Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lest We Forget How the Korean Nuclear Crisis Became a Crisis


"Democrats Assail Bush's North Korea Policy" reads the headline of the story on Yahoo News. However, the photo at the right illustrates the utter bankruptcy and hypocrisy of the Democratic attacks. It shows the Clinton Administration's Secretaryt of State Madeleine Albright exchanging toasts with the Kim Il Jong six years ago this month, when Albright became the first American Secretary of State to visit North Korea. As reported at the time by CNN, one purpose of her trip was to explore the possibility of a visit to North Korea by President Clinton before he left office. In September of the previous year, President Clinton had relaxed economic sanctions against North Korea.

By October 2002, it became apparent that the Great Leader had successfully played the Clinton Administration for fools. That month, North Korea disclosed to U.S. diplomats that it had an ongoing secret nuclear weapons program, conducted in blatant violation of the 1994 non-proliferation agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. North Korea had pressed forward with its nuclear weapons research and development throughout the Clinton Presidency.

The Bush policy on North Korea's nuclear program has been to isolate North Korea diplomatically, coordinating with China, South Korea and Japan in multilateral negotiations to try to bring North Korea to heel, while keeping pressure on North Korea through economic sanctions. Both of these approaches have been successful to a degree. China has joined the U.S., South Korea and Japan in sharply condemning the recent North Korean missile and nuclear tests. The economic sanctions have bit deeply as well, cutting back on the cash flow that enables the Great Leader to pursue his favorite hobbies of drinking and women. Indeed, Kim's pique at the erosion of his lifestyle may in part explain the North Korean brinksmanship of the past few months.

The usual Democratic critique of Bush foreign policy is to decry the Administration's unilateralism. In this case, the Bush policy has been a model of multilater cooperation. But perhaps the Democrats believe that the Clinton/Albright model of toasting the despot would be more fruitful. Let us deeply hope that they have no opportunity to test that hypothesis.

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