We’re vastly pleased that American journalist-adventurers Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been freed from a kangaroo-court 12-year sentence to hard labor in North Korea and returned to their families in the United States.
The episode is no doubt a testament to assiduous back-channel negotiations between the United States and the communistic/dynastic Asian “hermit kingdom” that seems to believe bad behavior is the key to international respect.
Welcome home, Laura and Euna. And if former President Bill Clinton gets a moment in the international spotlight, well, so what?
What strikes us, however, is the extent to which international relations, the vaunted arena of great powers and lesser powers earnestly maneuvering over grave issues of vast importance, often resembles nothing so much as petty squabbles on a kindergarten playground.
It has now become obvious that what the White House insisted was strictly a “private humanitarian mission” was the denouement of months of fairly intense negotiations. Yet petty gestures abounded.
A couple of weeks ago Hillary Clinton and the North Koreans exchanged childish insults. North Korean state media ran stories saying “Clinton expressed words of sincere apology.” Later U.S. government spokesmen denied that any apologies were issued.
Kim smiled. Clinton remained stone-faced.
Nyaah-nyaaah! So’s your old man.
Perhaps this is what it took to get the two women released. But it should remind us that sometimes high politics resembles professional wrestling more than solemn diplomacy.