Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

John Bolton on NorKs and mistakes made

It's not often that we address two Opinion Journal pieces in the same day. Peggy Noonan's column deserved the well-rounded rebuke (Sorry, Peggy but you can't play nice with the rabid dogs that bite and snap no matter what you do). But John Bolton makes up for her bemoaning with a must-read piece on how diplomacy has failed to bring Kim Jong-Il to heel:

HT: The Corner's Jay Nordlinger

The Six-Party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program have now descended into a miasma of "working groups," one of which, on U.S.-North Korea bilateral issues, will meet this weekend in Geneva. It is worth paying attention to the outcome of this gathering.

North Korea wants to be taken off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and, as soon as possible, to enjoy full diplomatic relations with Washington. Pyongyang may well succeed, as many in the U.S. State Department seem more eager to grant full recognition to the Pyongyang dictatorship in North Korea than to the democracy in Taiwan. This would be a profound mistake on our part.

Nearly 200 days have passed since Feb. 13, when the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program produced an "agreement" to eliminate that program. Despite encomiums about the virtues of diplomacy, little real progress has been made in eliminating Pyongyang's program. Negotiations in July ended without agreement on a timetable, despite repeated State Department assurances since February that the North would be held to strict deadlines.

The Yongbyon reactor is shuttered, but that reactor was not frequently operational in the recent past, and may well be at the end of, or even beyond, its useful life. The return of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to Yongbyon provides North Korea with a new patina of respectability, despite the near certainty that significant nuclear activity is happening anywhere but Yongbyon.

In fact, the key change is that economic assistance is once again subsidizing and reinforcing Kim Jong Il's hold on power. Heavy fuel oil, food and other "humanitarian" assistance from South Korea, and substantial unpublicized aid from China are all flowing North. Cheeky Pyongyang is once again demanding that the outside world supply it with light-water nuclear reactors. The second North-South Summit in Pyongyang, postponed until October--closer to South Korea's presidential elections-- will provide renewed legitimacy to the North Korean dictatorship, and may bolster the political chances of South Korean advocates of appeasement, in turn providing Kim Jong Il even more breathing room.

And this is just the beginning. His indictment of the diplomatic path taken by the six-nation talks is rightly deserved criticism. But the money quote he has comes near the end of the piece in the second-to-last paragraph:

Finally, we need to learn the details of North Korean nuclear cooperation with other countries. We know that both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched. Whether and to what extent Iran, Syria or others might be "safe havens" for North Korea's nuclear weapons development, or may have already participated with or benefited from it, must be made clear.

The proliferation of nuclear weapons in recent years arose when the AQ Khan network was revealed in Pakistan. His efforts to provide research and technology to nations like North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were appalling when discovered. See, those nations weren't just hostile to us, but to the world, in general. They aren't fond of the West, nor of the West's Eastern allies in Japan, the Philippines, or even Australia and New Zealand.

This is a surprising development in watching North Korea's nuclear weapons situation. First, it's not clear if they have shut down their program (Mr. Bolton notes that the primary facility in question has been shut down, but that other facilities are around the country, and they might still be working on more bombs), and secondly, we're not sure who they have shared technology with. It is likely they may have shared technology and know-how with nations like Iran. If that's the case, then it throws the whole predicted timeline of nuclear development out the window.

Why? Because we have no idea what, if any, knowledge was shared, and if it was, we have no clue to the extent of it. We have no clue if the predicted timeline of Iran gaining a nuclear weapon still falls within the two year-to-five year window, or if they will achieve their goal of a nuclear weapon in much less time. Furthermore, without the proper monitoring in place, we have no idea if they are continuing this practice.

We were against negotiating with North Korea in the first place. We considered the prospect risky, at best, and never believed that North Korea would hold up their end of the bargain. As it was in 1994 when Madeline Albright held her negotiations with Kim Jong-Il and company, so it seems now that once again, we put far too much faith in a nation that has no desire to meet the demands made of it. And, once again, they're being fed plenty of carrots in exchange for a nod, a wink, and a bit of lip service.

I stated when the negotiations started back up that Reagan's "Law" should have been abided by: "Trust, but verify." We should have also executed his methods for bringing down the Soviets; North Korea would have been much easier to deal with had we brought them to their knees. Kim Jong-Il barely escaped two previous coups by his military when they were hungry and dealing with food shortages. Had we not rushed into to keep the little dictator propped up, the threatened, possible coup from last year (one in which even China said they'd assist in) might have removed him once and for all. The problem, as I noted then, and now is that the last thing we want is China taking over North Korea. It's a dangerous prospect and such a move could make North Korea a very dangerous proxy for China.

Given this report from Mr. Bolton there seems to be no other way to say this than to simply spit it out. The administration needs to pay closer attention to North Korea, possibly even initiating sanctions against them again. They also need to ratchet up pressure on Iran. If these two nations continue to exchange technology, the West is sure to get bitten by the mad dog mullahs in Tehran, or the sawed off little runt in North Korea.

Publius II

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