Fri, May 12, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Nation needs allies against N Korea

By Jerome Keating

North Korea is an increasing trouble spot; few would dispute that matter. However to more clearly understand the issue, one must start with the realistic premise that despite what any world leaders might or might not be saying about cooperation and working deals, the leadership of the People’s Republic of China does not want and will not accept a unified Korea.

Understanding this premise is particularly important for Taiwan. For as the nation regularly reviews the surrounding landscape, as well as threats to peace in the Asia-Pacific region, it must have a plan to deal with the Korean conundrum.

The conundrum is not a hypothetical situation. North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un, have once again jumped back into the spotlight with missile launches, bravado about nuclear tests and more. This has drawn attention away from the contested shipping lanes and waters of the South China Sea, so much so that all involved parties have had to refocus.

Even newly elected US President Donald Trump has entered the fray and perhaps helped stir, if not muddy, the turbulent waters by saying that he would not mind meeting with Kim, whom he classifies as a “smart cookie.”

He feels that they could “work a deal.”

That Trump feels that he can work a deal naturally raises eyebrows. It is his style. Yet, when looking at his similar projection of a workable deal between Israel and Palestine, one wonders if it represents naivete, bravado, wishful thinking or just a neophyte with little grasp of regional histories feeling confident.

For example, with North Korea, Trump has announced that he found out “how complicated” the situation is from his talk with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

For Taiwan, this makes it more worrisome. It has already experienced first-hand what might be called a flip-flop of Trump.

In December last year, Trump boldly challenged political conventions and was cheered when he stated that if the newly elected US president could sell military hardware to Taiwan, why could he not accept a congratulatory telephone call from President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文)?

That was fine until Trump reversed fields and said he learned how complicated the North Korean situation is, not from his staff, but from Xi. Now it seems that any future calls to Trump from Tsai will first be run by Xi before being accepted.

For this reason, Trump’s naming Kim as a smart cookie has also raised concerns. Is he aware that Kim had his uncle Jang Sung-thaek and several others executed for unexplained treachery in 2013?

Is he aware of the recent murder in Malaysia of Kim’s elder half-brother, Kim Jong-nam? Would the label of a ruthless Machiavellian dictator be more appropriate for Kim Jung-un than a “smart cookie?”

History bears out how deals are easily made and easily broken. The many “deals” that preceded World War II would convince most on the unpredictability of political deals.

For example, Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist leader and prime minister from 1922 made innumerable deals good and bad in his efforts to make Italy great again. One of his more amusing failures was the projected 1933 Four Power Pact between Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Despite his confidence, that never got off the ground.

Who can forget Britain’s Munich Agreement of 1938 when then-British prime minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich with a deal he had worked out with then-German chancellor Adolph Hitler.

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