Now that negotiations appear to have begun between the United States and North Korea in an attempt to resolve the matter of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, it’s important to remember that before a special envoy such as @AlGore or @JohnKerry can head to Pyongyang, a deal must be in place. As @GovRichardson was quick to point out during his early media appearances, the envoy’s trip should be something of a formality, with conditions for the journalists’ release already fully defined and mutually agreed upon.
If the Pyongyang contacts visited a few weeks ago by U.S. scholar Dr. Han S. Park are correct, an important component of any deal will be hammering out the language of an official U.S. apology (tricky business given the current overall political climate). While Washington may be open to semantics that indicate we’re sorry two of our own crossed a sovereign border, it’s doubtful we will go so far as to promise that every effort will be made to avoid a repeat future occurrence of “grave crimes.”
There’s also the matter of the envoy’s security detail. Though no country, not even North Korea, would be foolish enough to try and detain an official U.S. government representative, he-she and their entourage are going to want to feel protected in Pyongyang. Everything, essentially, has to be negotiated.
Last but not least, there’s the notion of a ceremonial gift, which can be a surprise. North Korea‘s official news service, KCNA, is constantly issuing releases about delegations of foreign dignitaries delivering presents to Kim Jong-il. But what do you get the man who co-opts everything?
A dozen Kobe Bryant jerseys… a $200,000 bottle of Hennessy Beauté du Siècle cognac… Wii Fit? Whatever the item turns out to be, the U.S. may be well advised – given the current economic times – to keep its exact nature classified.
(And if these negotiations fail, it’s hard to say what the next logical U.S. step should be.)