Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Dealing with the Norks

I’ve actually been an admirer of how the Bush Administration has dealt with North Korea. It was one of the areas that Kerry tried to use to distinguish himself from Bush on foreign policy and ended up further alienating me in the process. I never really believed he would abandon the six-way talks and deal with the Norks directly—up to, and including, re-negotiating the armistice of 1953—but was trying to draw a distinction between himself and Bush.

I said at the time that I was opposed to anything that marginalizes China, since they are the only country that has any real pull with the Norks, outside of the threat of force. Apparently we will deal with them directly on a limited basis:

The Bush administration is willing to hold limited face-to-face talks with North Korea and will continue to help feed the country, but will not sweeten a proposed trade of economic concessions for a halt in development of nuclear weapons, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea said Wednesday.

Maintaining a tough line, Ambassador Christopher Hill said, “They have to come to the table and respond to the proposal,” which includes guarantees the United States will not invade North Korea.

Hill also stressed that any direct negotiations with North Korea would be conducted only under the umbrella of the six-country format the Bush administration set up, in contrast to the Clinton administration’s one-on-one negotiations.

“We are prepared to talk to North Korea as part of the six-party process,” Hill said at the Asia Society. “But we are not prepared to undermine the six-party process” that includes China, South Korea, Japan and Russia in the talks.

I’ll be keeping an eye on this—I’m quite serious about thinking it’s a dumb idea to deal with them directly in a substantive way since that’s precisely what they want—and I think, based on the news recently, that we’re closer to a collapse of the DPRK that at any time. Their starvation has become obvious—so much so that it has stunted their physical growth—and the number of refugees has increased in recent years. Likewise, Japan has taken a more hostile approach to the Norks just in the past few days.

We’ll see. I think this limited offer is just to keep the DPRK from walking away altogether.