Has starvation become a foreign diplomacy tool?

[The Oregonian journalist Richard Read speaks to relief managers from Mercy Corps and Samaritan’s Purse, who claim that the Obama administration has abandoned Ronald Reagan’s “hungry-child policy” that separated food aid from politics. Read’s article, reproduced below, first appeared in OregonLive.com on 13 April 2013. –CanKor]

Relief managers from Portland-based Mercy Corps say U.S. let North Koreans starve as retribution for missile launch

By Richard Read, The Oregonian, updated April 13, 2013 at 10:55 PM
A North Korean mother lies with her acutely malnourished son, plagued by sores, at a county hospital in September 2011. (Photo by Jim White, Mercy Corps)

A North Korean mother lies with her acutely malnourished son, plagued by sores, at a county hospital in September 2011. (Photo by Jim White, Mercy Corps)

A 3-year-old girl weighed less than 16 pounds, surviving on saline solution and ground rice. Babies lay passively, too weak to cry. Relief workers saw stunted and wasted children languishing in unheated hospitals amid floods and reduced rations during an unusually harsh winter.

That was two years ago. Portland-based Mercy Corps and four other humanitarian organizations given rare access to North Korea warned: “a catastrophic situation is developing.” After a year of prodding, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced 120,000 metric tons of food for North Korea.

But food never reached hungry Koreans. The Obama administration let political distrust, instead of need, dictate food policy.

Communication and good will broke down, leaving White House officials little to draw on today as Pyongyang ratchets up threats of nuclear attack. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama’s Edsel problem, by Donald P. Gregg

[Donald P. Gregg is a retired diplomat, currently serving as chairman of the Pacific Century Institute. From 1951 to 1982 he worked for the CIA. He was national security advisor to US Vice President George H. W. Bush. He served as United States Ambassador to South Korea from 1989 to 1993. During the time he was chairman of the board of The Korea Society in the USA, he called for greater engagement with North Korea. He wrote this opinion piece for The Korea Times on 11 April 2013. –CanKor]

Donald Gregg

Fifty-five years ago, the Ford Motor Company unveiled its highly advertised new car, the Edsel, which it expected to sell spectacularly. Instead, the Edsel flopped from the moment of its introduction, and is now rated one of the 50 worst cars of all time.

How did that come about? Apparently in those days Detroit’s engineers were vulnerable to a virulent form of groupthink that produced failure, not success.

I fear that today President Obama has a sort of “Edsel problem” as far as his North Korea policy is concerned. Many Washington policymakers focused on Korea have, since the advent of the George W. Bush administration, fallen victim to the collective belief that talking to North Korea would be a form of rewarding bad behavior on Pyongyang’s part, and that pressure, in terms of sanctions and military threats can wean North Korea away from its belief that developing nuclear weapons is the surest way to protect itself from U.S. attacks. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. and North Korea: The land of lousy options by John Kerry

[John Kerry, a US senator from Massachusetts, heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In an Op Ed published in the Los Angeles Times on 26 June 2011, Kerry states that Washington’s approach to North Korea’s bad behaviour has been measured, firm, but inadequate. He calls for the USA to re-engage directly with the DPRK, beginning with the provision of food aid. – CanKor.]

Senator John Kerry

Sixty-one years ago this weekend, North Korean artillery opened fire along the 38th Parallel, and a war began that claimed the lives of more than 33,000 American soldiers, 100,000 Chinese “volunteers” and 2 million Koreans.

Today, the goal of building a lasting peace remains elusive. In fact, the peninsula is more dangerous than ever. North Korea has twice tested nuclear weapons and is developing missiles to carry them. It has built facilities capable of producing highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons. In defiance of a U.N. arms embargo, it continues to export weapons and sensitive technologies to unsavory partners such as Myanmar. And last year, the deadliest since the armistice in 1953, a North Korean torpedo killed 46 South Korean sailors and an artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island killed four more South Koreans.

The U.S. response to all of this has been measured but firm. It has also been inadequate. Read the rest of this entry »

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