Updates on the North Korea – South Korea Situation

More updates on the North Korea – South Korea front.  Secretary of State Clinton has publicly denounced the actions of North Korea and is seeking out alliances to mount a campaign against North Korea.

At this point there is a UN Security Council resolution on the table that would end trade from South Korea to North Korea and launch what appears to be an antisubmarine warfare campaign.

It’s a curious development, but I’m still concerned about North Korea’s threats to declare “all-out war” if it is sanctioned or punished.  I don’t think there is anything safe about ignoring North Korea’s threats or seeing them as empty.  I know they have said it before, but now is different.

This update comes straight from the NY Times, but I have to say, this article feels like two completely different stories.  On one hand I understand the connection to China, but still, this shouldn’t just be about preserving our trade relations.  This is about an unprovoked attack on the South Korean people.

(New York Times)
May 21, 2010

Clinton Condemns Attack on South Korean Ship


TOKYO — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton harshly condemned North Korea on Friday for a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean Navy warship last March, and promised to marshal an international response in the coming week with Japan, China and other countries.

“I think it is important to send a clear message to North Korea that provocative actions have consequences,” she said after meeting here with the Japanese foreign minister, Katsuya Okada. “We cannot allow this attack on South Korea to go unanswered by the international community.”

Mrs. Clinton declined to lay out the potential options for a response, saying that would be premature. But she left little doubt that the United States would undertake an intensive diplomatic effort to craft a response to the sinking of the Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors and was one of the biggest military provocations on the Korean Peninsula since the Korean War.

Among the options being considered by South Korean and American officials is a United Nations Security Council resolution, and joint naval exercises with South Korea that could include anti-submarine warfare operations. South Korea may also cut off its remaining trade with the North.

“Let me be clear: this will not, and cannot be, business as usual,” Mrs. Clinton said, speaking in solemn tones. “There must be an international, not just a regional, but an international response.”

The mounting tensions on the Korean peninsula have roiled what had been planned as three days of economic and security talks between China and the United States next week in Beijing.

Now, those discussions are likely to be dominated by how far the United States can push China to support an international move against North Korea. The Chinese government reacted to the reports of Pyongyang’s involvement with extreme skepticism, angering many people in South Korea.

But Mrs. Clinton said South Korea’s investigation, which was aided by the United States and other countries, was thorough, scientific, and found the evidence “overwhelming and condemning.”

Both she and Mr. Okada said the tension underlined the importance of the American-Japanese alliance, and the presence of American troops on Japanese soil. But the two governments have not yet resolved a lengthy dispute over the relocation of a Marine base on the island of Okinawa.

Negotiations were continuing, Mr. Okada said, and the Japanese government was sticking to its timetable of resolving the matter by the end of the month. Mrs. Clinton said the United States sought a solution that was “operationally viable and politically sustainable.”

On Sunday, Mrs. Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner are jointly leading a delegation which will number nearly 200 policy makers and advisers, one of the largest groups of American officials ever to travel to a foreign capital for a single set of meetings.

On the agenda: trying to balance the economic relationship between China and the United States, breaking down trade and investment barriers, and moving China toward a market-driven exchange rate.

But despite rising political pressure at home, administration officials said that at these meetings, the United States does not plan to push Beijing strenuously to loosen its policy of pegging its currency to the dollar. And it does not expect China to take any action on the currency until at least next month, because Beijing is loath at appearing to yield to outside pressure.

The administration sought to put a good face on Europe’s troubles, suggesting they played into one of the main American themes for the meeting: encouraging the Chinese to ramp up domestic consumption, so that they did not rely so heavily on exports to either Europe or the United States.

“The Greek crisis underlines the U.S. argument about the need for more balanced global growth,” Mr. Geithner said in an interview. “It makes the case very strongly because it is about Europe as well as China. It makes our interests in balanced growth even more aligned.”

The Greek crisis has dragged down the euro, which complicates a related American priority: prodding China to loosen its peg, which economists say keeps its currency, the renminbi, at an artificially depressed level. The United States wants China to allow the currency to rise closer to market levels, calculating that this would make American goods more competitive.

The renminbi has already risen sharply against the beleaguered euro, however, making Chinese goods more costly in Europe. And this, analysts say, could make Chinese officials more resistant to taking any steps that would allow it to rise against the dollar.

Moreover, if the Greek crisis spreads to Spain, Portugal, or other European countries, it could slow Europe’s overall economic growth and further dampen demand for Chinese exports.

The Obama administration delayed filing a report with Congress, scheduled for mid-April, which could have labeled China as a country that manipulates its currency. The administration’s policy, officials said, is to give Beijing the space it needs to make the decision by itself.

Beijing has signaled privately to Washington that it may begin loosen its currency policy in the weeks to a meeting in June of the Group of 20 industrialized and major emerging economies, officials said.

“While we don’t know when China is going to move, we remain confident that they’re going to determine that it’s in their interest to move to a more market-determined exchange rate,” said David Loevinger, the senior coordinator for China affairs at the Treasury Department.


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