Slave to the Blog: Coordination Failures



Coordination failures are central to the world’s inability to deal with the North Korea problem. When the US, for example, wants to push North Korea to the wall to force it to decide between its nuclear weapons program and integrating into the global community on a more normal and prosperous basis, the country has been bailed out by China (and at times, South Korea), and never forced to make that choice. And North Korea is a master at playing off larger countries against each other. Recently, with relations with China deteriorating, the country is courting Russia.

Japan has announced that in the wake of failed talks over the fate of Japanese thought to have been abducted by North Korea it is extending sanctions against North Korea through 2017. In the meantime, China may be headed in the opposite direction: Chinese firms in Dandong, the hub of China-DPRK trade, made a proposal for duty-free trade to an official visiting North Korean delegation. If implemented, this initiative could be particularly important due to the rise in bilateral trade in t-shirts and other simple garments which involves importing of Chinese inputs into North Korea for assembly and re-exportation.

In other news from Japan, a shell game run by the Chongryon, North Korea sympathizers, and an alleged Chinese spy has ended with the group retaining their headquarters, as long as they pay rent to their benefactors.

And in South Korea, the North appears to be sticking a knife into President Park Geun-hye’s plan for a Silk Road Express, part of her Eurasian pivot, as though she needs any more headaches. As part of the plan, South Korea needs to become a full member of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD). Currently an observer, to become a full member, Seoul needs the unanimous support of the incumbent members. According to reporting in the Joongang Daily, Pyongyang has informed Seoul that it won’t be attending the upcoming May meeting of the organization (to be held in Seoul), hence no unanimous vote. Talk about passive-aggressive.

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