it seems to be a diplomatic win.


  12. PeterG says:

    As I wrote earlier regarding the China-Russia relationship, the same truths apply here:
    “The hard-liners tactics of pummeling the opposition into submission, especially during the Bush years, has been counter-productive and indeed turned most of the rest of the world against us. It’s time to give peace a chance…by engaging our opponents and working for win-win situations…rather than constantly being fearful that some emerging power will use that power to conquer the rest of the world. I know that the history of Hitler, Castro, Saddam and others give us pause to pursue a peaceful course in this manner, but hopefully with greater world communication through the internet and attempting to understand each other in a more genuine way, that the time is right to approach, and hope for, peaceful dialogue between countries and a means of a better way forward.”
    The release of the two journalist, by apparent peaceful negotiations, presents an optimistic tone in US-DPNK relations, rather than the previous bluster and missile firings that came from the ‘gut’ of two immature and insecure antagonists.


  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists,” Bolton told AFP when asked about Bill Clinton’s trip to secure the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.
    The pair were sentenced in June to 12 years in a labor camp for an illegal border crossing and an unspecified “grave crime,” after they were detained by North Korean border guards on March 17 while working on a story.
    “I think this is a very bad signal because it does exactly what we always try and avoid doing with terrorists, or with rogue states in general, and that’s encouraging their bad behavior,” Bolton said.
    I saw a segment on Fox News that framed Clinton’s efforts in the same light as Bolton is attempting to do. Its quite obvious that these assholes would rather see American citizens indefinitely detained by nations on their hit lists, because of the propaganda value such detentions offer. Bolton could obviously care less about the fate of these two women.
    But, on the other side of the coin, I don’t for one moment believe that the Left’s concern for American citizens abroad is any more sincere than the Right’s is. When it fits in with a political agenda, our State Department is more than willing to jump into the fray over the fate of Americans in foreign lands. But when intervening is less than politically expedient, such as in Cynthia McKinney’s or Tristan Anderson’s case, our State Department will abandon you to your fate like a sack of garbage.


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