ANALYSIS: Foreign policy shift

Bush engages foreign foes as policy shift accelerates

The White House said that President Bush sent a letter directly to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il seeking cooperation in implementing a pact to dismantle its nuclear arms in exchange for full normalized relations.

The move is the latest example of the White House accelerating its reversal on numerous foreign-policy fronts.

Earlier in his presidency, Mr. Bush designated Pyongyang a member of an “axis of evil” and expressed loathing for the communist state’s dictator. In recent months, however, contacts have picked up amid an accord on dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

On other fronts — particularly Iran, Syria and Lebanon — the Bush administration is also shifting tactics in ways that could affect American interests long-term, say U.S. officials and foreign policy analysts. President Bush is generally receiving praise for engaging Pyongyang and Damascus, but he is also risking alienating the Republican Party’s conservative wing, which believes the U-turns will undermine U.S. standing around the world.

“Our foreign policy is in free-fall at the moment,” said John Bolton, Mr. Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations and an ally of Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Bolton argues that engaging dictators will only “diminish our prestige and influence.” [complete article]

At least he didn’t call him ‘Dear Leader’

Don’t call him “North Korea’s leader”. Call him “Chairman” – or “Dear Chairman”.

That seems to be the first lesson in etiquette that President George W Bush was persuaded to follow when he acquiesced to suggestions that he personally sign a letter to Kim Jong-il appealing to him to come clean on all he’s got going in nuclear weapons program by the end of the year.

Kim comes by the “chairman” title as chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission, the wellspring of his “military first” policy that leaves no doubt the armed forces, under his control, hold ultimate power over the Workers’ Party, of which Kim is general secretary.

The decision for Bush to address him as “Chairman” rather than “Excellency” or the simple “Mr” alone symbolizes the climb-down from the hard line that Bush had made the hallmark of his policy on North Korea for the first two or three years of his presidency. [complete article]

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