Tags: Spy | Plane | Solution: | Saving | Face | Key

Spy Plane Solution: Saving Face Is Key

Wednesday, 04 April 2001 12:00 AM

Using these past cases, we

Americans have a very hard time understanding a key ingredient in the Oriental culture: the concept of Saving Face.

No matter the situation – including winning or losing, which to Americans is the bottom line – in Asia, Saving Face is even

The case that is perhaps the most analogous to this one was the 1968 capture and release 11 months later of the U.S. Naval spy ship, the USS Pueblo.

Like our EP-3 along China, the Pueblo was cruising along the coast of North Korea 'listening' into secret military radio traffic. Suddenly out came North Korean high-speed gun ships and opened fire. There was no time for air cover to arrive from Japan. (It did not help that the CINCPAC admiral in charge was out playing golf that day in Hawaii and by the time they found him the ship was already being led into a Wonsan harbor.)

Captain Lloyd Bucher and his crew were held for almost a year, tortured, beaten and mistreated.

All the while the dispute centered on one salient fact that may become the centerpoint in this spy plane case: Did the U.S. violate the territorial space of a sovereign nation? North Korea said we did, we were adamant that we did not.

Finally, with LBJ headed out the door, he wanted to clean the mess up in time to get the crew home for Christmas in 1968. He authorized our negotiators to sign a joint demarche with the North Koreans in which we

Then our chief negotiator immediately stepped from the Panmujon tent where the signing ceremony was being conducted and addressed a contingent of assembled press. He told them in no uncertain terms, "We just signed a totally false statement. We at no time violated the sovereign territory of North Korea."

The crew was released and came home.

Both sides had won.

We got our men back. (The Pueblo itself has never been returned and never will be.)

North Korea had an official admission by the great evil power, the USA, to wave around.

Kim Il Song, one of the world's worst despots, had Saved Face

This typical diplomatic double-talk is going to come into play in this spy plane case. Both sides are hardening their domestic positions – note Colin Powell saying "there is nothing for us to apologize for" while Beijing is insisting on an apology.

In the end, we

They will then release our crew. (The fate of the plane itself? If they give it back, it will have been stripped down and will be worthless to us.)

Now, one other

Unbeknownst to most Americans then and now, shortly after the Pueblo crew was freed, a U.S. agent delivered a suitcase to a North Korean agent with $10 million in cash in it.

This payoff completed the Pueblo story.

What 'secret' side deal price will the Bush administration agree to in order to assuage Beijing and grease the skids for the release of our crew?

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Using these past cases, we Americans have a very hard time understanding a key ingredient in the Oriental culture: the concept of Saving Face. No matter the situation - including winning or losing, which to Americans is the bottom line - in Asia, Saving Face is...
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2001-00-04
Wednesday, 04 April 2001 12:00 AM
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