Py­ongyang moon­shine

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Pres­i­dent Bush and Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice are com­ing un­der heavy fire from from one­time pres­i­den­tial loy­al­ists over the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s weak approach to North Korea. “This ad­min­is­tra­tion has al­ways lacked the will to ap­ply and sus­tain pres­sure on the North Korean regime to ac­tu­ally make a dif­fer­ence,” said Carolyn Leddy, who served with John Bolton in the State De­part­ment and later as di­rec­tor of coun­ter­pro­lif­er­a­tion strat­egy at the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil from July 2006 to Novem­ber 2007.

David Sands of The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported that David Asher, who co­or­di­nated the State De­part­ment’s North Korea Work­ing Group from 2001 to 2005, de­scribes the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy to­wards Py­ongyang this way: “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.” Mr. Asher adds that Kim Jongil’s regime has “crossed all the red lines we set [in the six-party talks on North Korea’s il­licit nu­clear weapons], blown past all the in­ter­na­tional treaty com­mit­ments, and has paid no at­ten­tion to U.N. res­o­lu­tions.” Mean­while, he says, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion has be­come “ine­bri­ated” on “Clin­ton-era moon­shine” when it comes to Py­ongyang.

In re­cent weeks, doves like Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Joseph Bi­den and Jack Pritchard, who ne­go­ti­ated with North Korea dur­ing the Clin­ton and Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tions, have used a much softer tone to raise some of the same sub­stan­tive con­cerns about the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s poli­cies.

They are ab­so­lutely right. Mr. Bi­den, for his part, said the United States should not lift sanc­tions on the North “un­less “we are able to con­firm that North Korea is no longer in the nu­clear-pro­lif­er­a­tion busi­ness.” Mr. Pritchard has been crit­i­cal of the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan to spare North Korea the in­dig­nity of hav­ing to pro­vide a full ac­count­ing of its nu­clear pro­grams (in­stead, Wash­ing­ton will de­clare what it knows, and North Korea will ac­knowl­edge what Wash­ing­ton says it has — but ap­par­ently won’t have to pro­vide any ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion of its own.) Sim­i­larly, Les­lie Gelb and Win­ston Lord, se­nior for­eign pol­icy of­fi­cials in the Clin­ton and Carter ad­min­is­tra­tions, re­cently co-au­thored an oped in The Wash­ing­ton Post in which they said that the United States would be bet­ter off go­ing back to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble than con­tin­u­ing to make du­bi­ous con­ces­sions to North Korea. Py­ongyang missed a Dec. 31 dead­line to dis­close key de­tails of its nu­clear pro­gram, in ex­change for which it was to re­ceive var­i­ous eco­nomic and diplo­matic ben­e­fits. But the ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to send out sig­nals sug­gest­ing that if North Korea holds out long enough, Wash­ing­ton will make con­ces­sions even if it fails to keep its prom­ises. For ex­am­ple, meet­ing with re­porters last month, Miss Rice sug­gested that one ma­jor ben­e­fit for North Korea — re­moval from the U.S. list of ter­ror-sup­port­ing states, which would re­move an im­por­tant ob­sta­cle to in­ter­na­tional le­git­i­macy and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance — would not have to wait un­til all ver­i­fi­ca­tion of North Korea’s nu­clear pro­grams had been com­pleted.

The fol­low­ing week, the ad­min­is­tra­tion, af­ter com­ing un­der pres­sure from Congress, fi­nally briefed law­mak­ers about the Sept. 6 Is­raeli air strike which the Al Kibar nu­clear fa­cil­ity in north­east­ern Syria. As U.S. intelligence of­fi­cials laid out the ev­i­dence that Al Kibar was a nu­clear weapons-re­lated fa­cil­ity built by North Korea, mem­bers of Congress are in­creas­ingly wor­ried about the di­rec­tion be­ing taken by the ad­min­is­tra­tion. Sens. Jon Kyl, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, and John En­sign, Ne­vada Repub­li­can and 12 of their Se­nate GOP col­leagues signed a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Bush ex­press­ing con­cern about the di­rec­tion that talks be­tween chief U.S. ne­go­tia­tor Christo­pher Hill and North Korea have taken. In their let­ter, the law­mak­ers said that the cur­rent state of ne­go­ti­a­tions sends the wrong mes­sage to rogue regimes like the one in Iran.

It’s past time for all of the rel­e­vant na­tional se­cu­rity com­mit­tees of the House and Se­nate to be­gin to take a very care­ful look at the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the North Korea nu­clear deal and what the United States will be get­ting in re­turn for tak­ing North Korea off the ter­ror­ism list. We note that Sen. John McCain, the pre­sump­tive Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee and a se­nior mem­ber of the Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, crit­i­cized Sen. Barack Obama’s diplo­matic approach to diplo­macy, say­ing that North Korea’s nu­clear as­sis­tance to Syria showed the folly of un­con­di­tional talks with for­eign ad­ver­saries. When it comes to North Korea pol­icy, Mr. McCain would also do well to put as much dis­tance as pos­si­ble be­tween him­self the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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