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Monday, July 25, 2005

Saving face in North Korea? 

The United States had a quiet one-on-one meeting with representatives of North Korea today, notwithstanding our longstanding unwillingness to meet in the absence of the other four powers (China, Japan, South Korea and Russia). The White House said it was "not a negotiating session," but a meet-and-greet in advance of the "six party talks" that are to start tomorrow.

It would be fascinating to know how the meeting was reported in North Korea, if it was reported at all. My guess is that this short pre-meeting meeting was a concession that we permitted the Chinese to offer to the Norks to get them back to the table. We can claim that it was no concession at all because no "negotiating" took place, and they can claim that they got their face-to-face meeting with the United States notwithstanding the resumption of six party talks.

It would all be quite hilarious if the stakes weren't so high.

2 Comments:

By Anonymous Bob Hawkins, at Mon Jul 25, 09:45:00 PM:

The important question is -- what was the shape of the table?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Jul 27, 06:24:00 PM:

I'd have to agree with TigerHawk that the Chinese foresaw what the North Koreans would do with this 'pre-meeting': they'd take it back to Pyongyang as proof of the respect that the United States has for them.

I think we could learn a lot from Chinese diplomats about how to deal with the North Koreans. Though dissimilar in many ways, both share a similar stoic pride and affection for gestures of respect. It has been widely reported that Bush stoked KJI's ire when publicly referring to the North Korean leader as a 'pygmy' and a 'tyrant'. But somewhat less reported was a story a few months ago, when KJI proudly stated that he was respected by the west and would consider negotiations. His reason? Bush, rather off-handedly (I'm guessing), referred to him as Mr. Kim Jong-Il. (all it took was a 'mister', as in 'hey mister, you're fly is down.')

How should the US deal with KJI? Should we respect him? No. Should we act like we do? Yes. Feigned respect took down every schoolyard bully I ever knew.  

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