Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton 'Rescue' in North Korea Leaves Obama on the Spot

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Clinton 'Rescue' in North Korea Leaves Obama on the Spot

Article excerpt

The welcomed release of two female American journalists from a North Korean prison - while humanitarian for them and their families - was hardly done with a humanitarian goal in mind by Kim Jong-il, that country's cunning despot.

What did Mr. Kim really achieve by working behind the scenes with the Obama administration, by insisting on a former US president as the rescuing envoy, and then putting Bill Clinton through nearly four hours of discussions on issues between the countries?

For one, Kim was able to raise suspicions in South Korea about the US as a reliable ally, especially when Mr. Clinton didn't bring home five South Korean citizens - a factory worker and four fishermen - held captive in North Korea.

Lost in all the coverage of this "pardon" and homecoming of Laura Ling and Euna Lee is the basic fact that the 1950-53 Korean War has never officially ended. The evidence for that is clear to anyone who visits the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two nations and sees the US soldiers stationed there, like potential road bumps for hundreds of North Korean tanks on the ready.

Like his father, Kim still maintains the aggressive goal of uniting the two countries - by force. And he can only do that someday by steadily eroding the will of Americans to defend South Korea. A key aim of his often-erratic diplomacy is to split Washington and Seoul from their long alliance. And by making the Clinton "mission" look like a state visit in all but name, he came one step closer to the official US recognition that he needs.

China, too, has long asked for US recognition of North Korea, especially after it established ties with South Korea in 1992. During this crisis, Beijing probably played a critical role in the two women's release, reflected in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent enthusiasm for China's help on many diplomat fronts. …

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