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North Korea's Perennial Helpers By: Paul Mirengoff
PowerLineBlogNews.com | Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Not since the middle of the Civil War has either major political party been as intellectually and morally bankrupt as today's Democrats. The latest evidence comes in the form of the insistence of Harry Reid, John Kerry, Joseph Biden and others that the administration negotiate directly with North Korea, outside of the multilateral, six-party approach we've been using. The most dishonest Dem, as one would expect, is Kerry, who said:

"Even when told this test was coming, the administration sat on the sidelines and hoped others would do the job. Surely George Bush could have sent a top-level negotiating team with a mandate to stop this test from going forward. We need to get off the sidelines."

The administration, of course, is not on the sidelines -- it is an active participant, along with Japan, China, South Korea, and Russia in efforts to negotiate with North Korea. (And, within the context of the six-party framework, the U.S. has had bilateral contacts with North  Korea). The six-party approach is the one that Kerry, an avowed mulitlateral, certainly would be advocating if he possessed an ounce of intellectual honesty.

It also happens to be the only diplomatic approach that makes sense. Unless the U.S. is willing to attack North Korea (and the Dems aren't advocating that) the U.S. acting by itself lacks the leverage to influence North Korea's behavior. We can't effectuate sanctions on our own, nor can we implement an effective blockade of North Korea -- the country shares a border with China. Even a lightweight like Kerry must understand the futility, under these circumstances, of sending to North Korea "a top-level negotiating team with a mandate to stop this test  from going forward." Mandates don't stop anything. A team with tens of millions in U.S. dollars plus a few prostitutes would be more like it, but even that would, at best, only postpone the inevitable.

China, on the other hand, has substantial leverage with North Korea. China is its one significant backer and, along with South Korea, represents its economic lifeline. Japan potentially is a key player too because it has leverage with China insofar as the Chinese fear that  Japan will develop nukes in response to the North Korean threat. Even  with the help of China, South Korea, and Japan, it's difficult to see  North Korea abandoning its nuclear aspirations. But given their leverage  and influence, these countries hold the key to any favorable outcome,
 including reducing the likelihood that North Korea will share its  nuclear technology, and promoting stability if the North Korean regime  begins to collapse. To put it in terms that even Kerry might understand, China, South Korea, and Japan have nearly all of the soft power here.

If the Dems had any motivation other than partisan advantage,
they might ask themselves why North Korea is so insistent on bilateral talks with the U.S. There is nothing the U.S. can do for North Korea that it can't agree to do in the context of multilateral talks. Thus, North Korea is not demanding bilateral talks for any legitimate reason. Rather, it's attempting to create a win-win situation for itself. Either the U.S. agrees to biliateral talks, thus increasing the likelihood that the most important player -- China -- will pull out of the process (or, short of that, feel a lack of investment in it). Or North Korea can blame the  U.S. for the stalemate.

Accordingly, when the Dems denounce the administration for sticking to the multilateral approach they are, if not taking North Korea's side, then certainly playing straight into its hands. But that's just a continuation, at least in spirit, of the Clinton/Carter policy towards North Korea that helped get us into this mess.

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Paul Mirengoff is a Washington, D.C. attorney. He comments on the events of the day for the Web log, “Power Line” at www.powerline.blogspot.com.


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