8.27.2010

A less spectacular rescue

Jimmy Carter emerges triumphant from North Korea, with a surreptitious border-crosser now safe. But things didn't quite go off without incident:
Park Han-sik, an international affairs professor at the University of Georgia who arranged Carter’s visit, said Wednesday, “Former President Carter has sought a North Korea visit since tension heightened on the Korean Peninsula due to the Cheonan sinking, and flew to Pyongyang under the condition of holding a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il,” indicating that such an encounter was assured.

If no meeting is held, this will probably perplex the Obama administration since it has repeatedly stressed that Carter made the visit for humanitarian purposes in his capacity as a private citizen. Since Washington permitted the trip despite the scheduled announcement of additional financial sanctions on Pyongyang, the U.S. probably feels dumbfounded over Kim’s unexpected trip.
Now, since the administration has stressed that this is not a diplomatic visit but a private one, there isn't exactly diplomatic protocol to breach, as some have suggested. But it seems to be a very pointed event that can only really be read as a snub -- and the context is quite interesting.