Just hours ago, recently-freed American missionary Robert Park landed back on U.S. soil. Born to Korean parents, he had gone back to his ancestral homeland in hopes of singlehandedly inspiring a change in leadership, only to be detained after crossing into North Korea over an icy river on Christmas day. While we can’t say his cause is unworthy, he’s lucky to have gotten out without the prodding of Bill Clinton. Unfortunately, his release is hardly a bellwether for the state of North Korea’s relations with the West. Envoys from China, along with a team from South Korea, headed to Pyongyang this weekend to resume dialogue that will hopefully lead to the disarmament lobbied for by the stalled “six-party” talks.
While the UN plans to send its own envoy later in the week and the U.S. has vowed to continue its policy of engagement, it is China that has the greatest influence with its neighbor. At the center of the current diplomatic happenings in the North Korean capital is Chinese Communist Party international affairs chief Wang Jiaru, who last year received a denuclearization pledge from Kim Jong-il himself.
What’s ironic is that the biggest benefactor of the entire situation may in fact be the United States, who has been the architect behind disarming destitute North Korea.
Along with Iran, China’s communist comrade is a pillar of a new sort of “Axis of Evil,” as identified by former U.S. President Bush. It would seem, however, based on the tone of recent U.S.-China relations, that any benefits the U.S. might reap from this transaction are inconsequential – and that any friendly overtones are purely political in nature. As a piece in the Australian explains:
Almost 55 per cent of those questioned for Global Times, a state-run newspaper, agree that “a cold war will break out between the US and China”
An independent survey of Chinese-language media for The Sunday Times has found army and navy officers predicting a military showdown and political leaders calling for China to sell more arms to US foes.
The trigger for their fury was Mr Obama’s decision to sell weapons to Taiwan. “We should retaliate with an eye for an eye and sell arms to Iran, North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela,” declared Liu Menxiong, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.
He added: “We have nothing to be afraid of. The North Koreans have stood up to America and has anything happened to them? No. Iran stands up to America and does disaster befall it? No.”
Egads! We’re happy that they freed the missionary and everything, but let’s just hope that’s not the shining moment of North Korean goodwill toward the rest of humanity. All these words and phrases coming up RE: past global conflicts are a bummer, at best.