Solving the Korean Stalemate, One Step at a Time - New York TimesIt's a common story, we know it well now. Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/etc looked at a set of bad options and chose the worst of them. Now the remaining options are few and even worse.
... One option, the most likely one, is to try to force Pyongyang’s leaders to abandon their nuclear program with military threats and a further tightening of the embargoes, increasing the suffering of its already starving people. Two important facts must be faced: Kim Jong-il and his military leaders have proven themselves almost impervious to outside pressure, and both China and South Korea have shown that they are reluctant to destabilize the regime. This approach is also more likely to stimulate further nuclear weapons activity.
The other option is to make an effort to put into effect the September denuclearization agreement, which the North Koreans still maintain is feasible. The simple framework for a step-by-step agreement exists, with the United States giving a firm and direct statement of no hostile intent, and moving toward normal relations if North Korea forgoes any further nuclear weapons program and remains at peace with its neighbors. Each element would have to be confirmed by mutual actions combined with unimpeded international inspections.
Although a small nuclear test is a far cry from even a crude deliverable bomb, this second option has become even more difficult now, but it is unlikely that the North Koreans will back down unless the United States meets this basic demand. Washington’s pledge of no direct talks could be finessed through secret discussions with a trusted emissary like former Secretary of State Jim Baker, who earlier this week said, “It’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies.”
What must be avoided is to leave a beleaguered nuclear nation convinced that it is permanently excluded from the international community, its existence threatened, its people suffering horrible deprivation and its hard-liners in total control of military and political policy.
We can't cause North Korea to collapse if China won't play along. They won't. So basically we do what North Korea wants -- direct talks. We lose face, Kim feels chipper. Too bad. We elected, then reelected, deeply and incorrigibly incompetent people. We get to eat dirt. If we don't like the taste of it, maybe we should do a better job of being citizens.