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North Korea: Witness to Transformation

Vote Korea!

by | November 6th, 2012 | 07:00 am
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For those of you who read this blog and are still undecided, you might consider voting the party platforms on the Korean peninsula. We looked through them, picked out all references to the Koreas and reproduce them below. It has become accepted wisdom that there is little difference between the two candidates on foreign policy, or at least that the two were fighting for the middle ground in the third debate. Although we have reported on bipartisan moments,  and recognize the limits of simple word searches–”Korea” in this case–the platforms do in fact reflect subtle foreign policy differences.

The Koreas—and Asia more generally–appear much more frequently in the DNC platform. South Korea comes up several times in the context of the Obama administration’s trade policy. He takes credit for signing the KORUS, “but not before he strengthened these agreements on behalf of American workers and businesses.” The DNC also touts the KORUS FTA as a stepping stone to the TPP. The Republican platform also underlines the importance of an open world economy, of course, but does not specifically mention the Korean FTA as an exemplar in that regard.

On North Korea, a second Obama administration would “continue to confront North Korea, another regime that ignores its international obligations by developing nuclear weapons and missile technology, with a stark choice: take verifiable steps toward denuclearization or face increasing isolation and costs from the United States and the international community.” The platform emphasizes collective action against North Korea, including through the UN, the imposition of sanctions and the hope of working with China. It also explicitly mentions the need to work with Russia on a range of issues—including North Korea—and chides the Romney campaign for “the Cold War mentality represented by Mitt Romney’s identification of Russia as ‘our number one geopolitical foe.’”

We missed the fact that the Democratic platform includes a proliferation red line: “the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies, and we would hold North Korea accountable for the consequences of such action.”

The Republican platform cites North Korea as an example of the administration’s weakness and tendency to “lead from behind.” “The current Administration has responded with weakness to some of the gravest threats to our national security this country has faced, including the proliferation of transnational terrorism, continued belligerence by a nuclear-armed North Korea, an Iran in pursuit of nuclear weapons, rising Chinese hegemony in the Asia Pacific region, Russian activism, and threats from cyber espionage and terrorism.” The platform goes on to state that “the U.S. will continue to demand the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs with a full accounting of its proliferation activities.” Neither platform really outlines the elements of a new strategy for achieving that objective.

A major section of the Republican foreign policy platform addresses the need for missile defenses, both national and regional, and North Korea naturally emerges as a rationale for doing so.

South Korea also comes up in the context of the pivot—or rebalancing—toward Asia. The DNC platform states that the US will continue to deepen its alliance relations in the region, but not simply for the purpose of deterrence. “We will also expand our networks of security cooperation with other emerging partners throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy, and ensure maritime security, including cooperation in the South China Sea.”

The Republican platform states that the US is a Pacific nation and underlines the importance of continued American leadership through its alliance relations. It also makes explicit reference to North Korea in the context of human rights policy. With our allies, “we look toward the restoration of human rights to the suffering people of North Korea and the fulfillment of their wish to be one in peace and freedom.” No argument from us on that point.

Don’t forget to vote!

From the DNC Party Platform

Opened Markets All Over the World for American Products. President Obama and the Democratic Party know that America has the best workers and businesses in the world. If the playing field is level, Americans will be able to compete against every other country on Earth. Over the last four years, we have made historic progress toward the goal of doubling our exports by 2015. We have taken steps to open new markets to American products, while ensuring that other countries play by the same rules. President Obama signed into law new trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama that will support tens of thousands of private-sector jobs, but not before he strengthened these agreements on behalf of American workers and businesses. We remain committed to finding more markets for American-made goods – including using the Trans-Pacific Partnership between the United States and eight countries in the Asia-Pacific, one of the most dynamic regions in the world – while ensuring that workers’ rights and environmental standards are upheld, and fighting against unfair trade practices. We expanded and reformed assistance for trade-affected workers, and we demanded renewal of that help alongside new trade agreements.

Free and Fair Trade. We have also sought to promote free and fair trade. Because of the economic dynamism of the Asia-Pacific region, which is already home to more than half the global economy, expanding trade with that region is critical to creating jobs and opportunities for the American people. Building on the free trade agreement with South Korea that President Obama signed, we are working with our partners in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum to create a seamless regional economy, promote green growth, and coordinate regulatory reform. Alongside Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, we are on track to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a historic high-standard agreement that will address new and emerging trade issues, lower barriers to the free flow of trade and investment, increase exports, and create more American jobs. Exploring opportunities to shape the multilateral trading system to reflect the role and responsibility of major emerging markets in the global economy is a critical part of the President’s trade agenda.

North Korea. President Obama will also continue to confront North Korea, another regime that ignores its international obligations by developing nuclear weapons and missile technology, with a stark choice: take verifiable steps toward denuclearization or face increasing isolation and costs from the United States and the international community. That is why the administration worked with international partners to impose the harshest multilateral sanctions on North Korea in history. And it is why the President has made clear that the transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies, and we would hold North Korea accountable for the consequences of such action.

Russia. Crucial to achieving all of these objectives has been, and will remain, expanded cooperation with Russia. The Cold War mentality represented by Mitt Romney’s identification of Russia as “our number one geopolitical foe” ignores the very real common interest we share with Russia in reducing nuclear stockpiles, stopping additional proliferation by countries such as Iran and North Korea, and preventing nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Asia-Pacific. As we have sought to rebalance our foreign policy, we have also turned greater attention to strengthening our alliances and expanding our partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. In part, this is in recognition that the United States has been, and always will be, a Pacific power. And, in part, it is a recognition that America’s future security and prosperity will be fundamentally interconnected with Asia given its status as the fastest growing economic region, with most of the world’s nuclear powers and about half of the world’s population. The President has therefore made a deliberate and strategic decision that the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future.

President Obama has made modernizing America’s defense posture across the Asia-Pacific a top priority. We remain committed to defending and deepening our partnerships with our allies in the region: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. We will maintain a strong presence in Japan and on the Korean Peninsula to deter and defend against provocations by states like North Korea, while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and in Australia. We will also expand our networks of security cooperation with other emerging partners throughout the region to combat terrorism, counter proliferation, provide disaster relief, fight piracy, and ensure maritime security, including cooperation in the South China Sea. And we will continue to invest in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region.

Meanwhile, the President is committed to continuing efforts to build a cooperative relationship with China, while being clear and candid when we have differences. The world has a profound interest in the rise of a peaceful and prosperous China, but China must also understand that it must abide by clear international standards and rules of the road. China can be a partner in reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, countering proliferation in Iran, confronting climate change, increasing trade, and resolving other global challenges. President Obama will continue to seek additional opportunities for cooperation with China, including greater communication between our militaries. We will do this even as we continue to be clear about the importance of the Chinese government upholding international economic rules regarding currency, export financing, intellectual property, indigenous innovation, and workers’ rights. We will consistently speak out for the importance of respecting the universal human rights of the Chinese people, including the right of the Tibetan people to preserve their cultural and religious identity. And we remain committed to a one China policy, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan.

The United Nations. International institutions – most prominently the United Nations – have been a centerpiece of international order since the mid-20th century. And just as American leadership was essential to forging the architecture for international cooperation after World War II, the President and the Democratic Party are committed to modernizing its infrastructure for the 21st century – working to reform international bodies and strengthen national and multilateral capabilities to advance peace, security, and opportunity.

We have restored America’s leadership at the UN by cooperating with our partners there when we can and respectfully disagreeing with them when we must, reversing the previous administration’s disdain for the UN. The President’s leadership at the UN has enabled us to make real progress on a number of top national security priorities, including getting Russia and China on board to implement the toughest UN sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea.

 From the GOP Party Platform

 The Current Administration’s Failure: Leading From Behind. The Republican Party is the advocate for a strong national defense as the pathway to peace, economic prosperity, and the protection of those yearning to be free. Since the end of World War II, American military superiority has been the cornerstone of a strategy that seeks to deter aggression or defeat those who threaten our national security interests. In 1981, President Reagan came to office with an agenda of strong American leadership, beginning with a restoration of our country’s military strength. The rest is history, written in the rubble of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain. We face a similar challenge today. The current Administration has responded with weakness to some of the gravest threats to our national security this country has faced, including the proliferation of transnational terrorism, continued belligerence by a nuclear-armed North Korea, an Iran in pursuit of nuclear weapons, rising Chinese hegemony in the Asia Pacific region, Russian activism, and threats from cyber espionage and terrorism. In response to these growing threats, President Obama has reduced the defense budget by over $487 billion over the next decade and fought Republican efforts to avoid another $500 billion in automatic budget cuts through a sequestration in early 2013 that will take a meat ax to all major defense programs.

Missile Defense Imperiled. We recognize that the gravest terror threat we face—a nuclear attack made possible by nuclear proliferation—requires a comprehensive strategy for reducing the world’s nuclear stockpiles and preventing the spread of those armaments. But the U.S. can lead that effort only if it maintains an effective strategic arsenal at a level sufficient to fulfill its deterrent purposes, a notable failure of the current Administration. The United States is the only nuclear power not modernizing its nuclear stockpile. It took the current Administration just one year to renege on the President’s commitment to modernize the neglected infrastructure of the nuclear weapons complex—a commitment made in exchange for approval of the New START treaty. In tandem with this, the current Administration has systematically undermined America’s missile defense, abandoning the missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, reducing the number of planned interceptors in Alaska, and cutting the budget for missile defense. In an embarrassing open microphone discussion with former Russian President Medvedev, the current President made clear that, if he wins a second term, he intends to exercise “more flexibility” to appease Russia, which means further undermining our missile defense capabilities. A Republican President will be honest and forthright with the American people about his policies and plans and not whisper promises to authoritarian leaders. A strong and effective strategic arsenal is still necessary as a deterrent against competitors like Russia or China. But the danger in this age of asymmetric or non-traditional warfare comes from other quarters as well. With unstable regimes in Iran and North Korea determined to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the United States, with the possibility that a terrorist group could gain control of a nuclear weapon, it is folly to abandon a missile shield for the country.

U.S. Leadership in the Asian-Pacific Community. We are a Pacific nation with economic, military, and cultural ties to all the countries of the oceanic rim, from Australia, the Philippines, and our Freely Associated States in the Pacific Islands to Japan and the Republic of Korea. With them, we look toward the restoration of human rights to the suffering people of North Korea and the fulfillment of their wish to be one in peace and freedom. The U.S. will continue to demand the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs with a full accounting of its proliferation activities. We celebrate the political and economic development of most of the nations of Southeast Asia. Their example of material progress through hard work and free enterprise, in tandem with greater democracy should encourage their less fortunate neighbors to set aside crippling ideologies and embrace a more humane future. While our relations with Vietnam have improved, and U.S. investment is welcomed, we need unceasing efforts to obtain an accounting for, and repatriation of the remains of, Americans who gave their lives in the cause of Vietnamese freedom. We cannot overlook the continued repression of human rights and religious freedom, as well as retribution against ethnic minorities and others who assisted U.S. forces dur