With denuclearization stalled, Biden should focus on human rights reform in North Korea

The last weeks joint statement Between President BidenJoe BidenMcGahn to testify next week ahead of a closed-door panel on long-standing bout Biden discusses Israel-Gaza ceasefire, Middle East relations with Egypt’s al-Sisi EU for sanction Belarus for hijacked theft PLUS and Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea (ROK), opened with a statement of “shared vision for a region governed by democratic standards, human rights and the rule of law in the country and to abroad ”.

It was a lighter, but equally appropriate, version of the US-Japan joint statement after Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s visit in April: “An ocean separates our countries, but commitments to universal values ​​and common principles, including freedom, democracy, human rights, the rule of law, international law, multilateralism and a free and just economic order, unite us.

(Of course, all this tripartite sharing of values ​​has yet to overcome the painful legacy of the historic period when the two Asian states were ruled by dictatorial regimes and the more powerful subjugated the weaker. Proclaims that “the ally” of my ally is my enemy. ”)

The Biden-Moon declaration said that common – universal – values ​​require activism: “As democracies that value pluralism and individual freedom, we share our intention to promote human rights and human rights issues. the rule of law, both at home and abroad. ”

It was not clear whether the leader of the Republic of Korea, which supports unification, sees North Korea as “domestic” as part of the Korean Peninsula, or “abroad” since the two states are separated at the 38th parallel by a woefully different system of government in the North. Either way, North Korea qualifies for serious governance reform.

Yet despite the Biden administration’s emphasis on human rights as opposed to the former President TrumpDonald Trump McGahn will testify next week before the closed-door House panel on Biden DOJ’s long-standing subpoena fight to appeal court order to release obstruction memo from Trump President NRSC urges Trump to support incumbents in 2022 PLUSAccording to North Korea’s record, neither Biden nor Moon mentioned the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe that defines North Korea – nor any desire to “promote human rights and the rule of law” there. -low.

the North Korea Human Rights Committee, the State Department and the United Nations have all reported on the humanitarian disaster in North Korea. Human Rights Watch, which calls it “one of the most repressive states in the world“Said the UN report” concluded that the government had committed crimes against humanity, including extermination, murder, slavery, torture, imprisonment, rape and other forms of sexual violence and forced abortion ”.

Yet it was the very unempathetic Donald Trump who delivered a series of major speeches in 2017 and 2018, drawing the world’s attention to the monstrous tragedy unfolding in North Korea.

In September 2017, he told the United Nations: “No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the well-being of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. He is responsible for the starvation of millions of North Koreans and the imprisonment, torture, murder and oppression of countless more.

To illustrate the “evil nature of the regime,” he said, “We have all witnessed the regime’s murderous abuses when an innocent American student, Otto Warmbier, was sent back to America to die there a few days later.

Two months later, Trump addressed the South Korean National Assembly, saying, “An estimated 100,000 North Koreans suffer in the gulags, toil in forced labor and endure torture, starvation, rape and murder on a constant basis.”

Finally, in his State of the Union 2018 speech, Trump said: “[N]o The regime oppressed its own citizens more completely or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea. He dramatized the point by featuring a North Korean defector in tears and waving crutches, and again mentioned Pyongyang’s barbaric treatment of Otto Warmbier. The next day he hosted a group other North Koreans who had fled Kim jong unKim Jong Un Bad Moon falls: South Korean leader hesitates at summit with Biden Biden appoints special envoy to North Korea North Korea is top priority in first meeting between Biden and South Korean leader READ MOREstate penitentiary, providing an oval office platform to recount their grotesque ordeals.

Such unpleasant questions were not mentioned at the Biden-Moon conference – nor at previous Trump-Moon meetings – because Moon has his own agenda with North Korea and it does not include confrontation. Trump, after his six-month human rights blitz, has never returned to the issue. It had served its purpose, by providing leverage on Kim as an essential part of Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, with harsh economic sanctions and even harsher rhetoric on “the complete destruction of North Korea.” “.

But, with nuclear negotiations apparently reactivated, human rights were once again relegated to the background, where they had been under all previous administrations as they focused on denuclearization. Trump even said after the 2019 Hanoi summit that he accepted Kim’s profession of innocence in the Warmbier atrocity. His first brutal challenge to the legitimacy of the Kim regime had vanished in the Trump-Kim glow “love lettersAnd the lingering hope that a nuclear breakthrough is still possible.

Now, the human rights ball in North Korea is in the Biden camp, where, given the president’s humanitarian impulses, it is likely receiving the sustained attention of his administration. By this standard, the Biden-Moon meeting was very short.

But the opportunity remains. Now that Biden has adopted what Moon hailed as “a very calibrated, practical, gradual, step-by-step, and very flexible approach” to denuclearization – a lot like the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” – the rights of l man could move forward and center.

This would be consistent with Biden’s criticism of Trump for inflating Kim’s international reputation with his face-to-face meetings. He said at a press conference: “I would not do what has been done in the recent past. I would not give him everything he is looking for: national and international recognition as legitimate.

Biden has all the ammunition he needs to resume the Kim regime delegitimization that Trump started and then abandoned. He could start by publicly demanding a plan for the systematic elimination of North Korea. gulag system. He just needs to muster the will to ignore the vituperation and threats he will hear from both Pyongyang and Beijing about regime change – and the doubts of Asian experts who may still further the failed policies of the past. .

Chinese leader Xi Jinping, of course, will see the writing on the wall regarding China’s range of concentration camps in Xinjiang and its growing human rights violations. It would be a good thing for a Biden administration in which the Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden discusses Israel-Gaza ceasefire, Middle East relations with UK al-Sisi in Egypt calls on airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace after commercial plane was forced to land Majority Says Hamas Responsible for Middle East Violence: Poll READ MORE already ratified the declaration of his predecessor, Mike PompeoMike PompeoCOVID-19 Wuhan Laboratory Theory Gets More Serious Hill’s 12:30 pm report – Biden will mark the anniversary of George Floyd’s death on Tuesday Trump impeachment witness sues Pompeo, State for legal fees MORE, that Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

It would be a fitting application of Communist China’s penchant for “killing chickens to scare monkeys.”

Joseph Bosco was Director of China for the Secretary of Defense from 2005 to 2006 and Asia-Pacific Director of Humanitarian and Disaster Relief from 2009 to 2010. He is a non-resident researcher at the Institute for Corean-American Studies and member of the Advisory Board of the Global Taiwan Institute. Follow him on twitter @BoscoJosephA.

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