Friday, October 13, 2006

More on North Korea

From the International Edition of Newsweek which, apparently, Americans are not mature enough to read and therefore, like sex education, must be kept protected from:
Oct. 16, 2006 issue - On Sept. 19, 2005, North Korea signed a widely heralded denuclearization agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang pledged to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." In return, Washington agreed that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations."

Four days later, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country's access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting, money laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration says that this sequence of events was a coincidence. Whatever the truth, I found on a recent trip to Pyongyang that North Korean leaders view the financial sanctions as the cutting edge of a calculated effort by dominant elements in the administration to undercut the Sept. 19 accord, squeeze the Kim Jong Il regime and eventually force its collapse. My conversations made clear that North Korea's missile tests in July and its threat last week to conduct a nuclear test explosion at an unspecified date "in the future" were directly provoked by the U.S. sanctions. In North Korean eyes, pressure must be met with pressure to maintain national honor and, hopefully, to jump-start new bilateral negotiations with Washington that could ease the financial squeeze. When I warned against a nuclear test, saying that it would only strengthen opponents of negotiations in Washington, several top officials replied that "soft" tactics had not worked and they had nothing to lose.

Yet another example of how warring factions within this administration have sought to undercut each other with regards to North Korean diplomacy (not to mention Iraq policy). Instead of proposing issues to a President (or Vice President) and having him set a direction of policy for a united front (something Republicans seem to do well at when presenting their case for the media), they spend time shooting each other in the foot and stabbing each other in the back. The result? A muddled, incompetent approach that sends mixed signals to our allies and our enemies. The White House has done this often enough that one has to ask, is it any wonder that other countries don't trust our government? This is not, I repeat, NOT to let North Korea off of the hook, but it does bolster a more complete understanding of the complexities of our current position which may offer a better resolution than just saying, "It's ____'s fault."

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