|Asia News Digest
U.S. Pushing for Confrontation with North Korea
The U.S. is pressuring South Korea and others in the region into a military confrontation with North Korea. U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Alexander Vershbow, speaking at Yonsei University in late October, lectured South Korea to join in the PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative, John Bolton's piracy concoction aimed at a blockade of North Korea), and to end the Sunshine policy. "Bear in mind," said Vershbow, "that the UN resolution asked all member states to look at any programs that may be providing direct or indirect support to North Korea's nuclear weapons program." Seoul has rejected both requests, although it sent observers to the current PSI exercises in the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill is in Australia, where "U.S. Deputy Sheriff" John Howard has already pledged an Aussie warship to join the blockade (which was not approved by the UN resolution calling for sanctions). Hill praised the Australian role, and said that "what we really want to have is a trans-Pacific approach more than just a pan-Asian approach."
U.S. General: No Plan for Preemptive War vs. N. Korea
Gen. B.B. Bell, the four-star chief of USFK (U.S. Forces in Korea), responded to press reports that quoted an unnamed Pentagon official saying that the U.S. and South Korea had agreed on developing a contingency plan for military action against the North, even without an invasion from the North, the Korea Times reported Oct. 30. Bell said that the mission of the Combined Forces Command (which Bell also heads) "is to train combined forces and develop joint war plans appropriately to deter aggression from North Korea. Our business is not developing a war plan to conduct a preemptive strike on North Korea."
However, as the world has learned, the lunatics in the White House listen to their flag officers very selectively, if at all.
Korea Hand Attempts To Stop New War
A former State Department Korea hand who served as a backchannel to the North for the past five years has gone public to stop a new war. Kenneth Quinones, who headed the Korea Desk at State in 1994 when the "Agreed Framework" was worked out, was called upon by the North Koreans in 2001, after the Bush Administration scrapped the engagement policy, to be a go-between to revive negotiations. Speaking at an event sponsored by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Nov. 2, Quinones described three different times that a tentative deal was set up between his North Korean contacts and the State Department (under Colin Powell). Each was sabotaged: The first time, Bush called Kim Jong-il a tyrant; then Rumsfeld sent Stealth fighters and pulled U.S. troops out of the North (where they were working with the North to find the remains of U.S. soldiers); and then, after the Sept. 19, 2005 deal, the Administration retracted a major part of the deal (the North's access to nuclear reactors) 48 hours after the agreement was signed. "This Administration sabotaged every effort, even from its own people, to achieve a peaceful settlement," he said.
Quinones said he decided to go public to "give diplomacy a chance," since it is either diplomacy, or another war. "If there is another war, it will not be contained within the Peninsula, and there will be a global economic crisis, as Japan and South Korea, two of the world's largest economies, will be in crisis."
He added that "regime change does not bring stability, but aggravates problems, as abundantly shown in Iraq, Panama and elsewhere."
Quinones pointed out that it is not a partisan issue, since the Clinton Administration, when it came into office, signed off completely on the Bush 41 policy for engagement with North Korea, a plan developed by Brent Scowcroft. But as soon as this administration came in, they refused to meet the North Koreans, saying "the policy is under review."
He also noted that there is no way to be absolutely certain that any country is not developing nuclear weapons, but, through engagement, they are no longer a threatas shown with both Russia and China, which still have their weapons."
Neo-Con Paper: U.S. Speeds Attack Plan vs. N. Korea
The pro-Bush Washington Times Nov. 3 headlined its coverage of the Korean crisis, "The U.S. Speeds Attack Plan for North Korea." Authored by Bill Gertz, a regular outlet for leaks (often manufactured) from the neo-con set at the Pentagon, the article quotes "sources" who say that the plans have been speeded up since the North Korean nuclear test Oct. 9, and could include Tomahawk cruise missiles and a commando raid to take out the Yongbyon nuclear plant and reprocessing facilities. The U.S. Pacific Command is shifting forces to the region. The source said that the use of nuclear weapons would be "excessive," but that "we will resort to whatever force levels we need to have."
While the report can not be confirmed, printing the threat could be aimed at provoking North Korea to retract their agreement to rejoin the Six Party Talks, worked out between China, North Korea, and State Department representative Chris Hill on Oct. 31. This would not be the first time the administration sabotaged moves toward negotiations with North Korea immediately after progress was made by the State Department.
Taiwan Resists U.S. Pressure on Arms Deal
The director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Stephen Young, blasted Taiwan for again failing to approve a $13 billion arms purchase from the U.S., The Australian reported Oct. 31. President Chen Shui-bian has been trying for five years to get the bill passed, playing on the "threat from the mainland." After the most recent rejection of the purchase by the opposition KMT-controlled parliament, Young blustered that "the five years that have gone wasting have not seen the PRC sit idly.... Taiwan cannot continue to allow critical security issues to be held hostage to domestic concerns.... U.S. support for Taiwan is not something to fool around with. Once it is gone, it will be difficult to regain." These threats have backfired, as the opposition is openly denouncing the U.S. intervention in Taiwan's internal affairs.
Myanmar Overcomes Effects of U.S./EU Sanctions
Myanmar, with help from China, India, and Thailand, has burst out of the confines of U.S.- and EU-imposed sanctions, according to Shawn Crispin writing in the Asia Times Nov. 2. Figures released in Myanmar, covered by Shawn Crispin of Asia Times, show that foreign investment into Myanmar surged to a record high $6 billion in the fiscal 2005-06 year that ended in March, up from the paltry $158.3 million recorded the previous year. Myanmar has opened up certain sectors, especially energy (they are rich in oil and gas), but only to friendly nations. China, in particular, has long been the protector and key investor in Myanmar, but India and Thailand have recently massively increased trade and investment, snubbing their nose at the neo-con "outpost of tyranny" rhetoric and Western economic sanctions.
Myanmar has essentially ignored the IMF and the World Bank, which, under Paul Wolfowitz, has been an enforcer of U.S. hostility.