Do you ever get the sense that if North Korea actually used a nuclear weapon in an offensive attack that Chris Hill and the State Department would still be trying to make a deal? In response to the latest provocation from the North Koreans, Hill and his colleagues are proposing a new "choreography" for the futile negotiations. Dancing seems somehow appropriate at this stage, given the stories about Hill's collegial drinking with his North Korean counterparts and his friendly toasts to honor them. ("We pulled out all the stops," one US diplomat told author Mike Chinoy about the festivities.) It's hardly worth going back over all of the twists and turns of US-North Korean nuclear diplomacy in order to look at the Bush administration's current embarrassing position. The pattern has been set, with relatively minor interruptions of sanity, since 1994: the US makes tough-sounding threats, North Korea cheats/provokes/lies, the US expresses disappointment and then offers second-chances accompanied by generous concessions. So they detonate a crude nuclear device in the fall of 2006 and the Bush administration offers a bilateral meeting. They ship nuclear technology to Syria, a leading terrorist state, and the Bush administration (after first trying to keep that worrisome development a secret) offers to take North Korea off the state sponsor of terror list and to lift some key sanctions. Now, after the North Koreans fail to deliver a verifiable accounting of its nuclear programs, as they had promised, and after the North Koreans refuse to submit to serious inspections of their nuclear facilities, as they had promised, and after the North Koreans break the IAEA seals on its nuclear facilities, a clear provocation, the Bush administration proposes that the North Koreans submit a list of its nuclear facilities to China rather than the US. Because, you know, then the North Koreans will be cooperative. If the current US-North Korea relationship follows the trajectory of a Hollywood romance, we are in trouble. First comes drinking, then dancing. And finally, well...let's just say we'll all be screwed.
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