February 18, 2007


Bush's "Nixon to China" Moment (Steve Chapman, 2/18/07, Real Clear Politics)

If the deal works, it will go far to redeem Bush's foreign policy -- which until now looked as though it would leave all three countries in the axis of evil more dangerous than they were before. To persuade a rogue regime that has built its own atomic arsenal to give them up would be unprecedented. And that accomplishment might be less important than a secondary effect: preventing Kim Jong Il from selling nukes to other countries or, worse, to terrorist groups.

That scenario, of course, is the congenial one, not the likely one. Negotiating with the North Korean regime often seems like trying to tackle a greased pig: You never quite accomplish your purpose, and the pig never gets tired. If the last nuclear agreement had worked as intended, after all, we wouldn't need this one.

Under the 1994 accord, reached by the Clinton administration, North Korea was supposed to suspend its weapons program -- in exchange for a light water reactor, supplies of fuel oil and eventual normalization of relations. But they cheated by pursuing a secret uranium enrichment effort. And when the Bush administration called them on it, they evicted international inspectors, resumed the production of weapons material and, last year, detonated a nuclear weapon.

That test forced the administration to reconsider its approach, which was to give nothing and expect everything. The advantage it had was that this time, the talks included South Korea, Japan, Russia and China. The latter, Pyongyang's chief patron and ally, was not pleased with the nuclear test and used its leverage to force a deal.

Are the North Koreans serious this time? No one knows, but it won't take much time or money to find out. We agreed to ship them a million tons of heavy fuel oil -- but only 5 percent of it will go out in the next 60 days, by which time they will have to shut down their chief nuclear facility and admit international inspectors.

If they balk, the game will be up. If not, they will have to proceed with steps to dismantle the plant, disclose all their nuclear activities and ultimately surrender their bombs. Any rewards they get will require them to meet their obligations, step by step.

Denuclearizing the North is an ambitious, difficult goal, and the administration deserves credit for making every effort to attain it.

For us it's a no-lose proposition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2007 9:26 AM
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