Wednesday, August 05, 2009


North Korea Watch: Keeping Up Appearances

Sending former President Clinton to North Korea to arrange the release of the Current TV journalists may have been designed to allow the North to save face, according to The Associated Press.

"It could provide an opportunity to move forward on the nuclear issue, and that's not necessarily a bad thing," said Victor Cha, former Asia chief at the National Security Council. "The history with the North Koreans, as they have just done the past few months, is to put themselves out on a ledge. And they always need help getting off that ledge."

By giving them nothing except an audience with a former president, the Obama administration may have provided an opportunity for North Korea to return to negotiations, possibly even in the six-party talks.

(Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) said the U.S. was not counting on a breakthrough but also said it could lubricate the way for the North to return to six-party talks about its nuclear program with the U.S., Russia, China, Japan and South Korea.

Just don't expect it to happen right away, as the North still demands one-on-one negotiations with the U.S., which the American government refuses to accept as long as the North defies sanctions. However, this move may have left the door open for future talks, as the former president is well-regarded in the North:

Pardoning Ling and Lee satisfied North Korea's need to continue maintaining that the two women had committed a crime while dispatching the former president as emissary served the Obama administration's desire not to expend diplomatic capital winning their freedom, Sneider said.


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