Korea Today:

Korea Today reports that there are some meetings set between the South Korean Foreign Minister and US officials. It's being billed as important for the nuke showdown with the North, though, which may mean that some backdoor diplomacy is going on.

InstaPundit linked last night to this piece in the London Times. It presents an analysis of who won and lost through the Iraq diplomacy, suggesting that North Korea was a winner and Russia a loser. The reasons are that the war in Iraq may exhaust the United States, militarily and politically, thus protecting North Korea. As for Russia:
The cold warriors in Russia�s foreign ministry may be congratulating themselves about undermining Nato by tempting France and Germany into a new triple alliance, but this strategy will backfire in the long run, as America tightens its military links with Poland, Hungary and the Baltic States, all countries inherently hostile to Russia. Even worse, the shift of American allegiances from Western Europe to the Middle East and Asia could revive the ultimate Russian nightmare � a further strengthening of the US-Chinese relationship, already the world�s most important economic partnership.
This analysis is, in my opinion, completely mistaken. Russia, like several of the powers, is engaged in a gamble for a place in the order that will result from this war on terrorism. Their hand is much stronger than the Times realizes, and they are therefore not in any danger. Whatever the United States might wish to take from them to punish their acts vis. Iraq, they can easily win back by demanding concessions on the Chechen semistate, nuclear disarmament, the security of Soviet-era nuclear materials, and, especially, partnership in a containment of the DPRK. Russia will do all right, because we need them so much.

Whether or not we'll have the military and political will to go after the DPRK also depends more on the DPRK than on us. If they carry on nuclear blackmail, I suspect the administration may feel they have no choice but to strike while the iron is hot--too hot already, in fact, but not yet so hot that it will explode when it is struck, or ignite by spontaneous combustion the building containing it.

As for the strengthening of the Chinese "partnership," that is a most dubious proposition. The Economist, a far better source of news analysis than the London Times in my book, has been warning us for more than a year that the Fourth Generation, as the new Chinese leadership is called, is notably more hostile to the West than its predecessors. CNN reports that the People's Liberation Army, which has a strong voice in the new arrangement, is urging a much more hostile policy toward the United States, and considers that China can't afford to "lose" North Korea as a buffer state. Honestly, having a nuclear-armed blackmail artist as my buffer state would hardly seem preferable to--well, most anything. However, the PLA is right about one thing: as long as the DPRK exists, the United States is contained in the region from acting directly against Chinese interests. The need for the PRC to help us contain DPRK nuclear material from reaching terrorists means we can't act against China in any matter on which they are prepared to play hardball.

Thus, the DPRK ties US foreign policy into knots, even if it is contained, and allows two relatively brutal powers to have their way unchallenged with the lives of millions. Some of those millions, it ought be noted, are the Chechens and the East Turkmen--two Muslim minorities who might have seen the United States as natural allies in their struggle for liberty, if we weren't in a position of being bound to their oppressors by the need to control North Korea. Therefore does al Qaeda tell them, honestly enough, that the United States is no friend to them: thus do we end up the supporters of tyrants over free men of good heart.

The DPRK must go. Not only for the sake of the freedom of the North Koreans, who do not deserve such tyranny, but to unbind our hands that we may protect the free and raise up the oppressed. If we are to guard Taiwan, we must not be bound to China. If we are to aid the East Turkmen, even covertly, we must not be tied to the PLA. If we are to uphold the interests of the Chechens, as we ought, Russia cannot have a veto over our conduct. All of these things tie back to the DPRK, and its nuclear blackmail. It must be ended, one way or another, as soon as we can manage it.

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