Bush Blinks on North Korean Nukes. Again.
Lost in the swirl of election news was a major foreign policy climbdown by the Bush administration.
Ever since Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice negotiated an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons program in February of 2007, the Bush administration has resisted following through on a key part of the agreement: removing North Korea from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. On October 9, North Korean premier Kim Jong Il decided he'd had enough of Bush's stalling, and announced that he would expel UN weapons inspectors. On October 10, Bush capitulated, agreeing to remove North Korea from the terror list. On October 12, North Korea resumed the shutdown of its nuclear weapons program.
So why didn't Bush remove North Korea from the list last year? As it is, it looks as though Bush is weak and that he was negotiating in bad faith. Since North Korea was in the process of demolishing its nuclear weapons facilities, why didn't Bush live up to his end of the agreement?
We may never know the answer to that one, but this event mirrors the entire history of the negotiations between the Bush administration and North Korea. When Bush took office, North Korea's nuclear program had under suspension for six years under an agreement negotiated by the Clinton administration. Clinton had agreed to provide fuel oil in exchange for North Korea's compliance. But in 2002, the Bush administration suspended the oil shipments and North Korea resumed its weapons program. The administration's policy was driven by neoconservatives in the administration, most notably Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Bolton, the World's Worst Diplomat.
The crisis worsened until October 9, 2006, when North Korea tried and failed to detonate a nuclear weapon. A month later, Democrats won control of congress and forced Bush to fire Rumsfeld and the World's Worst Diplomat. Shortly after that, Condi Rice negotiated an agreement that was essentially the same as the one that Bush had abandoned in 2002, with the added provision that North Korea be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Naturally, the World's Worst Diplomat is outraged that the North Korea crisis has once again been defused. And naturally, John McCain agrees with the World's Worst Diplomat.
(cross posted at appletree)