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Boardman writes: "A few gestures of mutual respect between North Korea and South Korea during the first week of January are a long way from a stable, enduring peace on the Korean peninsula, but these gestures are the best signs of sanity there in decades."

North Korea has agreed to open dialogue with neighboring South Korea for the first time in more than two years. (photo: Jung Yeon-je/Getty Images)
North Korea has agreed to open dialogue with neighboring South Korea for the first time in more than two years. (photo: Jung Yeon-je/Getty Images)

North Korea and South Korea Are Threatening to Seek Peace

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

06 January 18

Korean détente puts decades of failed, corrupt US policy at risk

few gestures of mutual respect between North Korea and South Korea during the first week of January are a long way from a stable, enduring peace on the Korean peninsula, but these gestures are the best signs of sanity there in decades. On January 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for immediate dialogue with South Korea ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics there. On January 2, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in proposed that talks begin next week in Panmunjom (a border village where intermittent talks to end the Korean War have continued since 1953). On January 3, the two Koreas reopened a communications hotline that has been dysfunctional for almost two years (requiring South Korea to use a megaphone across the border in order to repatriate several North Korean fishermen). Talks on January 9 are expected to include North Korean participation in the Winter Olympics that begin February 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Kim Jong-un’s call for dialogue may or may not have surprised US officials, but reactions from the White House press secretary, the UN Ambassador, and the State Department were uniformly hostile and negative. The most civil was Heather Nauert at State, who said, with little nuance: “Right now, if the two countries decide that they want to have talks, that would certainly be their choice.” She might as well have added “bless their little hearts.” Patronize is what the US does when it’s being polite. More typical bullying came from UN Ambassador Nikki Haley: “We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea.”

US policy is hopelessly tone-deaf if it believes that bell can be un-rung. But that’s the way the US has behaved for decades, tone-deaf and unilaterally demanding, insisting that the US and the US alone has the right to determine what at least some sovereign nations can and cannot do. In December, anticipating a North Korean satellite launch (not a missile test), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the United Nations with straight-faced moral arrogance:

The North Korean regime’s continuing unlawful missile launches and testing activities signal its contempt for the United States, its neighbors in Asia, and all members of the United Nations. In the face of such a threat, inaction is unacceptable for any nation.

Well, no, that’s only true if you believe you rule the world. It’s not true in any context where parties have equal rights. And the US secretary’s covert urging of others to take aggressive action tiptoes toward a war crime, as does the implied US threat of aggressive war.

The obtuse inflexibility of US policy revealed itself yet again in the initial groupthink response to a different part of Kim Jong-un’s January 1 speech where he indicated that he had a “nuclear button” on his desk and would not hesitate to use it if anyone attacked North Korea. Under constant threat from the US and its allies since 1953, North Korea has made the rational choice to become a nuclear power, to have a nuclear deterrent, to have some semblance of national security. The US, irrationally, has refused to accept this with North Korea even while supporting Israel’s nuclear deterrent. Kim Jong-un’s button reference elicited a reflexive US reiteration of failed policy in florid Trumpian form when the president tweeted on January 2:

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

This twitter feed from the Great Disruptor got the twittering classes much atwitter over nothing more important than sexual innuendo, while fleeing from yet another presidential threat of nuclear destruction. And then came the firestorm of “Fire and Fury,” and almost all thought of Korea was driven from public discourse, even though what happens in Korea is orders of magnitude more important than what Michael Wolff says Steve Bannon said about Trumpian treason.

But the facts on the ground in Korea have changed materially in the past year despite US bullying and interference. First, North Korea has become a nuclear power, no matter how puny, and it will continue to become more capable of defending itself unless the US thinks it would be better to do the unthinkable (what are the odds?). The second, more important change in Korea is that South Korea shed itself of a corrupt president beholden to US interests and, in May, inaugurated Moon Jae-in, who has actively sought reconciliation with the North for years before his election.

US policy has failed for more than six decades to achieve any resolution of the conflict, not even a formal end to the Korean War. The conventional wisdom, as posed by The New York Times, is a dead end: “The United States, the South’s key ally, views the overture with deep suspicion.” In a rational world, the US would have good reason to support its ally, the president of South Korea, in re-thinking a stalemate. Even President Trump seems to think so, in a hilariously narcissistic tweet of January 4:

With all of the failed “experts” weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total “might” against the North. Fools, but talks are a good thing!

Talks are a good thing. One of North Korea’s chronic complaints, as well as a clearly legitimate grievance, has been the endless US/South Korean military exercises aimed at North Korea several times a year. In his January 1 speech, Kim Jong-un again called for South Korea to end joint military exercises with the US. On January 4, the Pentagon delayed the latest version of that clear provocation – scheduled to overlap with the Olympics. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis denied that the delay was a political gesture, saying its purpose was to provide logistical support to the Olympics (whatever that means). Whatever Mattis says, the gesture is a positive gesture and reinforces the drift toward peace, however slightly. Can it be possible that reality and sanity are getting traction? Who knows what’s really going on here? And who are the “fools” Trump refers to?

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+5 # Stilldreamin1 2018-01-06 19:07
The US will have to nip that in the bud. Time for some bellicose tweets from little twitler.
-4 # Rational Voice 2018-01-06 19:30
Dear Mr. Boardman: Although your skills with political analysis as applied to satire are acknowledged, I much prefer your utilizing them them to directly comment on the world as it is.
+9 # dusty 2018-01-06 19:43
Wonder how long it will be before the US demands trade sanctions against South Korea in the United Nations or takes unilateral action against the President of South Korea and his family and supporters. If this all weren't so darned serious it would be nice to think of the President wearing a clown hat and acting the clown. And where did the august government find the likes of Nikki Haley? What are her qualifications?
+3 # vicnada 2018-01-06 19:48
My God! What a relief that the two countries might talk and resolve 64 years of standoff. And, ironically, our baby-bully President might have inadvertently prodded the two nations to act without US. And the fools? To Trump, they are the "experts" that have failed for 60 decades to accomplish what he has in one year. Give the narcissist his due--he's the driver playing chicken who threw his steering wheel out the window.
+8 # Blackjack 2018-01-06 20:03
OH,NO! We can't have peace breaking out!! How in the world would our "stable genius" handle that? Gotta keep that military-indust rial complex happy.
+1 # heraldmage 2018-01-06 20:18
The USA will never allow a bilateral agreement between the DPRK & R of K, to reunify. It would mean a loss of their largest military base from which the USA can not only attack the DPRK but blockade or attack both Russia and China.
As long as the US continues to provoke the DPRK increasing fear in neighboring US allied nations, the Rep. of Korea will not use its option to revoke the Status of Forces Agreement. US troops can not be stationed in any nation where they don't have domestic immunity from prosecution.
Of course instead of withdrawing the US could do as it as done in the past, overthrow the government by instigating popular unrest.
+5 # tedrey 2018-01-06 21:24
It seems probable that Moon Jae-in rejected military exercises (i.e., war games) over Korea during the Olympics. The U.N. General Assembly has called for the same. The Pentagon, never willing to admit that any other countries ever have any influence on American decisions, has ignored the real reasons for its capitulation. Mercifully, Trump's tweets on the issue are still in abeyance.
+7 # Michaeljohn 2018-01-06 21:51
I'm going with the theory that Kim Jong Un feels comfortably secure he has meaningful nuclear capability and can afford to better relations with the South.
The orange headed fool in the oval office can bluster all he wants about his 'strongman' tactics.
+9 # Texas Aggie 2018-01-06 22:22
The two Korean presidents just made drumpf irrelevant. That the rest of the world would follow their example.
+9 # DongiC 2018-01-07 01:06
Come on. Talking is a good thing. It sure beats fighting. It would be a great thing if the two Korea's could settle their differences. We could then remove our troops from the penninsula and, maybe, open up some talks ourselves with North Korea. The US preaches peace a lot; how about delivering, for once?
+1 # heraldmage 2018-01-08 01:47
The problem is that it the USA and the DPRK (N. Korea) who have the problem. The USA divided Korea into 2 nation, then there was a UNSC approved police action when people of the North decided to reunite with the South. All nations except the USA sign a peace treaty to end the Korean conflict. The Korean War is now the USA longest war. Fighting ended with an cease fire using the pre-war division of the 38th Parallel with demilitarized zones on both sides as the border.
This is not the 1st time South & North Korea have open talks about reunification. In the past couple of decades they have, allowed families to visit, open joint tourist & industrial zones. Unfortunately these programs ended due to US provocations & changes in US policy.
The people who are native to the Korean Peninsula are one people, & they want to be allowed to reunify without outside interference.
It is the USA who refuses to normalize the relationship by signing a peace treaty after over 60+ years & and withdrawing its military from the Korean Peninsula.
+9 # itchyvet 2018-01-07 02:53
As I've said now, on many occassions, take the U.S. out of the equassion and the Korea's would join together in record time.
+8 # jstick 2018-01-07 09:13
Very well written Bill. You provide a clear, objective overview of the complex situation. Why on earth would the Pentagon schedule war games in South Korea during the Olympics? The very idea is hyper-provocati ve and demeaning to President Moon, the Olympic Committee and the world.
+10 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-01-07 10:34
Thanks for this good and sane article.

"US policy has failed for more than six decades to achieve any resolution of the conflict, not even a formal end to the Korean War. "

To any sane person US policy has, indeed, been a failure. But who believes there are any sane people running the US and its Deep State. In fact, they probably think this 70+ year policy has been a smashing success. When the US invaded Korea in 1945, it never intended to help Koreans recover from Japanese occupation and set up a sovereign state. The US sought a colony and a land base on the Asian continent for massive military installations. Keeping the war against N. Korea going has been the necessary pretext for massive military bases encircling China, the real focus of US aggression.

The ruling elites of the US want war. this has been true for the entire 240+ year history of the US. There has never been a period of peace. War is about building the state as empire. That was the founding principle of the US and it remains today.

It is now time for N. and S. Korea to reach a separate peace. Just exclude the US. This will mean a demand that the US remove all bases from S. Korea and get its navy ships the hell out of there. S. Korea can do this. It will get support from China and Russia. Sure Okinawans will agree.

Now is the time for change in all of Korea. The US will never be a part of that change. It can't change. It is a war state.
+4 # Blackjack 2018-01-08 12:00
Dusty, unfortunately, we got Nikki Haley from my current state of residence where she wheedled her way into becoming Guv for two very long terms! She was a piece of work then and is even more so now, as her aim has always been to be a Sarah Palin with brains. She does have more brains than Palin, but that makes for much more sinister and conniving brain processes. The woman wants to be Prez and is doing everything necessary to achieve that goal. No one ever really thought she would be Guv, but she was--twice. Just as no one thought Drumpf would be Prez. Never underestimate the underhandedness of the Repuke party in getting their illegitimate nominees elected. BTW, we are extremely glad to have Ms. Nikki out of the state, but so sorry to see her having been inflicted on the entire international community. Her greatest asset is probably her innate ability to suck up to the power base.
+4 # heraldmage 2018-01-08 16:38
Probably for the 1st time since the UN was established Trump & / or Haley's action in the UNSC have resulted in descent even from US allies.
Within the last month the UNSC and the vast majority of the UNGA voted against the USA stance on Jerusalem. Then on Jan 6 2018 Haley was rebuked by 3 UNSC allies as well as Russia & China for demanding an emergency UNSC meeting over protests in Iran. It was made clear to the USA that what was happening in Iran was a domestic issue, just as protests and gun violence is in the USA are.
The Trump Administration' s use of financial aid & incentive to buy international compliance also isn't going well. Nations & organizations threatened with loss of funding instead of bowing to US will have said fine we don't need it or are not for sale. Instead of shoring up US influence the Trump administration is losing allies and global influence.

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