Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:23 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 18 Jul 2018 | 07:23 | SYDNEY

That North Korea idea I was looking for


Sam Roggeveen


30 June 2008 16:13

Last week I linked to a Korea-themed blog, One Free Korea, to illustrate what sceptics are saying about the recently announced accommodation between the US and North Korea on the latter's nuclear program. My criticism of such critics was that, although they made many fair points about the shortcomings of this agreement, they didn't have any better ideas.

In a subsequent post, One Free Korea says it does have a better idea, and points me to its plan for denuclearising the North. There's merit in some of the arguments presented, which focus on sustained economic pressure on the regime (an approach which has brought results before) combined with greater focus on communicating directly with the North Korean people and preparing for reconstruction when the regime eventually collapses. (That last bit strikes me as particularly important, gien how huge that task will be.)

But the recommendations seem to presume that North Korean denuclearisation is America's highest priority in the Asia Pacific. Point 6, for instance, recommends a pretty drastic break with China, which would have all kinds of repercussions for broader US policy in the region.

The admonition at the top of the One Free Korea post is also worth examining. It takes the form of Einstein's definintion of insanity: 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.'

But that logic could apply just as well to those who want to pursue economic constriction — after all, that policy got a fairly good run and had only mixed results. And the Einstein argument would carry more weight if the costs of pursuing engagement were very high. But even if this deal fails, it's not clear that we will be a whole lot worse off than before.