Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fallout from the Rice Trip

Today’s editorial in the Yomiuri Shimbun politely calls Secretary of State Rice’s trip to Asia “unsuccessful.” Apparently they wished to avoid using the “f” word—failure.

But, let’s be honest, that is what it is. As the editorial continues:

“The five countries [China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the United States] have been unanimously adamant in objecting to North Korea’s nuclear test and its possession of nuclear weapons. However, their inability to implement forceful and specific actions against Pyongyang means they have failed to send a strong message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.”

Of course, the Japanese paper is a bit optimistic when it says, "We believe the five nations should implement necessary sanctions ... as swiftly as possible. This should be complemented by an effort to establish cooperative relations among them." (Perhaps shades of the "North East Asia Regional Forum" proposal?)

This should be a wakeup call. Only two directions to go in. Either US has to be prepared to act unilaterally or with few allies and pay costs or US has to be prepared to move to a true concert system where other states have significant input in what happens.
Nick, posting the concluding paragraphs of what now seems to be even more prescient analysis from Graham Allison and Dimitri Simes:

In seeking Russian cooperation on priority American interests, Russia should be treated in the same way the United States engages other less-than-democratic regimes--for example, China or Saudi Arabia. As these cases suggest, there are significant limits to what any other sovereign power is prepared to do, even when it is eager to please Washington. Russia's willingness to support a military attack against Iran that may expose it to Muslim extremist backlash, particularly in the North Caucasus, will be no greater than China's readiness to support an attack that could destabilize North Korea. Senator McCain is right to suggest that Iran and North Korea should be defining issues in our relations with Moscow and Beijing, respectively. But getting what the United States needs from each will require not only penalties but incentives. So far the American establishment, in both parties, has not been prepared to accept the notion of quid pro quo.

If the United States continues to demand a transformational outcome in Iraq and to give priority to regime change in its approach to Iran and North Korea, it will have neither the energy nor the international support required to pursue a realistic strategy to prevent North Korea and Iran from becoming nuclear weapons states and nuclear weapons making their way into the hands of the Osama bin Ladens of the world. As Churchill observed in the dark days of World War II, when confronting mortal danger, "It is not enough to do one's best. What is required is that one does what is necessary for success."

US is foolish in pursuing a multi-lateral negotiations with both North Korea and with Iran. In this manner, she is bringing outside powers that have their own agenda and makes reaching a satisfactory resolution that much more difficult. Furthermore, by pursuing this multi-lateral strategy US is diminishing her own power vis-à-vis the others.

Since the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs cannot be undone, US must immediately call for one-to-one and un-conditional talks with both North Korea and Iran – to the exclusion of EU, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea.
Anonymous 6:55--this is a strategy that ruling circles in US cannot adopt because they cannot persuade mass of people why, if local neighbors aren't worried then US has to take action on its own. US needs other powers to convey illusion of burden sharing. Otherwise, to get around isolationanist sentiment of the common man then requires making Iran and North Korea dangers to the US.
Let me get this straight: China is supposed to take the lead on bringing down the North Korean regime, causing massive instability that jeopardizes northeastern China, so the US doesn't have to get involved? And end up with a unified Korea where the US military decides it has to stay for stability? No thanks.
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