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On North Korea: Don't Blame Bush By: Ben Johnson and Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 11, 2005


Yesterday, North Korea admitted what the world has long known: that it possesses nuclear weapons and announced it was withdrawing from the six-party talks (again). The Democratic Party, curiously following Kim Jong-il's lead, pinned the blame on President George W. Bush's foreign policy -- and called for reviving the failed Clinton-era policies that made yesterday's announcement inevitable.

Yesterday, the North Korean (DPRK) foreign ministry stated the decision to abandon the six-party talks stemmed from President Bush's most recent State of the Union Address. Clearly prefacing a future nuclear blackmail of the sort Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter regularly paid, the Stalinists assured the world they desperately wanted to continue diplomacy, "but we are compelled to suspend our participation in the talks for an indefinite period till [sic.] we have recognized that there is justification for us to attend the talks and there are ample conditions and atmosphere to expect positive results from the talks." The Korean Central News Agency yesterday stated the Great Leader had "manufactured nukes for self-defense to cope with the Bush administration's ever more undisguised policy to isolate and stifle" the glorious people's revolution.

North Korea was not alone. Democrats had long claimed the president's rhetoric had driven peace-loving North Korea away from the bargaining table. As long ago as 2002, Democrats stated President Bush's State of the Union, in which he labeled North Korea part of the "Axis of Evil," constituted unconscionable saber-rattling.

Yesterday, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi,  blamed the only effective measure limiting WMDs: President Bush's foreign policy. Pelosi, D-People's Republic of San Francisco, told reporters, "The administration has not paid enough attention to North Korea. The North Koreans know that we are otherwise occupied, and they've taken the liberty to be brazen."

It was not George W. Bush's foreign policy -- which has liberated one nation from the tyranny of a madman craving WMDs -- that allowed North Korea to build nuclear weapons. The DPRK may have already possessed more than one such missile by the time he got into office in 2001. It was Bill Clinton's nonfeasance that bought Pyongyang almost ten years to pursue nuclear weapons development. Shortly after North Korea first announced its nuclear program, former president Jimmy Carter rushed to the workers paradise to conduct personal, unauthorized peace talks. As Bill Clinton attempted to play it tough in public, Carter promised North Korea's leaders that no military response would be forthcoming, a promise Clinton later felt duty-bound to keep. Thus did Clinton allow the weak-kneed former president to conduct a private foreign policy in his stead. Carter and Clinton drew up a massive transfer of wealth -- a bribe -- in return for North Korea's unverifiable promise to end its nuclear program. As part of the deal, the United States provided North Korea with light-water nuclear reactors, food, and fuel oil (some 10,000 metric tons of which was diverted to the Red Chinese Army).

Viewed from the present, Clinton's actions and rhetoric seem tragi-comic. Upon completing the "Agreed Framework" in 1994, Clinton stated, "This agreement will help achieve a vital and long-standing American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula." Bill Gertz described the terms of the Agreed Framework well: "The agreement gave the North Koreans ten years to dismantle their weapons program and five years to turn over the existing stockpile of plutonium."  Instead, ten years later North Korea affirms what most world observers have long suspected: they have produced nuclear weapons. The only mystery is how many they have produced and how long they have had them in reserve.

Sounding the alarm during this time was a Congressionally commissioned panel headed by none other than Donald Rumsfeld. In 1997, the Rumsfeld Commission warned: "The extraordinary level of resources North Korea and Iran are now devoting to developing their own ballistic missile capabilities poses a substantial and immediate danger to the United States, its vital interests, and its allies...Each of these nations is even now pursuing advanced ballistic missile capabilities that pose a direct threat to U.S. territory...This is not a distant threat."

In response, Congressional Republicans moved to deploy an Anti-Missile Defense System, which the Clinton adminstration had pledged to support but not finance. When the GOP backed a missile defense bill in September 1998, Senate Democrats filibustered the measure. Sen. Joseph Biden protested, "This bill will destroy the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," and the Democrats again engaged in fearmongering when President Bush withdrew from the ABM in his first term, in order to better protect Americans (and this before 9/11). No move to protect the United States has gone unpunished.

Bill Clinton offered a different "solution" during this time period. In August 1998, North Korea launched a Taepo Dong missile over Japan's northernmost island. Two months later, the United States re-opened direct, bilateral talks with North Korea -- rushing a generous $15 million aid package to the DPRK in the meantime. Throughout his presidency, Bill Clinton met North Korean belligerence with tough words and fistfuls of dollars. It was eight years of treading water. And that decade cost the lives of uncounted thousands of hapless North Korean citizens whom the government starved to death while pursuing WMDs.

Despite the State Department's hapless carrot-and-stick approach to North Korea, the Kim Jong-il regime has adroitly manipulated the timing and pace of the negotiations. Yesterday's melodramatic announcement continues what has been its regular pattern:

1. threaten

2. back off

3. resume negotiations

4. garner concessions

5. repeat.

Pelosi, the Democrats, and Kim Jong-il aside, make no mistake: President Bush did not cause this nuclear arsenal to come into existence. It likely predated his election in the first place. President Clinton's eight-yera rendezvous with indecision, or rather his decision to enhance his "legacy" by maintaining a fascade of tranquility, set America on this treacherous course.

It's a treacherous course those on the American Left seem hellbent to maintain. During the presidential campaign John Kerry repeatedly vowed, "I will renew bilateral negotiations immediately with North Korea." Pyongyang, which had covered Kerry's campaign favorably in state-controlled press, chose to wait out the 2004 presidential election in hopes of a Kerry victory -- followed, they hoped, by another massive transfusion of Western aid. Since yesterday's announcement, other Democrats have also called for the resumption of direct, bilateral talks -- which is precisely what Pyongyang is praying for.

Thankfully, the business-as-usual approach to North Korea has changed. President Bush's Second Inaugural Address and State of the Union Speech sent a strong message to the oppressed citizens of that dictatorship that a policy of trading stability for liberty -- to quote Condolezza Rice's testimony -- was "no longer acceptable" to the U.S. government. Freedom has an advocate in the White House.

It seems reasonable to anyone who has observed the irrational North Korean regime to expect that such dramatic U.S. policy shifts would be immediately challenged by Kim Jong-il. After all, he has been trained to expect a reward for bad behavior. Kim rattles sabers -- and oil flows, nuclear power reactors get funded, and tons of food aid arrives at no cost. This grain handily feeds his million-man army and generates additional revenue on the black market. It was completely predictable that the North would try to find the edge of the envelope of the Bush administration's pronouncements.

What is of concern is how the U.S. will respond to such flagrant, arrogant behavior. No less a point of concern is how our allies and fellow members of the Six Party group will react. Whether they have weapons or not, such a challenge must be met with a stern response.

America, despite all of the visonary pronouncements of President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, is still in the hands of a foreign policy elite that typically ignores direction from above and goes its independent way. Too many separate the nuclear issue from human rights concerns, despite overwhelming support for the North Korea Freedom Act by both houses of Congress and presidential directive. It will be a measure of Condi's ability as an administrator to shepherd that department behind the president's revolutionary (in the best sense of the word) program.

Unfortunately, our international allies may make this even more difficult. The South Koreans will probably press for a soft response because corruption and denial have reached to the highest levels of the South Korean government, despite North Korea's threats to unleash a "sea of [nuclear] fire." Japan, however, is likely to react most harshly to the North Korean announcement, possibly including a desire to seek their own nuclear deterrent. We have all been far too complacent about the anger that surely is rising in Japan as a result of irresponsible missile 'testing' that shoots North Korean missiles over Japanese territory, and the inexplicable kidnapping of innocent Japanese citizens by the deranged North Korean leaders. Combined, this behavior has certainly pushed Japan to the ragged edge of patience.

If this latest North Korean threat is met with a typical weak response that leans toward appeasement -- the kind Bill Clinton perfected and the Left still advocates -- rest assured the North Koreans will push and push until restrained. The American response must be tough, unwavering, and unequivocable -- and it must not be made with its checkbook. 

If this tough, coordinated policy is enacted, it is likely that the North Koreans will back down and find a way to give ground while still saving face. This in itself won't solve the problem, but it will transfer initiative from the North Koreans -- who are delighted to be pulling American strings -- to the U.S. and other coalition partners. Then the tough approach can be expanded to force more concessions from North Korea until we reach our goal: radical reform, destabilization, or regime change. Now is the time to hang tough. The desire of American leftists to appease and bribe the North Koreans only demonstrates that they are not only unfit to lead the country, but also ineducable.


Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu is author of Separated at Birth, an in-depth profile of North and South Korea.


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