Go to contents

Bush to Get Involved in North Korea Personally

Posted January. 17, 2005 17:08,   


The second term of U.S. President George W. Bush starts on January 20. The confirmation hearing by the U.S. Senate for the Secretary of State nominee Condoleeza Rice, who will become the leader of foreign policy, is also scheduled for January 18 and 19. The administration’s framework for foreign policy, particularly the one regarding the Korean Peninsula, has not been determined yet. Things will clear up only after the Senate hearing on the secretary of State nominee, the president’s inauguration, and the state of the union address scheduled for February 2.

Dong-A Ilbo has dispatched reporter Kim Jung-ahn to Washington with just days before Bush’s second term to check on the current affairs of the so-called movers and shakers (policy specialists). This is the second of such work following the in-depth coverage on the “Mover and Shaker” in January 2004.

Mover and Shaker on Foreign Policy for the Bush Administration’s Second Term North Korea or Iran-

"Mr. Bush is getting personally involved in North Korean issues."

Administration officials on the Korean Peninsula at Washington kept to an economy of words at the second meeting a year later.

However, subtle changes were sensed. It differed from the “let’s wait and see” attitude of the year before. Certain urgency was in the air. It appears quite busy, probably with the launch of the second term of the George W. Bush administration.

A senior official sighed, “We have more than 10 meetings to take care of just for the day.”

Iran or North Korea?—

An authority answered, “I heard that North Korea tops the priority list of foreign diplomacy to which the president will pay the most attention, followed by Iran,” to the question on the basis of North Korean policy for the second administration of President Bush.

“After the re-election, the nature and the volume of work assigned [from top] regarding North Korea now differ. The hot issue of the first term was handling the international situation in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attack, in other words Afghanistan and Iraq. The second term, however, seems to be on a different note.”

With just days to go until the beginning of the second term, the priority of the U.S.’ foreign policy is Iraq. After the war on Iraq, the American casualties alone toll nearly 12,000, and the world’s eyes are on Iraq’s general election scheduled for January 30. However, some urge that they cannot hold forever on Iraq alone.

The Associated Press pointed out that the nuclear issues in North Korea and Iran are rising fast to match the issues in Iraq, and asserted that the U.S. has to choose one or the other. One way is to exit Iraq after the general election regardless of how chaotic things may turn out, and the other is to come clean with the people and admit that “this difficult situation will be prolonged for the next four years or even longer.”

The analysis is that the attention of the Bush administration will be focused on the nuclear issue either in North Korea or Iran once the situation in Iraq is wrapped up in some form of manner.

Of course, one of the administration authority asked back, “Is it so doubtful that we are able to handle both Iraq and the issues in North Korea and Iran concurrently?” But he did not deny the validity of the question of it being either Iran or North Korea.

This official said, “The attention and energy put into Iraq have been visibly reduced. The work regarding North Korea has increased pronouncedly. However, as far as I know, the focus or the workload on Iran has not changed that much from that of the first term.” He even said, “Mr. Bush is getting personally involved in issues regarding North Korea.”

The people for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, who are referred to as the hard-liners in Washington, also said, “North Korea aggravated the issue in Iran,” and asserted, “The North Korean issue should be taken care of [prior to Iran].”

The critical remarks on the six-party talks, which were organized for resolving the North Korea nuclear issue, about it not making significant progress after three sessions, are placing a burden on the issue.

One official called the situation an institutional urgency.

It means that it was the United States which suggested the systematic framework of the six-party talks, and it is the United States that pressured for results to be presented.

He said, “It does not mean for calling of military action, but the voice against idle observation without progress is gaining strength.”

Of matter of course, there are other analyses as well.

The former assistant secretary of State on nuclear non-proliferation during the Clinton administration, Mr. Robert Einhorn, currently a senior researcher at Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “To the Bush administration, North Korea already has nuclear capabilities, and Iran doesn’t. The hard-liners inside the Bush administration seem to be more pressed for Iran issues.”

A Calm before the Storm—

However, a blueprint for the policy on North Korea does not appear to be ready. To the reporter’s question on whether the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon have set up a common North Korean policy, one administration officer answered, “Not quite yet,” after a long silence.

However, the shared vision of experts and Korean Peninsula authorities is that the situation will change once President Bush puts the North Korean issue on the top of the list and becomes personally involved in the details. One of the administrative official said, “The dissipation of opinions on the foreign policy of the Korean Peninsula started at the working level and debate was most fierce on that level,” and added, “But once the officials of the highest authority, or the president, gets involved, such situation will be taken care of.”

The Issue is President Bush’s Thoughts-

The majority opinion was that the basic policy of the U.S. on handling the problem diplomatically through the six-party talks will remain unchanged.

However, the dominant analysis is that the situation will change when the six-party talks fail to deliver tangible results.

A correspondence with a good look inside the administration analyzed the “game plan” of the president’s hard-line advisors, who are more forceful in their assertions.

“At the moment, the hard-liners will keep to their assertion about blaming the fruitless six-party talks on North Korea’s unwillingness to talk and its lack of enthusiasm on the U.S.’s offers. If it is deemed difficult to make any more progress, the United States will first turn to Japan to start putting pressures (economic sanctions) on North Korea. It will want the same for South Korea and China as well. It will hinder Inter-Korean exchanges such as South Korea’s economic activities with North Korea, and South Korea will not comply. That’s what will trigger discord between Korea and the U.S. There may not be much progress for about six months or so, but this may just be a calm before the storm.”

“Some pressure may be a diplomatic solution, and there is a possibility of five-way talks without North Korea.”

Perspective of a U.S. Senior Authority on North Korea-

“Diplomatic solution involves both the carrot and the stick.”

There was a subtle change of mood in the remarks of the U.S. administrative senior official at the second meeting following the first one held last year. It showed a sense of a change in the basic framework of foreign policy on North Korea in the second term of the Bush administration.

Unlike last year’s comment about it not being time to talk of the “stick,” adhering to a moderate stance, he first mentioned of “some pressure” in regards to North Korea.

Off hand, this senior official said, “Instead of waiting forever and asking North Korea just ‘when will you come to the table,’ we can consider holding five-way talks without North Korea.”

Following is a summarized interview done on the condition of anonymity.

-How is the future outlook of the six-party talk?

“The United State’s words on the six-party talks will be kept. However, putting some pressure on North Korea through a new form of five-way talks without North Korea is another option. This is also a diplomatic method. Diplomatic solution calls for both negotiation and pressure.”

-What are some possibilities under consideration?

“Instead of asking North Korea ‘when they will come to the negotiation table,’ we can send a message that the talks will always commence [with or without North Korea]. Of course, this is not an official suggestion. We will have to observe for any changes in North Korea’s attitude. Without it, it is difficult to continue with the negotiations. North Korea, too, agreed on the terms the United States offered at the six-party talks held in June last year. They said there were some positive elements. However, the next day, they were given a new set of orders and changed on their words. That is not a positive attitude in a negotiation.”

-What is the diplomatic solution the United States mentions?

“Rather than choosing one or the other, both negotiation and pressure (economic sanctions) should be employed in parallel. Some pressure should be another factor in diplomatic solutions.”

-What if the South Korean government initiates Inter-Korean Summit in efforts to resolve the nuclear issue?

“There is no reason for the U.S. to oppose the summit meeting. We believe it is possible to hold a summit along with the six-party talks.”