Sunday, February 24, 2013

Failed Obama administration efforts to reach out to new Kim Jong-un in 2012?

I guess we could have a caption contest.

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Obama administration twice tried, in secret, to reach out to the fledgling government of Kim Jong-un last year, in the wake of the death of the young North Korean leader's father, Kim Jong-il.

In both cases, rather than getting Pyongyang to moderate its policies, especially its anti-American stance and its nuclear and missile development, Washington ended up with egg on its face as North Korea went ahead with missile and nuclear tests.

An excerpt from the LAT:
A White House official made two secret visits to North Korea last year in an unsuccessful effort to improve relations after new ruler Kim Jong Un assumed power, according to former U.S. officials familiar with the trips.

The brief visits in April and August were aimed at encouraging the new leadership to moderate its foreign policy after the death of Kim's father, longtime autocrat Kim Jong Il, in December 2011.

The ruling elite apparently spurned the outreach effort, however. This month, after a surge of fierce anti-U.S. rhetoric, the government in Pyongyang defied international warnings and conducted its third and most powerful underground nuclear test.

The former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the back-channel trips have not been formally disclosed, said the first visit was an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Pyongyang not to launch a long-range rocket.

North Korea carried out the launch April 12. The missile flew only a few minutes before it exploded and crashed into the sea. A subsequent test of another long-range rocket in December was successful.

The April trip was led by Joseph DeTrani, a North Korea expert who then headed the National Counter Proliferation Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which coordinates U.S. intelligence agencies, the former U.S. officials said. It was unclear who led the August trip.

They said Sydney Seiler, who is in charge of Korea policy at the National Security Council, went on both trips. Seiler, a veteran CIA analyst, speaks fluent Korean. He could not be reached for comment.

The White House, State Department and CIA have refused to confirm or deny the 2012 trips, which occurred during the U.S. presidential election season.
Frankly, I think part of the problem right there is that this kind of thing will work only if it involves stroking the new North Korean leader's ego. You'd have to send at least a former President like Bill Clinton or Secretary of State, or possibly former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, in order to get them to consider any kind of significant change in stance (and even then you can't trust much of what they promise).

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