Monday, December 13, 2010

Selig Harrison proposes giving North Korea a Sudetenland-by-the-Sea

Writing in the New York Times, Pyongyang apologist Selig Harrison (see him skewered here) proposes that all this mess in the Yellow Sea could be over if South Korea agrees is forced to move the border "slightly to the south":
The Obama administration would do well to consult with both Seoul and Pyongyang on where to best set the new boundary, get an agreement from both governments to abide by it, and put it on the map. South Korea should not be given a veto over the redrawing. And North Korea should be warned that any future provocations on its part like the shelling of Yeonpyeong will result in swift, appropriate retaliation by the joint forces of the United States and South Korea.
Oh, were it not finals week and I had time to give this a proper fisking (which would, believe it or not, be far longer than this already is). Instead, I'll just leave you with a few points why this is wrong, wrong, wrong:
  • The notion that South Korea should not have veto power over an agreement that takes away a substantial part of its own waters is simply absurd, even if Seoul in 1953 was not a signatory to the Korean War Armistice.
  • To even hint at changing the established spheres of control on either side of the de facto maritime border (i.e., the Northern Limit Line, or NLL) would simply be rewarding North Korea for murderously acting out repeatedly.
  • The NLL is a proper border in that it follows the universally accepted principle of equidistance from populated land on the North Korean and South Korean sides, land North Korea has recognized as South Korea's. Like it or not, the Five Islands of the West Sea [서해 5도] that include Yŏnpyŏng-do [Yeonpyeong] generate substantial territorial waters and EEZ for South Korea. This is not some unfair outcome of the Korean War (which North Korea started) since the Ongjin Peninsula just north of them and under North Korean control was originally South Korean territory south of the 38° Parallel. Simply put, the NLL is where it a maritime border would be were these two countries not military and political rivals.
  • Any change to the line of control would endanger South Korea's actual land territories (e.g., the Five Islands of the West Sea, and possibly islands closer to the mainland). Unlike Mr Harrison, I'm not optimistic that granting North Korea more fishing waters would be the end of this mess.
Mr Harrison continues to peddle the idea of a North Korea with which we can do business, when the last ten years has taught us that Pyongyang will bite, hit, or otherwise try to sever the hand that feeds it, the hand that threatens to slap it down, or the hand that is held up by the South Korean government as Seoul says "Talk to this."

About the only useful thing in his op-ed is the idea some North Koreans have fed him about what would happen if a peace treaty were successfully negotiated:
One possible mechanism to replace the armistice is the “trilateral peace regime” for the peninsula that has been proposed by North Korea’s principal military spokesman, Gen. Ri Chan-bok. Under the plan, the armed forces of the United States, North Korea and South Korea would set up a “mutual security assurance commission.” Its role would be to prevent incidents in the demilitarized zone that could threaten the peace and to develop arms-control and confidence-building arrangements on the peninsula. General Ri has said explicitly that the North would not object to the presence of American forces on the peninsula if the armistice and the United Nations Command were replaced.
I'm a big believer in the Pax Americana's past, present, and future ability to keep Northeast Asia conflict-free, so any proposal that sees the US going bye-bye from South Korea is to me a nonstarter. I have no doubt Mr Harrison has been told that North Korea would accept a US military presence in a post-Peace Treaty Korea, but I'm not so sure they really would simply let it be. After all, the US is one of North Korea's bogeyman around which it constructs a justification for the Songun [선군, Military First] Policy, its raison d'être. No doubt the "puppet of the imperialists" rhetoric would continue unabated.

In the meantime, although part of me wants to believe in his cherry-flavored analysis, but it's more likely the eternal optimist is simply a useful idiot or possibly on the take.

Or possibly a North Korean operative.

Jack Pritchard, president of the Korea Economic Institute, has an article in the January 5 edition of the Korea Herald which also skewers Mr Harrison's proposal.

1 comment:

  1. Cannot possibly imagine how a mentally functioning human being could reach his sort of analysis without severe personal distorting biases. Either he was stung by a south korean bee as a child or else he's on the take.


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