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NEWSFLASH: John McCain Says Nothing of Interest on North Korea

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Politico:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is calling for “regime change” in North Korea – and blames the recent crisis on the failings of Pyongyang’s lone international supporter, China.

“It’s time we talked about regime change in North Korea – and I do not mean military action – but I do believe that this is a very unstable regime,” McCain told Candy Crowley Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”.

“They are now passing on from the “Dear Leader” to the “Sweet Leader,” a 27-year-old four-star general.”

McCain, in his first appearance on the show, lit into Beijing, while tepidly endorsing China’s plan for emergency multi-party talks.

That’s… deeply enlightening. I’m not sure what “regime change” means in policy terms outside the context of military action, but I’m guessing that it involves basing future actions on the assumption that the North Korean regime will fall, and that achieving a major diplomatic accord with Pyongyang should effectively be postponed beyond that date. As I suggested earlier, as a realistic prediction about the future of US relations with North Korea, this argument is probably sound; the US has operated with a de facto assumption about North Korea’s limited lifespan since roughly 1989. I hasten to add that proceeding on the assumption that the North Korean regime would either collapse or wither of its own accord wasn’t wholly irrational, given the events of 1989 and the slow-motion moderation of the Chinese and Vietnamese regimes. Nevertheless, the assumption has made serious diplomatic accomodation with North Korea an exceedingly low probability event.

The idea that your counterpart will be dead in a couple of years tends to put a damper on the negotiating process. ¬† Operating under such an assumption probably doesn’t help those within North Korea who would favor a China/Vietnam style moderation and slow reform. ¬†However, elements particular to the North Korean situation, primarily the existence of wildly successful alternative model of Korean nationalism next door, may have ingrained paranoia into the North Korean security state absent any US contribution.

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