Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Selig Harrison Calls for More US Imperialism

Rock Launched by North Korea
(Image from New York Times)

In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, "Drawing a Line in the Water" (December 12, 2010), Selig Harrison tells us the proper response to North Korea's recent shelling of Yeonpyeong Island: Give them what they want.

What does Mr. Harrison think the North wants? What it's long claimed to want, namely, a redrawing of the sea border between North and South Korea to provide the North more territory. I'll let readers go directly to the article to get the argument firsthand, but this 'minor' redrawing would result in a border that looks like this:

The blue line is the current border, but the North Koreans want the line redrawn a 'bit' to the south, as the 'slightly' lower, red line shows. That altered border would be so much less absurd, of course, and would obviously decrease tensions over inadvertent border violations since the North Koreans would undoubtly be satisfied with the generous new geographical reality and would never ever cross the narrow strips of water that link the South's islands to the South's greater territorial waters. North Korean ships would make sure to turn north and go the long way around rather than do anything so provocative as to violate a narrow strip of South Korean territory.

So, that would be a good thing.

But Mr. Harrison suggests an unfortunately imperialist means to this obviously quite desirable end:
[T]he United States should redraw the disputed sea boundary, called the Northern Limit Line, moving it slightly to the south.
Can we actually do that? Apparently:
[F]ortunately, President Obama has the authority to redraw the line. On July 7, 1950, a United Nations Security Council resolution established the United Nations Command for Korea and designated the United States as the executive agent, with authority to name its commander.
Mr. Harrison calls this 'fortunate', but I am less sanguine about the consequences. South Korea would never agree to such a change, and if the US were to press forward alone on Mr. Harrison's clearly ingenious solution to the North-South conflict in the Yellow Sea, the consequence in South Korea would be such an explosion of anti-American feeling -- at the audacity of this American imperialist action in ceding South Korean territory to an enemy -- that I suspect that I and every other American here would simply have to leave Korea.

Therefore, regardless of its brilliance as a solution to the conflict between North and South Korea over territorial waters in the Yellow Sea, I'm afraid that Mr. Harrison's suggestion just won't work to improve things in this part of the world.

Back to the old drawing board . . .

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