Clinton succeeds by stroking Kim

Former President Bill Clinton visited North Korea and was successful in winning the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, American journalists who crossed into North Korea from China illegally in March, were arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor.
Their release this week reflected North Korea’s “humanitarian and peaceloving policy,” the Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang early Wednesday.
While he was in the country, Clinton held talks with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong II, and told him the release of the women would help “deepen the understanding” between the two nations.
The release of the women was appropriate, but so was their arrest. Mexican journalists who snuck into the U.S. without papers would also face arrest and jail — and would most probably be released if a former president came calling in Washington.
What the release showed was that Kim wants to be treated as though he mattered. By sending an envoy with as much international prestige as Bill Clinton, Washington gave Kim the respect he craves.
It is too early to read more than that from this week’s tale. It must be assumed that North Korea let Washington know that Clinton’s mission would be successful. Perhaps Clinton also learned from Kim himself that more talks could be arranged and agreements on broader subjects might be reached.
This opening, slight as it may be, should be explored soon and with good will. North and South Korea, as well as China and Japan, have an enormous amount to gain from re-establishment of free trade between the Koreas, an end to the enormously expensive and dangerous military confrontation on their border, and the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear weap-ons.
Re-unification of the Koreas would spark an economic resurgence that would be regionwide.
China would be relieved of the burden of providing food and fuel to the North and spared dealing with a constant flow of refugees.
For our part, a genuine peace there would let the U.S. complete its military withdrawal from the region as we no longer wound be needed as a target that no aggressor would dare to strike.
Could all these wondrous things spring from Mr. Clinton’s trip to Pyongyang? It was an oriental philosopher, Lao-tzu, who said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And nobody gets any where without plodding forward.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.