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John R. Bolton
There are signs, albeit small ones, that the Bush administration may be reaching the end of its patience with the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. These signs could prove illusory. But as it nears its end, the administration has a serious responsibility: It must not leave its successor with an ongoing, failed policy. At a minimum, President Bush should not bequeath to the next president only the burned-out hulk of the Six-Party Talks, and countless failed and violated North Korean commitments.
Since they were conceived in spring 2003, the Six-Party Talks have stumbled around inconclusively. And for the last 13 months, Pyongyang has ignored, stalled, renegotiated and violated the Feb. 13, 2007 agreement.
Pyongyang is now stonewalling yet again on its promise to disclose fully the details of its nuclear programs, including its uranium enrichment efforts and its outward proliferation.
Throughout all this “negotiation,” which has mostly consisted of our government negotiating with itself, North Korea has benefited enormously. It’s been spared the truly punishing sanctions that concerted international effort might have produced. In large part because of the appeasement policies of the two previous South Korean governments, Pyongyang has not felt the full impact of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) on its outward proliferation efforts. The U.S. has muzzled its criticism of North Korea’s atrocious oppression of its own citizens. And, perhaps most humiliatingly of all, the U.S., in a vain effort at chasing the mirage, gave up its most effective pressure point–the financial squeeze–allowing Pyongyang renewed access to international markets through institutions like Banco Delta Asia.
In fact, the protracted Six-Party Talks have provided Kim Jong-il with the most precious resource of all: the time to enhance, conceal and even disperse his nuclear weapons programs. Time is nearly always on the side of the would-be proliferator, and so it has proven here. In exchange for five years of grace to North Korea, the U.S. has received precious little in return.
Pyongyang is now stonewalling yet again on its promise to disclose fully the details of its nuclear programs, including its uranium enrichment efforts and its outward proliferation. The successful Israeli military strike against a Syrian-North Korean facility on the Euphrates River last September highlighted the gravity of the regime’s unwillingness to do anything serious that might restrict its nuclear option.
President Bush should spend the next 10 months rectifying the Six-Party concessions and put North Korea back under international pressure–efforts that would be welcomed by Japan, and South Korea’s new, far more realistic President Lee Myung-bak. Here are the steps to take:
Doubtless there are other steps. President Bush will not likely be able to solve the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Nonetheless, he still has time to implement policies that will allow him to leave office with the nation back on offense–thereby affording his successor the chance to vindicate a return to the original Bush administration national security strategy.
John R. Bolton is a senior fellow at AEI.
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