Monday, October 16, 2006

Putting Kim Jong Il on a Diet

Fire of Liberty
Peter Worthington(A Korean War Vet at that) has a good column over at the Toronto Sun which notes that the sanctions on luxury and military goods going into North Korea might slow things down but would have a far lesser impact on the regime than a ban of humanitarian aid. Here's a look:
Even the U.S., which has banned trade and tourism for decades, is reluctant to embargo food and medical aid because the intention is to help ordinary people.

Humanitarian, not political. This concern shouldn't apply to North Korea, because Kim Jong Il's regime, like his father's before him, cares not a whit for the citizens trapped in the country. Food aid is diverted to sustain the army and the regime. What's left over trickles down to the people.

None of this is new, but still bears repeating.

Even though North Korea is a prime member of President George Bush's "Axis of Evil" club, the U.S. has provided more than $1 billion in aid over the last decade alone. Most of it has been food aid with no monitoring system.

Even China and South Korea, which are North Korea's greatest providers of food aid have no monitoring system in place. Defectors from North Korea over the years have testified that food aid goes to the army and the regime -- not the people.

It was only this year that the U.S. shut down its contribution to the Korean Energy Development Organization, which was set up to provide energy aid to the north in exchange for its halting its nuclear program. That was President Bill Clinton's administration being hoodwinked by Kim Jong Il.

There's now pressure to get President George W. Bush to enter into direct negotiations with North Korea, instead of multilateral negotiations that include China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.

Even in the Clinton days, the U.S. wisely resisted direct negotiations.


Face-to-face meetings work only when both parties are rational -- like the Gorbachev-Reagan meetings (which were also disputed, until they succeeded beyond the expectations of many). If North Korea and the U.S. held talks, the North could -- and inevitably would -- walk out and blame the U.S. for the breakdown, putting the U.S. on the defensive and eager to prove it was a good guy.

With six-party negotiations, all North Korea's neighbours share in decisions and experience the obstinacy and aberrant behaviour of the paranoid North.

The encouraging aspect of the UN's decision to punish North Korea, albeit ever so gently, is its unanimity -- a step towards greater harmony in the world body.

If the embargo were extended to prohibiting food aid, the North Korean regime could begin to implode -- something that may still happen if Kim Jong Il's health is as fragile as some claim.
I have to say that Worthington is spot on with this. It might look cruel in folk's eyes but I'd rather have the regime collapse by hungry soldiers turning on Kim Jong Il and his ilk than having to confront a nuclear armed North Korea rule by the Dear Leader. So here's hoping someone sees the light and enact more stingent sanctions(This might have to be unilateral or between states like the US, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.) on the Hermit Kingdom. As for now let's see how things conspire under the current sanction regime.

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