Thursday, July 28, 2005

Simulating the Six Party Talks

The Six Party Talks resumed this week in Beijing.
(edit: visit here for a funny Daily Show take on this)

As I keep saying, given the positions of each country, this negotiation shouldn't be that hard. Constructing a "win-set" is rather simple--trade nukes for aid and diplomacy. On the other hand, given the stubbornness of each party, its really hard to find a path to reach any agreement that everyone is willing follow.

The one thing this is good for is simulation. Positions are clear and relatively easy to role play. As I mentioned (and linked to) in my previous post, I had my class in Seoul go through a Six Party Talks simulation. Since we had only 10 students in that class, we cut out Russia and made it a 5 party talks, but the underlying dynamic was the same.

The simulation was quite insightful--not only did the students learn alot, but I think it revealed (to me at least) key dynamics at work in the current talks.

In the simulation, the players started off with hard-line positions. The DPRK team sat in a corner with no visitors, and the US tried to keep its partners on board. Eventually the Chinese team served as a go-between, relaying messages between the US and DPRK.
It soon became obvious to all the participants that nothing useful would happen until the US and DPRK delegates talked. They initially did this under the veneer of "3-party talks" where the Chinese team joined the US and DPRK delegates, but really, the Chinese delegate sat as the US and DPRK talked. It took half a day to get there. And those talks broke down when they couldn't agree on a deal.

Interestingly, that didn't kill the simulation. The DPRK team then tried to pick apart the US Coalition, cutting side deals. The Japanese team managed to get a pack on resolving the abductee issue. The South Korean team then stepped in and secured a pack to re-open the Inter-Korean Dialogue. It was here that the ROK team was able to bring the US and DPRK back together to reach a deal. And it was a standard deal, Nukes for Aid.

I'm running the same simulation this week, this time with a group of Japanese students visiting our school for a 3 week summer program. If it goes well, maybe it will make an appearance in World Politics this fall.

The simulation tells us alot about the real-world talks. It tells us that this is a real, real tough negotiation, that it will probably have its problems, and that the real progress can only come if the two key sides--USA and DPRK-- are a bit more flexible in their positions and sit down and actually talk to each other. And even if all that happens, it still is a tough road to hoe.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Long and Short View of it

The North Korean nuclear talks are back on, scheduled to start the week of July 25.
This is pretty exciting, for those who follow talks with North Korea, but not unexpected. It signals some real, serious movement after months of sniping back and forth. It also is the product of strong diplomatic signals between the US, China, South Korea, and North Korea. Moreover, given the dire state of North Korea's economy, it was expected that they would come back to the table in search of economic help (though, when in the past decade has the DPRK economy not been in dire straits???).

So, the short view is all focused on the resumption of the talks.
My class is also focusing on this, we're starting a simulation of the talks today (click here for the class website and student-created web pages for each negotiating team).

But this past week I have become more interested in the Long View, at least as seen in Seoul. I've been doing a little research, talking to a few folks around town about this issue. One of the things that has come up repeatedly is the different view that the ROK has about the DPRK. The premise is that reunification will happen at some point in the future, but that a Germany-style collapse of the Berlin Wall along the DMZ would be a disaster. The economic and health problems in North Korea are so severe that the South would bankrupt itself in trying to absorb its Northern neighbor as Germany did its East.

So, the South's notion is to rebuild North Korea through engagement over the long run. This has two benefits for the South. One, it offers more leverage in the long run. If the South can replace China and the US as the North's principle supplier of aid, it gives it new leverage. Second, its much cheaper and easier now to institute slow reforms in the North than it would be to deal with the consequences of further stagnation ten or fifteen years from now.

Consider just the problem of health and nutrition
. Food is so scarce in the North that childhood development is suffering--kids who are 17 or 18 look like they are only 13. The lack of proper nutrition is creating a generation of underdeveloped people likely to have chronic health problems. This is a humanitarian disaster in the abstract, but a very specific problem for the long-term thinkers in the South who look at these folks and see future ROK citizens--not now, not tomorow, but in 5-10-15 years down the road. Its much better to feed them now than deal with the longer term consequences of a lifetime of starvation.

So, as a result of this, you see a slightly different approach to the North between the US and ROK. While both are together on the importance of the nuclear issue, South Korea is pressing onward with its inter-Korean dialogue. The South has made it clear that the no inter-Korean progress can be made without progress on the nuclear issue, but its also clear that the US would like to make the aid and assistance that the South provides the North a bit more conditional on good behavior.

That type of conditionality may help with the short term problem but is not so important to the long view.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Bridge of No Return

My first attempt to photoblog (inspired, in part, by elizabeth).

Today's adventure in Seoul was a trip to the DMZ. This photo is the Bridge of No Return. Its taken from the South, in my tour bus safely in the ROK. The on the other side lies the DPRK. Such is the real life place for prisoner exchanges for those of you 007 fans.

Two things struck me about my trip to the DMZ and Joint Security Area of Panmunjom. The first was that I could go on a tour there at all. This is, lets recall, one of the most militarized and dangerous borders in the world. There is no formal treaty or agreement that establishes a border between North and South Korea, only a Military Demarcation Line as agreed to in the Armistice of 1953. And yet, you can go on a tour there. Lots of people do, its quite a popular tour. My tour group (through the Panmunjom Service Club) is one of many, there are tours to various parts of the DMZ each and every day. A serious tour to be sure--a formal dress code (no jeans, no t-shirts) and conduct code (walk in lines, don't point at North Korea at all)--but still a tour for all comers (except South Koreans) nonetheless. South Koreans need special clearance to go to Panmunjom, Americans just need a passport. You sense the tension on the border, but its a stable enough tension for tour groups. How's that for security?

The second is that the DMZ is quite an interesting place-- its green and alive with trees and rice paddies farmed by the 200 residents of the village inside the South Korean side of the DMZ. And the birds--tons of cranes. We passed a tree where a hundred of them were perched. It really is a military-made nature preserve. But its also hard to imagine tanks rolling south. There is the one road we took--it used to be the only road connecting North and South. Now there are a few, including a train. All built by Hyundai, all part of relatively recent meetings between North and South and agreements to re-engage each other. But, its hard to picture tanks rolling through these rice paddies, through these forrests and onto Seoul. Perhaps other areas of the DMZ are a bit different in terrain, but there are plenty of observation towers, high ground, an even a few streams and rivers (like the one the Bridge spans). Crossing all that would be quite a feat.

We talk about a place such as this all the time--you can't discuss Korea and not mention the DMZ at some point, especially if you are discussing IR and security. But to see it, to look into North Korea, it both impresses upon you the seriousness of the border and yet also the strange stability that it entails. There is security in that stability.

Security enough for tour busses at least.

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