WE DELIVER HEADLINES!
U.S. policy toward North Korea is a case study of what can happen when an administration is sharply divided over an issue: Rhetoric becomes disconnected from actions; feuding Cabinet departments produce a muddy strategy that confuses friends and foes alike.
Korea is the crisis that sneaked up on the Bush administration just when it wanted to focus the world's attention on Iraq. The administration, in fact, doesn't even want to call North Korea's push for nuclear weapons a "crisis." But it surely is one, and it illustrates some deeper tensions between the State and Defense departments that have been plaguing this administration.
Korea, above all, demonstrates the danger of moralizing foreign policy. Once you have declared a regime "evil" -- as Bush famously did in his condemnation of North Korea, Iraq and Iran as an "axis of evil" -- how then do you negotiate with it? Yet that is just what the Bush administration is now being pushed to do, because of the political and military realities of the Korean peninsula.
As Bush insiders tell the tale, the administration battled internally for its first year and a half over what to do about North Korea. Secretary of State Colin Powell initially signaled that there would be little change from the Clinton administration's policy of engagement and its 1994 "Agreed Framework" for defusing the nuclear issue. But that continuity approach quickly collapsed. Hawks at the Pentagon, at the National Security Council and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office -- suspicious of anything associated with Bill Clinton and dubious about engagement with Pyongyang -- vetoed dialogue until the North made new concessions.
For months the administration couldn't agree whether it favored diplomacy or confrontation. Finally, in mid-2002, a decision was made to engage North Korea by sending the first high-level Bush emissary, Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly. The idea initially was to present the North with a "bold initiative," not unlike the breakthrough Clinton had hoped to seal with a presidential trip to Pyongyang just before he left office.
But around the time Bush finally decided to send his emissary, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that the North had been lying about its compliance with the framework and was secretly continuing its efforts to build nuclear weapons. The Kelly mission in October 2002 thus become one of confrontation. To the administration's surprise, the North Koreans admitted to Kelly that his evidence about their secret nuclear program was correct. In that admission, Pyongyang was either extending a bargaining chip or demonstrating its implacable determination to acquire nuclear weapons, depending on which faction of the administration you support.
The hawks' line is simple: The United States cannot reward Pyongyang's blatant cheating by making concessions. And North Korea may seem a test case of the Bush national security strategy, issued last September, which urged preemptive first strikes against rogue states that sought to acquire nuclear weapons.
So where's the preemptive attack? It appears to have been preempted, as rhetoric met realpolitik.
The unhappy fact is that the United States doesn't have good military options against Pyongyang. There are too many North Korean troops and artillery pieces just across the DMZ from Seoul, and the cost of any U.S. attack would be devastating losses for South Korea. Since North Korea is thought to have at least two nuclear bombs already, it could even launch a nuclear retaliation.
That's the fundamental difference between North Korea and Iraq, if you were wondering. For all the administration's rhetoric about Saddam Hussein, Baghdad is relatively weak militarily. That makes it a far easier target than, and thus preferable to, Pyongyang.
Further confounding administration hard-liners is the fact that they badly misread public opinion in South Korea. When Bush took office, administration hawks argued that President Kim Dae Jung had only thin support for his "Sunshine Policy" of engagement with the North. But "Sunshine" turns out to be very popular in the South, and South Koreans resent what they increasingly see as American meddling. They want one Korea, and they don't seem particularly upset at the idea that it would have (the North's) nuclear weapons.
These policy complications explain why the Bush administration's rhetoric has been so gentle since the crisis began. The doves seem to have won their case that Washington doesn't have a good alternative to diplomacy. Bush may still talk about North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as someone he "loathes," who "starves his people." But meanwhile, Powell continues to insist that "nobody's going to attack North Korea" and that a diplomatic solution will be found. No wonder people are confused.
Bush's ability to tolerate conflicting views from State and Defense has been one of his strengths, but the Korea crisis shows the danger of going in two directions at once. The choice in dealing with North Korea is the same as it was the day Bush took office: diplomacy or confrontation. The administration delayed so long in framing its policy that both approaches are now far more difficult than they needed to be.
It's time to choose. On Korea, Bush can't be a moralist and a pragmatist at the same time.--David Ignatius, Washington Post, 01.07.03
April 2, 2002
Memorandum to the Secretary of State
SUBJECT: U.S. Contribution to the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization Determination Regarding Funds Under the Heading "Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs" in Title II of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2002 (public Law 107-115) Pursuant to the authority vested in me by section 565(c) of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2002 (public Law 107-115) (the "Act"), I hereby determine that it is Vital to the national security interests of the United States to furnish Up to $95 million in funds made available under the heading "Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs" of that Act, for assistance to KEDO, and, therefore, I hereby waive the requirement in section 565(b) to certify that:
(1) the parties to the Agreed Framework have taken and continue to take demonstrable steps to implement the Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula;
(2) North Korea is complying with all provisions of the Agreed Framework; and
(3) The United States is continuing to make significant progress on eliminating the North Korean ballistic missile threat, including further missile tests and its ballistic missile exports. You are hereby authorized and directed to report this determination and the accompanying Memorandum of Justification to the Congress, and to arrange for publication of this determination in the Federal Register.
GEORGE W. BUSH
The US Government has announced that it will release $95m to North Korea as part of an agreement to replace the Stalinist country's own nuclear programme, which the US suspected was being misused. Under the 1994 Agreed Framework an international consortium is building two proliferation-proof nuclear reactors and providing fuel oil for North Korea while the reactors are being built.In releasing the funding, President George W Bush waived the Framework's requirement that North Korea allow inspectors to ensure it has not hidden away any weapons-grade plutonium from the original reactors...."These reactors are like all reactors, They have the potential to make weapons. So you might end up supplying the worst nuclear violator with the means to acquire the very weapons we're trying to prevent it acquiring," [the head of the Non-proliferation Policy Education Centre in Washington] told the Far Eastern Economic Review. --BBC, 04.03.02
North Korea has challenged President Bush to stop calling it part of the "axis of evil" by agreeing to resume dialogue with the US on the condition that it is not "slandered" again....As an apparent positive gesture, the White House is reported to have agreed to release $95m (£67m) to North Korea under the agreement reached in 1994 to replace the country's nuclear power programme. Mr Bush has waived the requirement that international inspectors should examine North Korea's nuclear research facilities first.... Although the US will not apologise for the "axis of evil" label, renewed tension in the Korean peninsula would hardly serve its interests at a time of crises elsewhere. --Guardian, 04.04.02
Under Secretary Bolton Fields Queries on Iraq, N. Korea
At a briefing at the Tokyo American Center August 26, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton fielded questions posed by Japanese journalists particularly interested in U.S. plans regarding North Korea and Iraq.
When asked by reporters about North Korea, Bolton said the U.S. government remains "very concerned about North Korea's outward proliferation activities."
"It is a state of concern in connection with ballistic missiles and possibly with nuclear technologies in particular ... (and) it's one of the states that we've been concerned about in the biological weapons area for some time," he said.
Bolton said the Bush administration's decision this year to decline to certify that North Korea was in compliance with the Agreed Framework had no effect on the country because the United States waived the compliance question and thus allowed the provision of heavy fuel oil.
"The precise practical effect this year was that there was no practical effect," Bolton said, but the decision to decline certification signaled ... a feeling on our part."
The Under Secretary stressed that the U.S. decision not to certify did not mean that North Korea was not in compliance. "We were saying nothing as to whether they were in compliance or not," he said.
"That was a change from the previous practice, where the last administration had certified that they were in compliance," Bolton pointed out. more
NYT "North Korea set off a flurry of diplomatic activity and condemnation today when it announced it was withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. " 01.10.03 www.bushwatch.com
HEARST "World on path to disaster, bomb pioneer warns. Defence analysts at Guardian non-proliferation conference see increased risk of atomic war President George Bush, hijacked by hardliners in his administration, is setting the world on a course towards nuclear disaster, a founder of the nuclear deterrence policy said. " 01.09.03 www.bushwatch.com
WP "Anti-U.S. Sentiment Deepens in S. Korea . Support for Isolating North Seen Lacking....Inside a Starbucks coffee shop tucked in a posh shopping district of South Korea's capital, three women in their late twenties sip cappuccino, their Prada purses and Gucci sunglasses testifying to lives of comfort in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula -- the side defended by 37,000 U.S. troops.Yet, as their conversation turns to the nuclear confrontation playing out here, all three express sympathies for North Korea and anger toward the United States. They reject the central tenet that has bound South Korea and the United States together for a half-century -- that they need American troops here to protect them from the menacing Communist power to the north. 'If the United States left, I wouldn't mind," says Kim Young Ran, 29. "If North Korea wants nuclear weapons, I think they should have them. The U.S. and so many other countries have them. There's no way North Korea will attack us with their nuclear weapons. I don't think so. We're the same country. You don't bomb and kill your family. We share the same blood.'" 01.09.03 www.bushwatch.com
KAPLAN Is Bush Encouraging Worldwide Nuclear Proliferation? "If sheer practicality were the rationale for attacking Iraq and dealing in some other way with North Korea, other leaders, especially those who might run up against our interests, would gain a valuable lesson from this exhibition—that is, the best way to avoid an American attack is to get yourself an atom bomb, quickly and secretly (maybe you can buy one from North Korea)." 01.08.03 www.bushwatch.com
HERTZBERG "As a rhetorical flourish, "the axis of evil" soared like an eagle. But in retrospect it more closely resembles a turkey, and the inclusion of North Korea, in particular, has begun to look uncannily like a chicken that in recent days has come home to roost. This is of a piece with the whole of the Bush Administration's Korea policy, which, from the beginning, has been a fairly comprehensive botch." 01.08.03 www.bushwatch.com
GREENE ". Any honest reading suggests North Korea represents every bit the crisis Iraq does, if not more. " 01.08.03 www.bushwatch.com
USA Bush Changes Mind Again. Now He'll Talk To N. Koreans Before They Halt Nuke Program 01.08.03 www.bushwatch.com
KRISTOF "Unless the administration switches gears, here's what may happen: North Korea will reprocess spent fuel at its Yongbyon reactor, giving it enough plutonium for five to eight nuclear warheads by May 1. The North will also resume construction of a much bigger reactor at Taechon, accelerate its enriched uranium program, possibly drop out of the Nonproliferation Treaty, and test a Taepodong 2 missile that, in three stages, could reach New York (although it might be so inaccurate that it would miss and wipe out Newark). In five years, North Korea could have 100 nuclear weapons and be churning out more like a fast-food chef. With nothing else to keep its economy going, North Korea will peddle them to the highest bidder ("One free Taepodong 2 missile with every three warheads you buy!") This scenario is so horrendous that by late spring the Pentagon will be preparing options for a military strike on Yongbyon, even though President Bush has sensibly resisted that approach so far because the result could be another Korean War. And this is, as Colin Powell calls it, "not a crisis"?" 01.07.03 www.bushwatch.com
COHEN "North Korea, in acting to expel monitors and move ahead aggressively with its nuclear weapons program, has presented the Bush administration with a serious problem. The administration is understandably making every effort to play down this challenge as we head into the final weeks of resolving the manner in which Saddam Hussein's regime will be disarmed. However we choose to characterize the situation on the Korean peninsula -- as a crisis or simply a major challenge -- the options open to the United States, regrettably, run the full gamut from bad to worse." 01.07.03 www.bushwatch.com
IGNATIUS "U.S. policy toward North Korea is a case study of what can happen when an administration is sharply divided over an issue: Rhetoric becomes disconnected from actions; feuding Cabinet departments produce a muddy strategy that confuses friends and foes alike. " 01.07.03 www.bushwatch.com
MARSHALL "The Bushies told the North Koreans that they either had to shape up or we'd take them out. Now the North Koreans have called our bluff. And the administration -- as signalled by Powell's comments over the weekend -- has caved, enunciating a policy which is now substantially more dovish than the Clinton policy.Tough talk sounds great until your opponent calls your bluff and everybody sees there's nothing behind the trash talk. Then you look foolish. That's where we are right now with North Korea. As Nelson says, no doubt the NKs are the bad guys. And this is an extremely complex problem with no easy solutions. But the Bush administration has pursued a keystone cops policy on the Korean Peninsula for two years now, mixing think-tank braggadocio with feckless inconstancy. Now we're all going to pay the price." 01.06.03 www.bushwatch.com
DOBBS "Soon after rolling out a new post-Cold War foreign policy doctrine, the Bush administration is scrambling to explain why "preemption" may be appropriate for dealing with Iraq, but not such a good idea in defusing the threat from fellow "axis of evil" member North Korea. " 01.06.03 www.bushwatch.com
RIDGEWAY "Viewed from the cynical pit of capital politics, North Korea is no distraction from Iraq, but instead another big plus for Bush domestic policy. Fears of missiles sailing in from Asia can only underscore Bush's arguments for a "Little Star Wars" missile shield plan. Bush doesn't really want to attack the peninsula, if only because Washington is counting the days (about a month's worth is the current best guess) until the U.S. attacks Iraq. And while the White House may be willing to weather armed conflict on two fronts, the administration is less prepared to plunge two regions into economic chaos. Making war with North Korea would inevitably affect South Korea, China, and Japan-all vitally important in the world marketplace. " 01.06.03 www.bushwatch.com
REEVES "Do not be shocked to read or see in a week, a year or five years, a declaration by Japan that it has decided, as a matter of self-defense, to build nuclear weapons and missile systems to deliver them. Or perhaps it will be Brazil. Or South Korea.In just two years, the Bush administration has managed to undo the decades of work all over the world to try to prevent the proliferation of "the bomb." In talking of pre-emptive strikes against "evil" regimes -- evil, of course, being in the red-white-and-blue eye of the beholder -- the United States is forcing other countries and their leaders, sane and insane, to re-evaluate long-ago decisions to trust a few rich nations that already had nuclear technology. " 01.06.03 www.bushwatch.com
NYT ED "Right now the world must seem like a potentially deadly game of three-dimensional chess to the the Bush administration. In Asia, its allies don't agree with each other about whether a North Korea with nuclear arms is an international danger. But they are very certain they don't want the United States to do anything that might trigger an angry response. The American people are confused by the contradictions between their government's approach to North Korea and Iraq, and frustrated by the sudden lack of clarity in their government's foreign policy....Washington must not get into a situation where America's diplomatic and military resources are so tied up in pre-empting future dangers from Iraq that its ability to cope with more imminent threats from North Korea and terrorism are significantly compromised. " 01.05.03 www.bushwatch.com
WP ED "Much as the administration might wish to play down nation-building in Kabul so that it can be done in Baghdad, or induce a dictator like Kim Jong Il to postpone his provocations until a more convenient moment, it will need to act aggressively in all these theaters or risk fundamental and possibly irreversible damage to U.S. interests." 01.05.03 www.bushwatch.com
GORDON "While the White House insists that North Korea's nuclear efforts do not represent a crisis, most experts believe it is the gravest threat in the region in a decade. " 01.05.03 www.bushwatch.com
IND "The United Nations food agency warned yesterday that supplies for some seven million people, a third of North Korea's population, will run out early next month without further aid. The news could worsen the crisis over North Korea's nuclear threats. " 01.05.03 www.bushwatch.com
DAO Why Keep U.S. Troops in South Korea? 01.05.03 www.bushwatch.com
FISK "I think I'm getting the picture. North Korea breaks all its nuclear agreements with the United States, throws out UN inspectors and sets off to make a bomb a year, and President Bush says it's "a diplomatic issue". Iraq hands over a 12,000-page account of its weapons production and allows UN inspectors to roam all over the country, and - after they've found not a jam-jar of dangerous chemicals in 230 raids - President Bush announces that Iraq is a threat to America, has not disarmed and may have to be invaded. So that's it, then." 01.05.03 www.bushwatch.com
CORNWELL ""Day by day the North Korean crisis deepens, and day by day the language coming out of Washington grows more absurd. Kim Jong II may rule over certainly the most reclusive and arguably the most miserable country on earth. But the man whom a CNN host sneeringly dismissed yesterday as "a weird looking little dude" has tied the world's mightiest country in knots as it tries to explain why it is gearing up for war on Iraq while soft-pedalling a far more serious state of affairs in Asia." " 01.03.03 www.bushwatch.com
KRUGMAN "Deterrence requires a credible commitment to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior.I know, it sounds obvious. Yet the Bush administration's Korea policy has systematically violated that simple principle.Let's be clear: North Korea's rulers are as nasty as they come. But unless we have a plan to overthrow those rulers, we should ask ourselves what incentives we're giving them. " 01.03.03 www.bushwatch.com
NYT "Bush discounted American differences with Asian nations today on how to handle the nuclear standoff with North Korea....But in private, several of Mr. Bush's advisers say the North Korean crisis has complicated their diplomatic task at the United Nations. So has Mr. Bush's determination that a pre-emptive strike on North Korea is not viable even if Mr. Kim is only months away from adding to his nuclear arsenal, the advisers say. "We will be facing considerable skepticism on the question of how we can justify confrontation with Saddam when he is letting inspectors into the country, and a diplomatic solution with Kim when he's just thrown them out," one senior diplomat acknowledged today. 'And we're working on the answer.' " 01.03.03 www.bushwatch.com
WATTS "South Korea began an intensive diplomatic effort yesterday to try to avert a nuclear stand-off between its neighbour North Korea and its closest ally, the United States... Anxious about the increasingly bellicose noises from Pyongyang and the growing calls in Washington for punitive measures, it has asked China and Russia to step in." 01.03.03 www.bushwatch.com
KRAUTHAMMER "China supplies nearly all of North Korea's energy and 40 percent of its foodstuffs. South Korea has significant investments in North Korea. International organizations provide a huge amount of food aid. Moreover, North Korea has only a few major harbors. They could be blockaded. If China and South Korea were to cut off North Korea, it could not survive....[The Chinese] show no inclination to deny North Korea what it needs to survive. Even more ominously, Bill Gertz of the Washington Times reports that the Chinese have just shipped 20 tons of highly specialized chemicals used in extracting plutonium from spent reactor fuel....We should go to the Chinese and tell them plainly that if they do not join us in squeezing North Korea and thus stopping its march to go nuclear, we will endorse any Japanese attempt to create a nuclear deterrent of its own. Even better, we would sympathetically regard any request by Japan to acquire American nuclear missiles as an immediate and interim deterrent. If our nightmare is a nuclear North Korea, China's is a nuclear Japan. It's time to share the nightmares." [Letters to BW Invited.] 01.03.03 www.bushwatch.com
OLIPHANT "THE BUSH administration's ''policy'' toward North Korea poses unusual challenges to a would-be supporter. How, for example, does a country (even a superpower, even the superpower) go about isolating another country that is more isolated from us than from the rest of the world? Or how can an official foreign policy crisis (as North Korea was termed nearly three months ago) become an official foreign policy noncrisis (Colin Powell's latest description) without anything good happening? Better yet, how can a country with no known nuclear weapons but an alleged ambition to possess them (Iraq) be more dangerous (and thus more appropriate for invasion and conquest) than a country that already has them? The administration's lame attempts at answers to these questions, and the correct answers that the administration is not prepared to give, reveal a ''policy'' that cannot stand even cursory examination and thus will have to be changed." 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
FUERTH "When using words as weapons, a leader must be prepared to back up his rhetoric with force. The president's nomination of North Korea as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in his last State of the Union message now looks like a bluff that is being called. And the outcome of the administration's diplomacy is that we are preparing to fight a war with a country that might eventually acquire nuclear weapons, while another country is closing in on the ability to go into mass production. Like it or not, the administration needs to test the theory that North Korea is trying to force the United States into negotiations. That would be bitter medicine for the administration to swallow, but in view of the alternatives it would be wise for the administration to reverse course and engage with North Korea. However, if such a process doesn't stop the North Korean nuclear enterprise, and quickly, then the administration must either accept a monumental blow to the security of the United States, or prepare for a second major military enterprise in Korea - one that would take place simultaneously, or nearly so, with action against Iraq. " 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
WP ED "THE DEBATE over what to do about North Korea, an exceptionally difficult question, has been further complicated by distorted descriptions of the problem by both the Bush administration and its critics....[Powell's] logic is convenient to the administration's strategy of playing down the North Korean threat and postponing an active response to it. But if it's not certain that this murderous and immoral regime already has a bomb, then it is important to do whatever can be done now to stop what increasingly looks like a drive by dictator Kim Jong Il to produce an arsenal as quickly as possible. Perhaps there is no way to stop him; but the administration would be wrong to prematurely concede North Korea's standing as a nuclear power. " 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
MC GRORY "We may talk to the North Koreans informally, but we will certainly not negotiate, Powell says. We must not "reward bad conduct." That is true with small children and other difficult human beings, but it is not necessarily a principle in dealing with a nutty little nation that has gone nuclear, having produced two bombs and acquired the makings for as many as one a month.Playing it cool may be good for Bush's war -- it won't unduly divert people -- but it doesn't do a lot for world peace. Negotiating with a paranoid Kim Jong Il might be the equivalent of dealing with a kidnapper or a hostage-taker, but surely some allowance could be made for weapons that could wipe out the world. But the buzz is that if Bush sent someone to the North Korean capital, we would be giving the maniac in charge "just what he wants" -- that is, attention. Apparently little thought is given to the possibility that a U.S. envoy might be successful in convincing crazy Kim Jong Il that North Korea needs other things more than plutonium to make it a serious country. " 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
BERGER+GALLUCCI "The extent to which North Korea is able to end its isolation from the United States and the rest of the world should not just depend on its willingness to step back from the threatening actions of the past several days and give up its clandestine enrichment program; it must be willing to step forward to resolve its past nuclear history and open its future behavior to comprehensive and verifiable international scrutiny. If it does, other issues between us can be addressed and steps toward a more normal relationship with us are achievable. This course is not without risks. But the support for a regional cutoff of all significant contacts -- or for more robust options -- is unlikely if we do not make such an effort. " 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
REEVES "Washington's plan to use economic pressure to stop North Korea from restarting its nuclear plants - seen by the CIA as nuclear warhead factories - has been rejected as ineffective by South Korea... The outgoing President, Kim Dae Jung, and his successor poured scorn on the American strategy yesterday, saying it would not persuade Pyongyang to change tack." 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
NYT "After 50 years as a stalwart U.S. ally, South Korea is now one of the administration's biggest foreign policy problems. " 01.02.03 www.bushwatch.com
SANGER Bush Caves To North Korean Nuke Production. "The diplomatic, nonconfrontational approach the administration has taken has clearly put Mr. Bush's aides in the odd position of explaining why they are massing troops around Iraq, as it lets inspectors roam the country and releases lists of weapons scientists, while insisting on patient diplomacy with a country that has expelled those inspectors and announced that it will restart plutonium production immediately. " 12.30.02 www.bushwatch.com
MC GRORY "George W. Bush ends the year with a genuine nuclear crisis on his hands. He has been assiduously trying to foment one with Iraq, dropping bombs on the country and expletives on its leader. But North Korea, which is not just suspected of working on the bomb but of having at least two, has muscled Saddam Hussein off the front pages and made our crusade against Baghdad seem crass: We're starting a war not just for oil or for Ariel Sharon but because we can win it. " 12.29.02 www.bushwatch.com
REUTERS Chinese Paper Rips Rumsfeld Over N.Korea Warning 12.28.02 www.bushwatch.com
WP U.S. Seeks N. Korea Censure. Bush wants U.N. support as part of administration's "isolate and contain" 12.28.02 www.bushwatch.com
NYT "The Bush administration plans to offer Pyongyang a choice between nuclear disarmament or economic collapse. " 12.28.02 www.bushwatch.com
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