OPINION: Korean lessons

The lessons of North Korea

“To get something in this world, you’ve got to give something,” Chris Hill told reporters on Wednesday. That pretty much sums up why Hill, a veteran State Department negotiator and no ideologue, may be on the verge of achieving the Bush administration’s biggest diplomatic success to date. Almost exactly a year after North Korea roiled all of Asia by testing a nuclear device, Hill led a team that managed to extract a pledge from Pyongyang to disable the country’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon (including its plutonium-reprocessing and fuel-rod fabrication plants) by Dec. 31. Pyongyang also committed itself to revealing all its nuclear programs by that date and pledging not to proliferate to other countries. In return North Korea will get 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil and, just as important to Kim Jong Il, the prospect of having his country removed from the U.S. list of terror-supporting states and “normalizing” its relations with Washington.

Sounds like a fairly routine negotiation. Except that for the Bush administration this kind of pragmatic tit-for-tat talking with the enemy has been anything but routine. Indeed, a year ago, when North Korea tested and its vice minister of foreign affairs, Kim Gye Gwan, huffed that “we are a nuclear power,” such a negotiation would have been all but impossible. The hard-liners in the administration still had the upper hand—among them U.N. ambassador John Bolton and counterproliferation chief Bob Joseph. Both are now gone from office, and private citizen Bolton in particular is unhappy about the deal Hill made. “This is classic State Department zeal for the deal,” Bolton snapped recently, proceeding to compare Chris Hill to a criminal: “You know, it reminds me of John Erlichman’s comment about the Watergate cover-up: save the plan, whatever it takes.” The difference this time is that Bolton said that as an outsider on Fox News, to little effect, rather than working to quietly torpedo the agreement, as he certainly would have if he were still Dick Cheney’s man on the inside. [complete article]

See also, Koreas to seek a formal peace treaty (WP).

Editor’s Comment — Bolton’s efforts might ultimately have been to little effect, but it wasn’t for lack of trying and his efforts seem to have extended well beyond being a Fox News loudmouth. Whatever the ultimate purpose of Israel’s attack on Syria, it was clearly something that Bolton thought he could use in his attempt to prevent the US reaching an agreement with North Korea.

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