Kim Jong-un is always cryptic, but seems to be moving toward a better future for the people of North Korea. Kim Jong-Il, father of the young new leader of the North Korean people, chose to address that nation only once in 17 years, and then only for brief seconds. His son, who took the reins December 24, 2011, just over a year ago, has favored an alternate course.
On January first, a few short days ago, the educated “descendent of a deity,” addressed the North Korean people, reaffirming his passion for military and technological equality with world powers, and promising a radical turnabout in the North Korean economy and better standards of living for the impoverished citizens of the North. He drew an analogy between a successful December 12th long range missile test, and a scientific and technological revolution to build a more prosperous nation. He said:
“The industrial revolution in the new century is, in essence, a scientific and technological revolution, and breaking through the cutting edge is a shortcut to the building of an economic giant… Let us bring about a radical turn in the building of an economic giant with the same spirit and mettle as were displayed in conquering space.”
He spoke in support of improved relations with South Korea. Kim spoke of wanting to “remove confrontation on this divided peninsula,” and called on “anti-reunification forces in South Korea to cease their hostility toward the North.” He asked for improved understanding and friendship between the occupants of the peninsula, and for implementation of reforms signed two years ago by both parties, calling for economic cooperation and in particular, a “cooperation zone” in the Yellow Sea. This cooperation has been difficult until recently; Seoul leader Lee Myung-bak, now out of power, took a hard line on issues regarding the North.
But South Korea’s first woman president, conservative Park Geun-hye, took over the presidency on Wednesday, December 19, and is open to humanitarian exchanges and some economic projects, if Pyongyang will disassemble its nuclear weapons program.Not unexpectedly, American observers have declared Kim Jong-un’s words as rhetoric, and a scheme to receive aid from world agencies. They have taken that position for years and are slow to change.
Jong-un’s new receptivity to cooperation may be an opportunity for the next secretary of state to display some acumen. Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was able to learn diplomacy and negotiation while in office. President Obama has praised the likely new secretary of state, John Kerry, for his having earned the respect and confidence of leaders around the world. Kerry served “with valor” in the Vietnam War, and having traveled to Pakistan, was actively involved in the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. “John’s played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for nearly 30 years.” Obama said. We recall a Fox News interview in October of 2006 in which the then presidential candidate spoke with interviewer Chris Wallace (recall that North Korea was dominated at that time by Kim Jong-Il.)
WALLACE: Let’s talk about North Korea.
KERRY: Well, this is about North Korea, because the problem with Iraq is that it has diminished our hand and reduced our ability to be able to deal with Iran and North Korea. They are related.
One of the reasons that North Korea can misbehave the way it is today is, because the United States has lost its leverage — lost its credibility and doesn’t have the capacity to be able to bring countries together in the way that it used to; that’s number one.
Number two, with respect to North Korea itself, you hit it on the head. This administration is tolerating — this administration is doing exactly what it said it wouldn’t do, which is allowing North Korea to get away with what it’s doing.These sanctions are not the bold, tough sanctions that the secretary [ Condoleezza Rice] talked about. China walked out of there and said we voted for it, but we’re not going to enforce the cross-border mechanism, it’s too dangerous for our region. So you have sanctions that are just, by statement of those involved, not going to do the job.
WALLACE: So what would you do differently to deal with this very erratic regime of North Korea?
KERRY: I would do precisely — I would do precisely what I said for the last five years consistently, which is engage in bilateral, face-to-face negotiations with North Korea, make it absolutely clear to North Korea that we are not intending to invade and have a regime change, and work on the entire set of issues that are outstanding since the armistice with regard to the north.
The world witnessed the long range missile launch last month, recalling that experts say that Pyongyang has sufficient enriched uranium for at least a single nuclear warhead. Experts have declared that even now Pyongyang is preparing for new nuclear testing: we hope that negotiation and limited compassion can bring some increased order to that chaotic region of the East.