With President Obama visiting Colombia for the sixth Summit of the Americas and President Rousseff of Brazil visiting Washington, US relations with Latin America have been back in the headlines. Expectations for closer commercial ties and for openings for US exports are high. Political relations are more hesitant. Many observers drew attention to the fact that Rousseff received a lower level of reception than UK Prime Minister Cameron. A State Department official commented to us: “In principle we welcome Brazil’s emergence as a top tier power; in practice, we are still adjusting to the implications. We did not welcome Brazil’s intervention over Iran.” In parallel, the G-8 Foreign Ministers meeting underlined the traditional power distribution. It issued a sharp criticism of the missile launch by North Korea. The melodramatic failure of this test has relieved much of the immediate tension on the Peninsular, but Washington analysts are speculating on longer-term consequences. Central questions are whether Kim Jung-un’s leadership has been damaged and whether his status with the military may be challenged. A further question is whether he may seek to redress this setback by staging a nuclear test. One certain outcome is that US attitudes have significantly hardened. The 240,000 tons of food aid agreed to in February is now suspended and, with Republicans criticizing Obama for “emboldening” Pyongyang, US policy will not be relaxed in advance of the election. The risk here is, as an NSC official explained to us, that North Korea will conclude that it has nothing to gain from moderating its behavior and will thus seek to stoke tensions over the summer. A broader issue is whether the test failure calls into question the reliability of North Korean technology, some of which has been exported to Iran. Here, US policy remains to emphasize a diplomatic solution may have been strengthened. Expectations for the current round of talks in Istanbul have been kept deliberately low, but they are expected to set the stage for further meetings over the coming weeks. So long as these continue, the prospects for military action by the US and Israel are minimal.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Posted by G, M, Z, or B at 5:19 PM