Friday :: Feb 11, 2005

Dealing With The North Korean Mess Bush Has Allowed To Fester

by Steve

The latest moves from North Korea are pathetic reminders that we are dealing with a regime led by loons. Obviously this latest maneuver by Pyongyang was aimed at getting the Bush Administration to pull out of the multilateral talks that were underway, and to deal directly with them.

No dice. Sure, it would have been better for the incoming Bush Administration to continue what was underway between Seoul, Washington, and Pyongyang when they came into office. And, yes, as a result we have lost four critical years where we could have had inspectors on the ground and controls in place to stop the North from becoming a nuclear player capable now of spreading weapons to terrorists. The responsibility for those developments rests squarely on the heads of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, not Bill Clinton.

What also rests on the head of Bush and Cheney is the fact that while we have 150,000 troops tied down occupying the one member of the Axis of Evil that posed no such threat to us, this administration has allowed the other two members of that Axis to become real threats. It also rests squarely on the heads of Bush and Cheney that their new best friend Pakistan has aided and abetted both North Korea and Iran with the development of their programs, right under the noses of Washington, and neither Bush or Cheney are willing to hold Musharraf accountable for that. No wonder that our allies question our commitment to nonproliferation.

It should also be pointed out, according to this piece in today's Post, that the North's move yesterday is a finger in the eye to China, which has been arguing for patience with Pyongyang, and now finds itself rewarded for that position with this announcement. China will have to deal with the North itself on this humiliation. But also note that Pyongyang said that what prodded them to make their announcement yesterday was the rhetoric in Condi's confirmation hearing testimony wherein she called North Korea an "outpost of tyranny." All true, but it also reflects that nagging habit of this administration to use strong rhetoric as a substitute for the tough work of diplomacy, as if calling someone names works on the world stage. The North doesn't apparently think much of Dr. Rice, about the only thing I share in common with them.

That being said, Washington should not reward Pyongyang now for pulling out of the multilateral talks by agreeing to face-to-face talks, despite the good points made in a NYT editorial today. You can call for all the enlightened diplomacy you want, and if that means letting our other negotiating partners put a carrot out there to get the North back to the table, then fine. But Washington and the other players in these talks must tell the North that they’ll either starve waiting for face-to-face talks, or they can come back to the table to resume the multination talks. There aren't really any other good options, since we've wasted four years now of not having any people on the ground or developing any additional leverage upon them. As erratic as the leadership in Pyongyang is, they are not a direct threat to us at this time, except for the real threat they pose in selling what they can develop to those who would use it against us as nonstate actors. But again, that responsibility rests on Bush's head anyway; he obviously doesn't care about that.

Steve :: 6:41 AM :: Comments (11) :: Digg It!