Ambling towards disaster: Bush�s North Korea policy
By Mike Whitney
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 10, 2006, 00:15

�We have reaffirmed our commitment to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. . . . The actions taken by North Korea are unacceptable and deserve an immediate response by the UN Security Council.� --President George Bush; following the detonation of North Korea�s first nuclear weapon

It took six years of relentless threats, sanctions and belligerence, but Bush finally succeeded in pushing Kim Jong-Il to build North Korea�s first nuclear bomb. Now, Kim can just add a few finishing touches to his ballistic-missile delivery system, the Taepo-dong ICBM, and he�ll be able to wipe out nine western states with a flip of the switch.

In a matter of hours, the world has become a much more dangerous place, a fact that will have no effect on the blinkered ideologues at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. They�ve probably already moved on to the next phase of their plan to expand the Middle East catastrophe: Armageddon in Iran.

The crisis with North Korea was entirely avoidable for anyone with even minimal diplomatic skills and an elementary understanding of human psychology. Instead, the Bush troupe persisted for six years with the same inflexible policy nudging Kim ever closer to producing his first nuclear weapon.  Now, half the population of the United States is in the gunsight of a madcap tyrant whose basic grasp of reality has always been seriously in doubt.

At the same time, the White House has resumed issuing statements via its sardonic press secretary, Tony Snow, that Bush �is closely monitoring the situation and reaffirms his commitment to defend our allies in the region.�

�Monitoring the situation�? Bush has done everything in his power to facilitate the North Korean despot�s quest for WMD except hand-deliver atom bombs to the front porch of his imperial palace.

Bush has put everyone in the region at greater risk and, without a doubt, triggered a nuclear-arms race in Japan, China and South Korea. It is the death-knell for non-proliferation and the threadbare NPT.

The Bush administration has known what Kim wants for six years and has had ample opportunity to find a peaceful resolution to the standoff. North Korea�s demands go back to the original 1994 �Framework Agreement� in which Bill Clinton promised to provide food, fuel and two light water reactors in exchange for North Korea�s abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. The North agreed to these terms, but the United States has never honored its obligations.

When Bush took office, the agreement was jettisoned altogether and Bush pushed for sanctions. He placed North Korea on the �Axis of Evil� list, threatened regime change, and publicly announced that he �loathed� Kim Jung Il. All of this fueled the confrontation and thrust the wary Kim towards developing a viable nuclear deterrent to US aggression. Kim had no intention of being the next victim of Bush�s preemptive policy.

Bush�s dim-witted bravado and saber-rattling has only made negotiations more difficult and aggravated an already tense situation. Even when it was announced that Kim would be testing a nuclear device sometime during this past weekend, the headstrong Bush still refused to enter �11th hour� negotiations. Instead, his Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill issued yet another ominous-sounding threat that �North Korea can either have a future or they can have those weapons. They can�t have both.�

Kim, of course, brushed off the warning and detonated the bomb.

American Intelligence agencies now believe that North Korea has enough fissile material for between two to eight nuclear warheads and they are speeding ahead with the development of the requisite delivery systems.

What will Bush do now?

Will he bomb the North and potentially open another front on the Korean Peninsula for our already overextended military? Or will he simply continue with the fiery rhetoric and the chest-thumping bluster?

His track record is far from reassuring.

The Bush team will probably follow their familiar pattern of ignoring the dilemma while creating a public relations smokescreen to conceal their incompetence.

Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice will undoubtedly make their appearances on the morning talk shows, claiming that �we are all much safer� under the enlightened leadership of George Bush. Perhaps, they could synchronize their silly assertions to coincide with the explosion of Korea�s next nuclear weapon.

How could Bush let the situation get so out of hand? After all, the central tenet of the war on terror is: �We will not let the world�s most dangerous weapons fall into the hands of the world�s worst dictators�? Instead, they have elevated an unstable megalomaniac into a nuclear-armed menace. It could turn out to be the greatest foreign policy meltdown in American history.

Bush needs to forgo the Texas bravado and make substantive changes to the present policy before North Korea becomes the world�s largest WMD production factory.

First, he should agree to two-party talks with representatives from the North, which is what North Korea has demanded from the very beginning.

Second, he should review all sanctions directed against North Korea and publicly state that he will reassess whether they are truly justified.

Third, (and most important) Bush should offer firm assurances in the form of a treaty that North Korea WILL NOT BE ATTACKED BY THE UNITED STATES IF IT ABANDONS ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAMS. This has been the North�s primary demand from the very onset of the crisis (although it has been omitted from newspaper coverage to conceal the fact that the rest of the world is actually terrified of America�s erratic behavior).

Fourth, the administration should reconsider providing the oil, food, and light water reactors which were part of the original �Framework Agreement� as long as North Korea agrees to undergo intensive �go anywhere, see anything� inspections conducted by the UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA.

A larger tragedy can still be averted if cooler heads prevail. The time for bluster is past. The present policy is a dead loss which has put everyone in greater peril.

The North is currently working out the kinks in its Taepo-dong ICBM. If we are serious that �We don�t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,� as Condi Rice opined, the administration must take positive steps to defuse the present crisis; it's time to change directions, amend the policy, and negotiate a peaceful settlement. The alternatives are too horrific to even consider.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

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