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[Opinion] Hill and Bolton

Posted September. 09, 2008 03:28,   


The top nuclear negotiators of the United States, South Korea and Japan rushed to Beijing to hold intense discussions for three days last week. They gathered in Beijing after North Korea announced it will stop disabling its nuclear program while showing signs of reactivating its nuclear facilities. The North’s Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan did not show up in Beijing. The three negotiators helplessly returned home after asking China’s Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei to encourage North Korea to return to the six-way nuclear talks.

Pyongyang has violated the 2005 joint declaration it signed on destroying its nuclear programs. Worse, it has disregarded its six-party counterparts. A series of the North`s provocative moves are enough to urge the United States to take the hawkish approach. Washington, however, is hesitating to express its rage against the Stalinist regime. Top U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill has tried to appease Pyongyang, saying, “I want to stress that we’re not looking to verify their declaration (of nuclear activities) now. We’re looking to come up with rules of how we will verify it in the future.” On U.S. media reports saying the North has removed the seal on its main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, Hill said whether the North has attempted to reactivate its nuclear facilities is unclear. What is behind the lukewarm U.S. attitude?

Former U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton has the answer. In his article submitted to the Wall Street Journal, he said the Bush administration’s pursuit of a legacy has become more frantic. Citing Washington`s lukewarm attitude toward Pyongyang as an example, Bolton said the U.S. government is making concessions to prevent the North`s nuclear dismantlement, which has been considered as one of the administration`s great successes, from deteriorating. He said North Korea stopped disabling the crumpling Yongbyon reactor to be removed from the U.S. terrorism blacklist based on its reading of the Bush administration’s psychology.

Hill is the chief American negotiator for North Korea but Bolton is one of the most hawkish U.S. diplomats. It is not surprising that Bolton has little trust in Hill, who is trying to appease Pyongyang. The Bush administration, which simply struggles to conduct good diplomacy, could incur a severe aftermath. Then who will answer for the consequences? Washington should remember that only a valuable legacy should be handed over to descendants. The Bush administration should follow its principle of banning a nuclear North Korea for itself and the other parties to the six-way nuclear talks. Hill should not try to make the Bush administration look good on North Korea policy by glossing over certain issues.

Editorial Writer Bhang Hyeong-nam (hnbhang@donga.com)