The Korean peninsula is always dangerous, but the next few months are especially so. An erratic, nuclear-armed North still covets prosperous South Korea, which is enduring a presidential impeachment crisis even as the U.S. is in a political transition. This is a moment for some supportive bipartisan U.S. diplomacy, David Feith writes for The Wall Street Journal:
Prosecutors have accused a personal confidant of South Korean President Park Geun-hye of shaking down Korea’s giant chaebol conglomerates for $70 million with the help of government officials. The case could lead to much-needed reforms to curb the power of firms that behave more like feudal fiefdoms than modern corporations—an act of democratic hygiene. …The danger is that this could be a moment when the North’s regime thinks it can take advantage. Dictator Kim Jong Un is unpredictable at the best of times. But he and his military could misinterpret the noise of democratic debate and accountability in the South as a sign of weakness. Perhaps he might use the next round of U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises scheduled for February as an excuse for an attack or land grab.
The international community must focus on North Korea’s human rights abuses and grave security threats, former President George W. Bush said yesterday.
“The security challenge and the humanitarian challenge are closely linked,” he told a policy forum at the Bush Institute. “The threat we face arises out of the nature of the North Korean regime itself. The lesson of history is clear: A country that does not respect the rights of its people will not respect the rights of its neighbors.”
A set of new policy recommendations from the Bush Institute. – Light Through The Darkness: Toward a New Policy and Strategy for North Korea – lays out core principles of national security strategy for North Korea, and embeds actionable items that both establish and integrate human rights in a new policy approach.
In announcing a new scholarship program, Mrs. Laura Bush noted the “small, but growing, community of North Korean refugees living right here in the United States” and noted the challenges and opportunities they face as they begin their new lives.
At the event, Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson led a bipartisan policy discussion with Senator Cory Gardner, former Senator Joseph Lieberman, Ambassador Robert Gallucci, and Bush Institute Fellow Victor Cha. The Forum concluded with a conversation featuring North Korean escapees Grace Jo and Joseph Kim as well as Ambassador Robert King, the Obama Administration’s Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights.