The Bush administration seems to be recovering from a serious momentary lapse in its reaction to North Korea. It has called upon the world to institute a technology trade embargo on the rogue state because of its clandestine and illegal program of nuclear arms development. A high level diplomatic mission, including assistant secretaries of state John Bolton and James Kelly are travelling from China to South Korea, Russia, and Japan to discuss the situation. President Bush is going the raise the Issue with Chinese President Jiang Zemin next week in Texas. It will also be on the agenda between Bush and the leaders of Japan and South Korea when they meet in Mexico in two weeks for the Asian Pacific Economic Summit
It is good that the government is picking up the momentum. Immediately after the news broke of the revelation of the North Korean nuclear program, the administration seemed to treat with a diplomatic shrug. By doing so, it was in danger of weakening its rhetorical case against Iraq. Fearing to seem to be over-reacting, the administration instead under-reacted to the news of the new North Korean nuclear threat. On the surface at least, it made the nuclear threat posed by Saddam Hussein seem not so unique.
The government was right not to want to look like a cowboy intent on shooting up any local bully that gains an overly big stick. But by not calling the North Korean program what it isa serious destabilizing threat to the North Pacificit made unilateral action against Saddam Hussein look that much less imperative.
It would have been better had the administration had been consistent in the principles it has enunciated ever since George W. Bush took office.
Point one: Appeasement never works. The attempt to buy off an aggressive ideological regime like Iraq or North Korea will always fail. The UNs policy of appeasement of the last ten years failed in Iraq, and the Clinton policy of appeasement of the 1990s has also failed with North Korea.
Point two: North Korea violated an international agreement. It lied. It has shown itself to be a danger to the region.
Point three: Nuclear non-proliferation used to be the number one foreign policy goal of the left, of Europe, of the United Nations, and of the Third World. All nations and parties should now join in condemning the North Korean action and in demanding that they give up their program and turn over their fissionable materials to the international community.
Point four: Because of Saddam Husseins previous record in war-making and his penchant for slaughtering civilians, and because of his stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, he is a clear and present threat to the nations of the region and to thousands of innocents here and abroad.
Point five: Though the North Korean program is a serious threat, it does not constitute an immediate danger of causing a regional holocaust.
Point six: The United States regards the North Korean action as a grave threat to the long term stability of the North Pacific. Consequently, we should send a high level delegation to our allies in the area, particularly to the Republic of Korea and Japan, in order to discuss a joint response to the new serious state of affairs North Korea has brought about.
Point seven: Iraq and North Korea have vastly differing capabilities in weapons of mass destruction. But in this they are the same: They both must be disarmed of those destructive capabilities.
George W. Bush once included North Korea in "the axis of evil." He has been proven right. He must make good on his own prediction. Margaret Thatcher told another George: "Now dont go all wobbly." Our credibility regarding Iraq will only be strengthened if we treat North Korea with firmness, albeit with the military option necessarily further down the list than it needs to be in relation to Saddam Hussein.