Is Kim Jong-Il mad or what? As if this weekend's Eastern diplomatic swing to ease tensions over the sinking of a South Korean warship didn't seem fruitless or frustrating enough, now the world's least-favorite despot is really screaming to respect his authorit-ah by freezing ties with Seoul this morning.
Having long ago reversed its own "sunshine policy" toward its evil twin, South Korea now seems truly fed up. President Lee Myung-bak checked all the usual boxes over the weekend (cut remaining trade, block sea lanes, resume pysops, seek UN Security Council resolution, etc.), then pointedly added a call for regime change, vowing that North Korea "will pay a price." But before you go screaming World War III on today's developments, take heart: The solution, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains in "intensive consultations" with Beijing over both NorKo and Iran's nuclear program, remains in China. And the time for tough choices seems to have arrived, both for Beijing and the Obama administration.
I have long argued — and since persisted, with regard to both Pyongyang and Tehran — that the U.S. should punt on Iran's nukes (there's nothing undeterrable about a Shia bomb) and target North Korea for regime change. I still believe that. Engaging with Iran serves tangible, near-term purpose (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel-vs.-Hamas/Hezbollah), while toying with Kim serves none. And I still believe that China is in the driver's seat, whether we're talking Beijing's $80-billion investment in Iran's energy sector or its dreams of lifting $6-trillion worth of NorKo's mineral reserves (at bargain basement prices). Understanding that China must save face as well as sunk costs, here's my plan for making everyone — save Israel and Kim — more, shall we say, respectf-ah in the short run.
Read the full post at Esquire's The Politics Blog