(AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Why the North Korea situation won't be getting better any time soon

Two stories indicate that there may be no solutions in Korea


Jeremy Binckes
November 17, 2017 7:37PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump is facing a North Korean problem, and it doesn't look like there's a solution available to hi,.

North Korea, the rogue country that has recently been showing off its nuclear weapons, is indicating that it won't be meeting the United States at the negotiating table because the U.S. has been working closely with South Korea in joint military exercises, according to Reuters.

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South Korea and the United States agreed on Friday to keep working for a peaceful end to the North Korean nuclear crisis, but a U.S. envoy said it was difficult to gauge the reclusive North’s intentions as there has been “no signal.”

North Korea has long viewed its nascent nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to any potential American or South Korean strong arming. The cycle of escalation, deescalation, threats and broken negotiations has been unending almost since the cessation of hostilities in the Korean War.

We forward negotiations, they dance with us, we sell arms to South Korea or do military exercises and it all falls apart, forcing us to restart negations beginning the cycle again. It's proved as pointless as it is frustrating.

But that alliance — and that cycle — seems to matter less and less now that Trump has indicated he feels that China is the key to dealing with North Korea.

Unfortunately, it's tough to see China as a solution, either.

According to  a different Reuters report, China is partly responsible for feeding many of North Korea's citizens, giving the communist nation notable sway over the rogue state.

That would all be fine and good, if China were doing a halfway decent job of providing food. Instead, there are strong suggestions that it should share the blame for the current widespread malnutrition that's engulfing North Korea, a problem that greatly contributes to the nation's belligerence and instability:

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Parasitic worms found in a North Korean soldier, critically injured during a desperate defection, highlight nutrition and hygiene problems that experts say have plagued the isolated country for decades.

The parasites, along with kernels of corn in his stomach, may confirm what many experts and previous defectors have described about the food and hygiene situation for many North Koreans.

While the contents of the soldier’s stomach don’t necessarily reflect the population as a whole, his status as a soldier – with an elite assignment - would indicate he would at least be as well nourished as an average North Korean.

The problems, as Reuters noted, came from a disturbing trend: fertilizer made from animal and human feces. The country is facing a terrible drought, and seems to be surviving mainly on corn imports from China, according to Reuters, an untenable situation held together by a broken relationship between two unreliable partners.

Thus, even our best option for an ally in controlling North Korea's nuclear aims isn't exactly the best ambassador to it. Never mind the fact that the U.S. itself isn't on strong footing with China when it comes to matters of foreign policy. While financially bonded to each other, the two nations often rattle sabers over Taiwan and other issues. Trump's choice of a go-between with North Korea is a poor partner from every angle.

So, the Asia-Pacific faces a nuclear nation led by desperate despot who constantly dangles the prospect of war and the most consequential world power trying to stare him down, the U.S., cannot negotiate directly with him and instead relies on two diplomatic partners for leverage, one an untrusted enemy of North Korea and another that feeds it pestilent food.

This isn't a Korean problem anymore. It's a world one and the best possible solution looks rotten from the inside out.

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Jeremy Binckes

Jeremy Binckes is the senior news editor at Salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

China Donald Trump Foreign Relations North Korea South Korea

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