To hear the news that President Bill Clinton has won the release of two journalists, both women, from their captivity in North Korea is indeed heartening and speaks to Clinton's powers of persuasion, even with governments that the US offficially refuses to recognize (in the North's case, Sweden, as a neutral power, acts as a go-between in representing US interests).
I do have to ask, however, what exactly did the States concede to the "Hermit Kingdom" in exchange? I do not believe for a second what current President Barack Obama claims that this was strictly a "private mission," otherwise the North would have not only refused the American request for mercy but also increased the sentences imposed on the women or even executed them. It couldn't have been food aid, because the armed forces in the North regularly seizes it then sells it to the people for whom it was intended as a gift. And as for nuclear concessions -- well, there aren't going to be any, not until North Korea absolutely and irrevocably commits to non-proliferation and using nuclear power for peaceful purposes only (i.e. electricity and legitimate medical research).
So what was given up? If the six nation talks are "dead" and the North insists on direct contact with the States, does that mean the US will finally establish direct diplomatic links? That's sure to rile up the hawk wing of the Democrats. It's worth thinking about -- Canada only finally recognized North Korea's government in 2001 but neither has set up embassies in the other country yet, eight years after.
Or is Bill Clinton gunning for the Nobel Peace Prize, hoping to share the same honour as Jimmy Carter and Al Gore and Teddy Roosevelt?
There may also be a third possibility. We all remember the agreement in 1994 that Carter got with Kim Il-Sung, one month before the latter died and some time after that the North reneged on its commitments. It's generally acknowledged that Kim Jong-Il is also ailing and he just might be gasping for air before he dies, and whichever of his sons takes over the Clinton concessions are also unilaterally cancelled. (The PDRK already broke several promises it made to Dubya, after all -- while the latter was still in office!)
I'm not much on conspiracy theories, but there's more to this story than what we've been led to believe. I think we all want a united and nuclear weapons free Korea, but it's going to be a long wait. The DMZ is not the Berlin Wall, the latter of which was destined to fall.
Quid pro quo? Yeah, I think so. And when we all find out what it is, the US and most of its allies -- both inside and outside of NATO -- are going to be pissed, as will the voters in all the countries concerned. All humans lives are sacred and the two reporters should have been freed on day one, but Slick Willy didn't get called Slick for nothing.
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It was a phone call to sister Lisa Ling that the offer was made by NKorea..that if a former Presiden like Bill Clinton would come and get them ..they would be released...he wanted it before he dies.
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