While we're discussing horsemeat in frozen foods

  Forum Editor 00:42 13 Feb 2013

others are getting on with the job of destabilising the world.

It's a demonstration of what can happen when a deluded, all-powerful youngster at the helm of a totalitarian state starts messing with stuff he doesn't understand.

  pavvi 20:56 16 Feb 2013

forum member

Very interesting links. One of the key parts of the first article is the reference to Axis of Evil. The ambassador and the americans appear to completely misunderstand Asian culture. It's not because they don't know, of course not. It's just that the political niceties of the West over-rule it. The reassurances could very well have had little value to DPRK because of how they were being portrayed. This is where they would run slap bang into the whole "face" aspect, and the shutters go up. To the North Koreans the Face issue can be more important than the political convenience for the West of labelling them as evil.

  Forum Editor 23:21 16 Feb 2013

fourm member

From the Ambassador's interview - he says:-

"More likely is the smoke-filled room scenario, where either China finally decides it’s had enough of North Korea and sits down with the U.S. to cut a deal so that one day Kim Jong Un wakes up to find his world has collapsed around him."

I totally agree.

  Forum Editor 23:25 16 Feb 2013


I can't agree with you when you say that "The ambassador and the americans appear to completely misunderstand Asian culture."

I think they both understand it very well. I have worked a good deal in China and Kong Kong, and in my youth I lived in Sri Lanka, spending a lot of time in India. I learnt plenty about Asian culture, and about 'Face', and in my business dealings with the Chinese I discovered that they're actually interested in one thing above all else, and that's winning. Once you understand that, it's not difficult to get along with them. Some of them like to play up the inscrutable Oriental , but deep down they're as easy to understand as anyone else. I got on very well with them,once I realised that in a business meeting business is the last thing to be mentioned. I'm sure that the same applies in diplomatic contacts.

North Korea is ruled by a despot of the worst kind, he'll pursue his aim of becoming a world influence if he possibly can, even if he has to bleed his country white and take it to the brink of a nuclear confrontation. Negotiating with him is a complete waste of time - he will only understand pressure, which brings me back to what I said in an earlier post about China's pivotal role in all this.

  pavvi 10:17 17 Feb 2013


I should have said that they chose to disregard it rather than misunderstand it. I share your experience of business meetings right across South East Asia, that never seem to discuss business. It's more the other party trying to get their measure of you.

My take on face is that it isn't necessarily about winning but about not being seen to lose. Despots will always want to be seen to win, however, and one issue that is relevant is that the way to play it might be to portray the end of successful negotiations showing that NK achieved something. Often, however, the West wants to show how powerful it is and wants it to be demonstrated that it has won. This goes head to head with the asian concept of face.

The only chance that NK can be persuaded to stand back will be if someone can convince them that by pulling back, they haven't lost. The only people that might be able to achieve this would be as you say, China. Allowing NK to think it hasn't lost will dampen the West's ability to say it has won. Will the WEst's triumphalism be more important than peace?

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