- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Imagine. Questions are still being raised about Texas Gov. George W. Bush's competence to run this country's foreign policy, which is nothing short of amazing when you consider the current Keystone Kops operations. A New York Times front page "news story" this Sunday suggested that Mr. Bush's only record when it comes to international affairs was going to Beijing in the 1970s and trying to date Chinese women. Hmmm… What kind of foreign policy know-how did President Clinton, as governor of Arkansas, bring to the job one wonders? Going to Moscow perhaps and trying to date Russian women?
Mr. Bush has assembled an impressive foreign-policy team, which in stature towers over the Clinton Cabinet. In any event, it would not be hard to improve on the performance of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, whose recent visit to North Korea was simply cringe-making. Furthermore, the appalling fact is that Mrs. Albright was only the vanguard, and will probably be followed shortly by the Big He, President Clinton, who has chosen Southeast Asia as the destination of his last trip to be billed to the U.S. taxpayer. Mr. Clinton himself may get to see the wonders of Pyongyang and enjoy a little quality time with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. And he will finally go to Vietnam. Does the man have no sense of self-awareness or irony at all? Guess that's a pretty dumb question, come to think of it.
But back to Mrs. Albright in Pyongyang. Beyond doubt, the most astonishing aspect of the visit was that she, the U.S. secretary of state, decided to dance with North Korean kindergarten children, which somehow brought to mind Ted Kennedy doing Itsy-Bitsy Spider with a group of Boston children during his last Senate campaign. Were Gen. Colin Powell to assume the post of secretary of state, it hardly seems likely he would make such a spectacle of himself. Not that there's anything wrong with the children; it's the propaganda machine that orchestrated Mrs. Albright's trip which is so sickening. That, and her willingness to go along with it.
Among the other fine sights of Mrs. Albright's trip was the flash-card display of a Taepodong missile being fired into the air, which was featured in the parade celebrating the advent of communism with its many blessings, and which had Mrs. Albright clapping her hands politely.
Now, Mrs. Albright was specifically sent to North Korea to negotiate an end to the country's missile program, which rather made one suspect that Mr. Kim either intended to insult her by the display of military muscle or revealed a hitherto unsuspected sense of humor.
However, the most recent issue of World Policy Journal contains an additional explanation. In "The Missiles of North Korea," Selig S. Harrison, a senior fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center produces a remarkable rationale for the North Korean missile and nuclear programs. One does not need to be inclined to accept rationalizations for dictatorships to find an interesting perspective here. Until very recently the thinking of the North Korean leadership was almost a total mystery to the outside world. Today, after the breakthrough achieved by South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, the picture is getting a little clearer.
Mr. Harrison quotes the conclusion of former Defense Secretary William Cohen in September 1999 after his presidential mission to North Korea, on the purpose of the North Korean missile program. "I believe their primary reason is security, is deterrence," he says. "Who would they be deterring? They would be deterring the United States. We do not think of ourselves as a threat to North Korea. But I truly believe that they consider us a threat to them." Mr. Harrison, after six visits to North Korea, has reached the same conclusion, and writes that, "North Korea is still obsessed with memories of the relentless onslaught of U.S. bombers for three years during the Korean War, memories that have been periodically revived by the use of U.S. airpower in Vietnam, Iraq, and, more recently, Yugoslavia."
From our perspective and that of Seoul, this is outlandish given that North Korea invaded the South, backed by China and the Soviet Union. Still, this may well explain why Mrs. Albright was treated to the provocative missile display they really did want her to know what it looked like and take the message back to Washington. Mr. Harrison also writes that, "The overriding preoccupation of North Korean leaders is survival." Missiles are such a guarantee; they also bring international recognition, food and fuel aid, and visits from leaders of great countries. My conclusion is probably a little different from Mr. Harrison's, of course. Don't hold your breath for the Clinton administration's carrots-and-no-sticks policies to induce Pyongyang to lay down its weapons anytime soon. They are too important for the North Korean regime to let go.
E-mail: bering@washtimes.com

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