Kim Jung Il, the demented dictator of North Korea,Â must be feeling invincible. After Kim launched long-range missiles over Japan in April, the Obama administration expressed public outrageÂ but took no action. When Kim conducted a nuclear test over the Memorial Day weekend, the administration againÂ bristled publicly, but again did nothing.
Emboldened by Obama’s lack of response, Kim recently placed on trial two American journalists — Laura Ling and Euna Lee — working forÂ former Vice President Al Gore’s “Current TV” Channel (which features, among other things, a prominent section about the alleged dangers of manmade global warming). A North Korean court found both Ling andÂ LeeÂ guiltyÂ of having enteredÂ the country and committing an undefined “grave crime” against Kim’s communist state. They were sentenced toÂ 12 years’Â hard labor.
Only now is the Obama administration beginning to take any kind of action;Â the President is considering sendingÂ New Mexico Governor Bill RichardsonÂ (the former Department of Energy chief under whose incompetent watch occurred an epidemic of Chinese nuclear espionage), or perhaps even Gore himself, to try to win the release of the two journalists.
“We are pursuing every possible approach that we can consider in order to persuade the North Koreans to release them and send these young women home,” said Secretary of State Hillary ClintonÂ (who, inÂ previous interviews, has projected an aura of utter cluelessness about how to deal with the government in Pyongyang).
Regrettably, what Clinton said next plays right into Kim’s hands:Â ”We view these [the sentencing of the journalists and the issue of North Korea's nuclear-weapons program] as entirely separate matters. We think the imprisonment, trial and sentencing of Laura and Euna should be viewed as a humanitarian matter. We hope that the North Koreans will grant clemency and deport them. There are other concerns that we and the international community have with North Korea, but those are separate and apart from what’s happening to the two women.”
That’s the problem. The North Koreans do see these events as linked. And now, the Kim regime will use the journalists as bargaining chips to gain public concessions from an American administration which he perceives as weak.
There is a precedent for this.Â On January 23, 1968, the USS Pueblo, a navy intelligence ship, was attacked by North Korean naval vessels and MIG jets. The 82 surviving crew members were captured and held prisoner for 11 months. TheNorth Koreans successfully blackmailed the U.S. intoÂ forking over vast quantities of food and fuel in exchange for the release of the crewmen. Just as important to the North Koreans, they forced the U.S. into a humiliating public apology. This from North Korea’s official website:
“President Kim Il Sung [the dictator father of current dictator Kim Jong Il], the ever-victorious iron-willed brilliantÂ commander, shattered once again the myth of the ‘mightiness’ of US imperialism to smithereens in front of the whole world. The US could not but write an apology in which it pledged itself not to invade the Korean territorial waters again, and kneel down.” (Emphasis added.)
With the USS Pueblo incident, the North Koreans got to have their cake and eat it too.Â And now, history seems to be repeating itself; Kim is trying to get us to “kneel” down again, and our government doesn’t see it.