On January 20, 2011 (22:00 KST, 08:00 EST) South Korea’s global broadcaster Arirang News interviewed Duyeon Kim, Deputy Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferaiton, about the U.S.-China Summit with regards to the North Korean nuclear issue. Click here for the video.
Opinions are split on whether one should hope that Wednesday’s U.S.-China summit will help jumpstart diplomacy on the long dead-locked North Korean issue. Will it be clouded by other pressing issues like the economy? Does the U.S. have leverage? Will China move on North Korea? Will the summit end in symbolic formalities or tangible results?
But the reality is that this is perhaps the Obama administration’s only real chance to make a difference since both countries will soon begin preparations for leadership transitions in 2012. The most effective way to move Beijing is to persuade the Chinese president himself by an American president, head-to-head.
The summit’s joint statement will provide essential clues about the direction of diplomacy on North Korea. But the two leaders are walking into the summit oceans apart on some key points on mechanics. (Click “read more”)
President Hu Jintao has made Beijing’s position clear in his latest joint interview to the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal – he wants to first resume the Six Party Talks and then discuss all matters of concern including Korean tensions. Washington, on the other hand, wants inter-Korean dialogue to precede the Six Party Talks as well as a sincere North Korean gesture to denuclearize prior to negotiations.
Perhaps one of the biggest sticking points is North Korea’s recently unveiled uranium enrichment program. Beijing fails to publicly acknowledge the existence of the facility and has defended Pyongyang’s right to use nuclear energy. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said “We’ve never seen North Korea’s uranium enrichment facility… The situation is unclear right now.”
But Washington wants to work with Beijing to put an end to the North’s uranium enrichment program, which has clearly violated UN Resolutions and Six Party agreements. The two sides could revert to dealing with the uranium enrichment issue at the Six Party Talks, but the question is how to get there?
The fundamental challenge is persuading Beijing to move Pyongyang. China’s top policy priority is its own peaceful development, which it believes will only be achieved if there is regional peace and stability. This is particularly crucial as Hu Jintao hands over the reins to Xi Jinping next year. This means Beijing will be especially reluctant to aggravate Pyongyang as it fears instability in North Korea could cause spillover effects in Chinese territory.
The window of opportunity for Obama and Hu to find a lead and create an environment conducive for progress on North Korea will become increasingly narrow after the summit. President Obama needs to prod Hu to help contain further North Korean provocations and help create an environment for inter-Korean dialogue and eventual six nation dialogue.
This year and the next will be an attractive time for North Korea to engage in more provocations as Washington, Seoul and Beijing become preoccupied with leadership transitions in their respective countries. It will be an appealing time for Pyongyang to shake the U.S.-South Korea alliance as well. It will also be an opportune time for Pyongyang to show its “might and power” as it approaches its own 2012 deadline – perhaps with a bang or a barrage of fireworks, or both.
Until now Washington has maintained a reactive, rather than proactive, approach to the North Korean dilemma. Its will to make progress may have grown after revelations of Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment program.
Still, Iran overshadows North Korea on the White House policy agenda.
Resolving the North Korea issue is imperative to break the precedent for other rogue actors like Tehran who aspire to follow the Pyongyang model. But how far will the Obama administration go with just two years left in office packed with competing policy priorities?
As for the first step in the future of diplomacy on North Korea, Wednesday will determine whether the summit will be a hit or miss.
ox•y•mo•ron = a combination of contradictory or incongruous words
(as cruel kindness)
People frequently ask – well, at least congressional wonks– what is the Senate schedule? When will it consider a piece of legislation or when might a vote occur?
The correct answer to these questions usually is, “Who Knows?” That’s because the Majority Leader usually does not know. The Republican leader does not know. The other 98 Senators do not know.
Take recent predictions by the people most directly interested in getting a handle on the Senate schedule during the recently concluded lame duck session: 100 Senators.
Arizona Senator Jon Kyl (R) told MSNBC on November 18, “I think there is no chance that [the START] treaty can be completed in the lame duck session.”
Hmmm. Turns out there was a chance.
Take another Kyl prediction on December 3: “The defense bill containing language allowing for repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning openly gay service members is dead for the year because there simply isn’t enough time for the Senate to consider it in the lame-duck session.”
He was technically correct, but the defense bill and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” proved very much alive when phoenix-like, both were approved as separate measures before the end of the session.
However, it’s not as if Democrats are wiser than Republicans. On December 6, Roll Call reported Majority Whip Dick Durbin saying the prospects of the Senate considering the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty during the lame-duck session are growing increasingly dim.
The dimness turned into bright light.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) was definitive on chances of completing New START. According to the December 10 CQ Today, “Asked Dec. 9 if beginning consideration of the accord on Dec. 14 or Dec. 15 would be sufficient, Graham exclaimed, ‘No!’”
Guess what: the New START debate began on December 15 and concluded on December 22.
Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson’s powers of prognostication took a hit on December 14, the day before the treaty came up, saying on December 14: “The Senate does not have enough time to take up the accord before the lame-duck session concludes.”
Oh yes it did.
Kyl was back with an incorrect assessment on December 14, snidely opining that Majority Leader Reid’s prediction that the treaty would pass the Senate was inaccurate: “I will resist the temptation to go over the record of things where the Majority Leader had predicted something prematurely.”
Reid was correct in his prediction; it was Kyl who was premature.
On December 15, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander (R) angrily criticized Reid and the Democrats for bringing up the treaty so late in the session: “This is a last-minute Christmastime stunt that puts a major arms-control treaty in jeopardy.”
Hmmm, the “stunt” propelled the treaty to victory rather than putting it in jeopardy and Alexander voted in favor.
Divining the schedule also is a challenge because of Senators’ threats to launch delaying actions, only to pull back at the last moment. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), in a National Review blog, suggested he would filibuster the new START Treaty: “I will use every tool available to oppose an attempt to rush the debate over the START Treaty during this lame-duck session of Congress.”
Yet when the Senate began consideration of the treaty, that tool was left in the toolshed.
A demand to read the 2,000 page Omnibus Appropriations Bill also disappeared when the bill did not obtain the required 60 votes to bring it up. It was estimated that it would have taken 64 hours to read the entire measure.
Of course bad predictions about Senate behavior extend well beyond the 100 Senators.
This author predicted more times than he can count that either Kyl and the Obama Administration would come to a deal on nuclear modernization (in which case the treaty would easily be approved) or Kyl would prevent a final vote on the treaty.
The world’s greatest deliberative body may also be its most unpredictable.
Happy New Year! Yours truly spent the holiday season playing golf (poorly), relaxing, and gearing up for the NFL playoffs (Go Packers!). Naturally the time off was all the more merrier given the Senate’s approval of New START. In the after…
Earlier this year, both relevant House and Senate subcommittees decided to fully fund non proliferation programs despite competing funding demands. However, the Continuing Resolutions passed to keep the government running through December funded most government programs, including non-proliferation programs, at last year’s levels. In response, the Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG) put together a letter […]