January 26, 2009

Renewing U.S. Diplomacy with North Korea

Followup to The Obama Administration and North Korea Policy

President Obama, putting into action his promise to renew U.S. diplomacy in hot spots around the world, quickly appointed George Mitchell as the special envoy to the Middle East and Richard Holbrooke as the special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. But a special envoy to North Korea was not announced.

Perhaps the Korean Peninsula/Northeast Asia is not yet a priority foreign policy issue for the Obama administration, but as "Obama and Biden will forge a more effective framework in Asia that goes beyond bilateral agreements, occasional summits, and ad hoc arrangements, such as the six-party talks on North Korea" (From the White House website), a more proactive diplomacy towards North Korea is needed rather than waiting for the next six-party meeting. The first step towards that may be the establishment of a U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang, an idea that circulated during the engagement-phase of the later George W. Bush administration but which never materialized.

Recently, South Korea's nuclear negotiator went to North Korea for disarmament talks, in the very first official government visit to Pyongyang from the Lee Myung-bak government since its inauguration in February of 2008. He verified North Korea's compliance with the nuclear disarmament process and discussed the purchase of unused fuel rods from North Korea's nuclear stockpile as part of a disarmament-for-aid deal specified in the six-party talks.

With these developments, the Obama's foreign policy team should quickly form an able Korea policy team and engage in active diplomacy with North Korea. See recomendations from American and South Korean commentators. [The graphic image above is from The Korea Herald]

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