Daniel W. Drezner

And you thought the ASEAN Regional Forum was going to be boring

And you thought the ASEAN Regional Forum was going to be boring

Well, Glenn Kessler’s rundown on what’s happeing in Phuket is rich with blog-worthy goodness: 

The war of words between North Korea and the United States escalated Thursday, with North Korea’s Foreign Ministry lashing out at Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in unusually personal terms for "vulgar remarks" that it said demonstrated "she is by no means intelligent."

Clinton, who earlier this week likened North Korea to an unruly child, has rallied international isolation of North Korea at a 27-member regional security forum here. She met with her Russian, Chinese, South Korean and Japanese counterparts — the other key partners in suspended six-nation disarmament talks–and won strong statements of support from many delegations….

The Foreign Ministry statement attacking Clinton also amply demonstrated the North Korean mood. "We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to North Korean media. "Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping."

The fit of pique was apparently inspired by an interview Clinton gave ABC News while visiting New Delhi.

"What we’ve seen is this constant demand for attention [from North Korea]," Clinton said. "And maybe it’s the mother in me or the experience that I’ve had with small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention — don’t give it to them, they don’t deserve it, they are acting out."  (emphases added)

Some random thoughts:

1.  If I’m Chelsea Clinton, I’d be pretty cheesed off right now.  I never thought of her as particularly "unruly," but what other teenagers has Hillary spent time with?  [Cough, cough!!–ed.  Oh… right.]

2.  You have to give the North Koreans major chutzpah points for accusing other countries of being "unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community."  [UPDATE:  As Rob Farley puts it, "the Nork rhetoric vaguely reminds me of Daily Kos threads from the early days of the 2008 Democratic primary."] 

3.  It’s worth pointing out that we’re now in a place where the Bush administration look positively dovish on North Korea compared to the Obama administration.  Here’s another way of looking at it:  Both Dick Cheney and John Bolton are more comfortable with the Obama administration’s Nort Korea policy than Bush administration’s.  Think about that for a second. 

4.  A related point — remember how the Bush administration got pilloried for refusing to talk with Iran, arguing that doing so would confer a reward on the regime?  Kessler quotes Clinton as saying, with regard to the Six-Party Talks:  "We are open to talks with North Korea. But we are not interested in half measures.  We do not intend to reward the North just for returning to the table."   Now there is a difference between this position and that of the Bush administration vis-à-vis Iran — but it’s not nearly as big a difference as Obama defenders are likely to claim. 

5.  What’s the end game in all of this?  I think maybe, just maybe, the international community has found a status quo that makes the North Koreans less comfortable than everyone else.  Assuming that the interdiction and sanctions regime works well — which is a robust but not entirely unreasonable assumption — then North Korea gets nothing for thumbing its nose at the world except some more weapons-grade fissile material. 

That’s not nothing, but it’s not all that much either.  Pyongyang already has a deterrent to prevent invasion.  It can’t threaten nuclear blackmail all that persuasively, because it’s a pretty hollow threat on their part.  And if they can’t sell their technology to other countries, then there’s no profit in it for them either.  Which means they’re stuck, wallowing in their own barren dirt, feeling very, very lonely

Am I missing anything?