Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bush's North Korea Capitulation - by John Bolton

President Bush has repeatedly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley not to make him look weak on North Korea. If the president accepts the deal now on the table, things will be far worse than that.

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April 15, 2008; Page A19
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120821851545814633.html?mod=opinion_main_commentaries
President George W. Bush is fond of comparing himself to Ronald Reagan. But as he meets with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Washington this week, his policy regarding North Korea's nuclear weapons program looks more like something out of Bill Clinton's or Jimmy Carter's playbook.
In dealing with the Soviet Union on arms control, Reagan was famous for repeating the Russian phrase, "Doveryai, no proveryai" (trust, but verify). Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reportedly once complained to Reagan, "You use that phrase every time we meet." To which Reagan smilingly replied, "That's because I like it so much."
This administration appears to have forgotten that concept altogether. Although the Six-Party Talks have been sliding into dangerous territory for some time, the Bush administration has repeatedly said that North Korea's complete, verifiable disclosure of its nuclear program was a sine qua non of any deal. No longer.
Last week in Singapore, U.S. chief negotiator Christopher Hill and his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye Gwan reached a deal that rests on trust and not verification. According to numerous press reports and Mr. Hill's April 10 congressional briefing, the U.S. will be expected to accept on faith, literally, North Korean assertions that it has not engaged in significant uranium enrichment, and that it has not proliferated nuclear technology or materials to countries like Syria and Iran.
Indeed, the North will not even make the declaration it earlier agreed to, but merely "acknowledge" that we are concerned about reports of such activities – which the United States itself will actually list. By some accounts, the North Korean statement will not even be public. In exchange for this utter nonperformance, the North will be rewarded with political "compensation" (its word): Concurrent with its "declaration," it will be removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and freed from the Trading With the Enemy Act.
President Bush has repeatedly told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley not to make him look weak on North Korea. If the president accepts the deal now on the table, things will be far worse than that.
Although the U.S. public is not yet fully aware of every detail of this agreement, the administration's public and private comments effectively admit the substance. While briefing Congress, Mr. Hill said he expects the North's release from the long-standing U.S. constraints to be "simultaneous" with its "acknowledgment," which he described as a "win-win" concept.
The generals in Pyongyang must love that assessment. They can also relax, since they won't have to worry about concealing their ongoing nuclear work from any verification follow-up.
Our chief negotiator conceded, without blushing, that North Korea "won't allow snap inspections," which apparently justifies the Bush administration's immediate surrender. Indeed, Mr. Hill derided concerns about the North's enrichment effort by saying, according to an attendee, "Some people imagine there is a building somewhere with a secret door they can open and find a group of scantily clad women enriching uranium."
So much for legitimate concerns about U.S. security and the equally legitimate concerns of our allies. Despite cryptic comments by Secretary of State Rice to the contrary, there is no verification mechanism whatever to explore and monitor the truth of what North Korea will say. We will be taking their word.
Ironically, the only hang-up is that North Korea is still lying about how much plutonium it has accumulated, proffering an amount well below what U.S. intelligence believes to be the case. In short, the Bush administration is focusing on what it thinks it knows (plutonium), ignoring what could be the far more dangerous activities (uranium enrichment) it has reason to suspect.
This is the same mistake as the drunk searching for his car keys near a lamppost, even though he admits to a passerby they are not there. Why keep looking near the lamp post? "Because the light is better," the drunk replies.
One can only imagine what Ronald Reagan would have said in his 1980 campaign, if Jimmy Carter had fallen so low. Similarly, in 1999, former Secretary of State James Baker called Clinton administration policy on North Korea "appeasement," writing in the New York Times: "Once again, we have been played for fools. . . . [I]t is hard to fathom how anyone could put credence in any agreement by North Korea."
Perhaps President Bush could at least read Secretary Baker's Times's op-ed before he signs off on this deal. Even Jack Pritchard, the Bush administration's former chief North Korea negotiator – who resigned five years ago because he believed our policy was too harsh – is critical of the current approach.
Our allies South Korea and Japan will long remember this impending act of American fecklessness. South Korea's President Lee, who was voted into office last December, campaigned extensively on requiring the North to meet its commitments. As he meets with President Bush this week, his countrymen must be wondering why the North's commitments mean something in Seoul but not in Washington.
Japan emphatically wants Pyongyang to account for the Japanese citizens kidnapped over the decades. On April 12, Japan extended its own economic sanctions against the North. Nonetheless, despite the absence of any resolution of these repeated acts of North Korean terrorism, the U.S., until now Japan's closest ally, is poised to remove the North from the terrorism list.
Pyongyang's escape from accountability could break down international counter-proliferation efforts. What possible reason will Iran now have to be transparent about its nuclear activities? If North Korea can get away with deception and be rewarded, why should Iran not do the same? In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi will kick himself for giving up his nuclear weapons program in 2003. This deal with North Korea is troubling enough, but the worst news is still to come.
Last fall, President Bush rejected the idea of giving North Korea a pass on uranium enrichment and proliferation. Now, in the waning days of his term, he seems poised to accept it. If he does, and if this deal proceeds, we can well and truly say: "President Bush, you are no Ronald Reagan."
Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster/Threshold Editions, 2007).
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on
Opinion Journal.

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