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  xThursday, July 31, 2003

north korea update


I just heard on NPR that North Korea has apparently agreed to multilateral arms talks, with the US joining China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia.

Regardless of one's views of the Bush administration's competence in dealing with Korea, or the glaringly obvious differences in the threat it apparently pereceived from the non-nuclear (and apparently even non-chemical and biological-) armed Iraq, this is a positive development.

Given that since Bush took office, North Korea has withdrwan from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kicked out nuclear overseers and monitoring devices, dusted off its (much more dangerous) plutonium bomb program and perhaps acquired enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons to use against the South (or sell to terrorists), the Bush Administration has much ground to recover simply to return to the relatively unstable status quo when Bush took office. However, Bush and Company have an opportunity to undo some of the damage they have done. Let's hope they don't foul it up.

Update: My friend Dodd took issue with this post:
North Korea chose to abandon the "Agreed Framework" they signed with Bill Clinton (actually, they never abided by it, the only thing that's changed is that they finally chose to admit that fact), removed themselves from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and started rattling the nuclear sabre in an effort, as all and sundry agree, to wheedle still more concessions and bail-outs from the United States.

They did all this entirely of their own free will* and have been persistently demanding that the US enter "talks" to deal with the crisis they created for months. But the Bush Administration has consistently maintained that the US would only sit down with them if the talks were truly multilateral. They have now agreed to those terms. And that proves that Bush' NK policy is incompetent?!?

Sorry, but that doesn't compute. Matthew Yglesias is rather a bit closer to correct on this one than my old pal Greg.

I attempted to set him straight in the comments, thus:
First of all, please note that I didn't use the word "incompetent" anywhere in my post. Indeed, like Matthew Yglesias, I credited Bush for the positive development.

I merely pointed out that what you characterize as "rattling the nuclear sabre" could be viewed by some as a dangerous series of escalations. Let's go to the tape:

Given that since Bush took office, North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, kicked out nuclear overseers and monitoring devices, dusted off its (much more dangerous) plutonium bomb program and perhaps acquired enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons to use against the South (or sell to terrorists), the Bush Administration has much ground to recover simply to return to the relatively unstable status quo when Bush took office. However, Bush and Company have an opportunity to undo some of the damage they have done. Let's hope they don't foul it up.

So, did any of those events not occur? In what way is that an inaccurate depiction of the situation? It seems to me that you're the one tagging Bush with the "incompetent" label; I simply pointed out everything he's "accomplished." Of course, if the shoe fits...

Finally, while the multilateral talks are indeed a positive sign and a symbolic victory for Bush, it remains to be seen a) if anything concrete will be accomplished, b) if Bush will be foreced to offer any appeasement concessions (let's face it, we don't have many options for resorting to a stick), and c) if North Korea will be any more inclined to abide by any agreement than it has been in the past.

I think I'm within my rights to be cautiously optimistic, yet point out that Bush has some damage to undo, hmm?

Of course, North Korea agreeing to talks isn't an indication of Bushs' incompetence. The events leading up to that agreement, though, are fair game. The fact that Bush has obtained his goal of multilateral talks hardly means that he's reached an actual solution to the crisis that has escalated while he took aim at Iraq. So yes, if one wanted to question Bush's competence, I think there's ample reason to. And definitely good reason to hope he doesn't screw it up.





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