- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 23, 2000

President Bill Clinton has a foreign policy trophy in his sight. A trip to North Korea, Mr. Clinton thinks, could crown his legacy and win him Democratic Party leadership if he is successful. The clock is ticking, with so few days left, but Mr. Clinton would so like to step down amid fireworks. In order to get his prize, Mr. Clinton is considering traveling to Pyongyang into the dictator's den. He shouldn't do it.

First of all, Mr. Clinton demonstrated in an interview with 60 Minutes II on Tuesday that he is in no state emotionally to negotiate with a wily despot. With huge bags under his eyes, Mr. Clinton mostly lamented his victimization by right-wing rivals who thwarted his presidency. Monica Lewinsky, impeachment, government shutdown all the result of bad people bullying him, so the president maintained. At times, the bags under his eyes even twitched as emotions welled up. He seems desperate to draw at excuses and redeem his presidency. Since North Korea dictator Kim Jong-il outmaneuvered Mr. Clinton and his people during less emotional times, the president should definitely stay home.

And Mr. Clinton has no time to forge a consensus with Congress and U.S. allies over a possible agreement. If he were to get one, which is questionable on its face, and Congress or the allies were to reject it, relations with volatile North Korea would suffer needlessly.

There's also no time to work out a worthwhile and comprehensive agreement that would touch on the key U.S. concerns: missile and nuclear proliferation. The nuclear framework agreement the United States struck with North Korea in 1994 is deeply flawed because it didn't cover all potential nuclear projects by North Korea and didn't guarantee wide ranging inspections.

Even more worrisome is the prospect that the United States would launch a satellite for North Korea in exchange for that country's commitment to eliminate or limit its missile program. The White House is considering this option. But in the highly technical conversations and coordination that would have to be completed in order to launch one of North Korea's own satellites, Pyongyang would learn quite a bit about how to launch their own long-range missile.

So if the president were to pay the North Koreans a visit, he may well find his legacy tarnished. And he's suffered enough of that already. Mr. Clinton should instead stay home. And get some rest. Perhaps bake some cookies for Hillary.

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