One of the main problems faced by the Obama Administration as it attempts to expedite the release of detained journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee is making contact with anyone at the North Korean end, let alone the proper senior government officials. Kim Jong-il may be ailng again, his 26-year-old son Kim Jong-un is far from ready to take the reins and the military folk in between are all jockeying for position.
So here’s an unconventional idea on how to deal with an extremely unconventional situation: in exchange for the release of Ling and Lee, have the U.S. government offer the promise of an immediate U.S. diplomatic presence in Pyongyang. With the first order of business, for goodwill all around, consisting of the delivery of a 32-year-old Chinese American and a 36-year-old Korean American to the temporary embassy-consulate’s doorstep.
By planting the U.S. flag in Pyongyang, the U.S. would be in no way offering tacit approval of North Korea’s recent forceful actions. Rather, under the aegis of Obama’s election campaign desire to solve matters with our adversaries through good old-fashioned dialogue, our nation would be taking a necessary step towards the facilitation of bilateral discussions of all pressing issues.
While this may be a most dramatic way for the United States to implicitly acknowledge North Korea’s “importance,” there’s no guarantee Kim Jong-il and co. would go for the idea, one with a set of logistics that makes it hard to enact quickly. Still, imagine if the permanent legacy of Ling and Lee’s awful ordeal was a 21st century model of civilized conflict addressing.
This wouldn’t make the whole episode any easier to accept, but for someone like Ling – who has always been concerned with the welfare of others – it might eventually ease the pain just a little.