Bush’s North Korea pol­icy draws jabs from the right

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By David R. Sands

Con­ser­va­tive crit­ics of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s North Korea pol­icy — in­clud­ing for­mer top se­cu­rity of­fi­cials from the pres­i­dent’s first term — say they are not as­suaged by the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s latest move to toughen the terms of a deal to end Py­ongyang’s nu­cle­ar­weapons pro­grams.

Th­ese op­po­nents say the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­peat­edly has of­fered con­ces­sions to keep the deal alive, even as North Korea has tested a nu­clear de­vice, ig­nored in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, re­pressed dis­sent at home and now stands ac­cused of help­ing Syria de­velop a se­cret nu­clear pro­gram.

“Al­low­ing North Korea to win its Cold War with the world will go down in his­tory as one of the most re­mark­able and dis­turb­ing el­e­ments in the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion legacy,” said David Asher, who co­or­di­nated the State De­part­ment’s North Korea Work­ing Group from 2001 to 2005 be­fore leav­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported two weeks ago that U.S. ne­go­tia­tors had won a ten­ta­tive agree­ment from Py­ongyang to re­lease thou­sands of ad­di­tional records dat­ing back nearly 20 years on its Yong­byon nu­clear site, con­sid­ered a crit­i­cal fa­cil­ity in the North’s nu­clear drive.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said they sought ac­cess to the new files in part to counter crit­i­cisms that they were low­er­ing the bar in the talks with Py­ongyang.

The North missed a Dec. 31 dead­line to re­veal all of its nu­clear as­sets, part of a Fe­bru­ary 2007 deal un­der which the North promised to even­tu­ally end all its nu­clear pro­grams in ex­change for eco­nomic aid and diplo­matic con­ces­sions from the United States and its al­lies.

Con­ser­va­tive crit­ics also have slammed the ad­min­is­tra­tion for eas­ing the re­port­ing re­quire­ments for the North’s nu­clear dec­la­ra­tion, and for hint­ing the North could be dropped from the of­fi­cial U.S. list of ter­ror-spon­sor­ing states while a num­ber of pro­lif­er­a­tion and es­pi­onage is­sues re­main un­re­solved.

The skep­ti­cism is shared on Capi­tol Hill, where law­mak­ers of both par­ties com­plained of be­ing kept largely in the dark about intelligence re­gard­ing North Korea’s Syria con­nec­tion.

The House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee on April 30 ap­proved a bill that would force Pres­i­dent Bush to cer­tify that North Korea had com­pletely dis­man­tled its nu­clear-weapons as­sets be­fore the North could be re­moved from the ter­ror list.

A day later, White House spokesman Tony Fratto de­clined to sug­gest a new dead­line for North Korea’s nu­clear dec­la­ra­tion, not­ing a State De­part­ment team was in Py­ongyang just the pre­vi­ous week.

“We just coun­sel some pa­tience and wait to see what we get back from the North Kore­ans in terms of their dec­la­ra­tion,” Mr. Fratto said.

U.S. of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge that dead­lines have been missed, but say the deal al­ready has suc­ceeded in shut­ting down the Yong­byon re­ac­tor. North Korea has agreed to de­mol­ish the cool­ing tower at the site when it is for­mally dropped from the ter­ror list.

John R. Bolton, the lead non­pro­lif­er­a­tion of­fi­cial in the State De­part­ment in Mr. Bush’s first term, has been the most out­spo­ken ex-of­fi­cial to at­tack the North Korea talks. But he is not the only one.

Carolyn Leddy, who served with Mr. Bolton in the State De­part­ment and then was the di­rec­tor of coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion strat­egy at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil from July 2006 to Novem­ber 2007, de­nounced the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “feck­less and dan­ger­ous” North Korea pol­icy two weeks ago at a fo­rum spon­sored by the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute.

“I’m not talk­ing about some con­ser­va­tive con­spir­acy to de­rail the talks,” she said. “This ad­min­is­tra­tion has al­ways lacked the will to ap­ply and sus­tain pres­sure on the North Korean regime to ac­tu­ally make any kind of dif­fer­ence.”

Mr. Asher re­called that Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials came to of­fice in 2001 crit­i­cal of the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempts to deal with the North and of the “Sun­shine Pol­icy” of en­gage­ment fa­vored by the gov­ern­ment in South Korea.

“We thought the sun­shine was more moon­shine,” he said.

But now, Mr. Asher said, North Korea has “crossed all the red lines we set in the talks, blown past all the in­ter­na­tional treaty com­mit­ments, and has paid no at­ten­tion to U.N. res­o­lu­tions,” while the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has re­fused to get tough.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears to have got­ten ine­bri­ated on the Clin­ton-era moon­shine, and lost sight of its orig­i­nal goals,” he said.

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