- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 5, 2003

We greatly admire Sen. Joseph Lieberman's leadership roles on many foreign policy issues, in particular his willingness almost alone among Democrats to speak forthrightly about the danger posed by the continued existence of Saddam Hussein's regime in Baghdad.
Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with another situation, the growing danger posed by North Korea's likely nuclear arsenal, Mr. Lieberman appears to be taking a far-less-constructive approach. Rather than stand with the Bush administration as it grapples with the high-stakes foreign policy challenges posed by Baghdad and Pyongyang, Mr. Lieberman has taken a different stance in recent weeks with regard to the North Korea situation: suggesting that North Korea has been behaving in a relatively constructive manner, while the Bush administration is pursuing a truculent approach that is needlessly provoking the North Koreans.
For example, appearing last Sunday on CBS television's "Face the Nation," Mr. Lieberman accused the Bush administration of having "taken a difficult situation and turned it into a dangerous one." He charged that the Bush administration "has encouraged the North Koreans" to start up their nuclear power plant, which "they stopped in '94," as a result of an agreement former President Jimmy Carter brokered between the Clinton administration and North Korea. The senator claimed that, because of this misguided approach by the Bush administration, the North Korean regime would be able to produce enough plutonium to start turning out nuclear weapons.
Asked if opening a dialogue with North Korea would constitute rewarding blackmail, Mr. Lieberman seemed to downplay the mendacious behavior of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il. Even though Mr. Kim was behaving in a provocative, irresponsible way, Mr. Lieberman said, Pyongyang's actions need to be understood as "trying to create a dialogue with the United States to achieve more normal relations." The senator repeated his assertion that North Korea "kept the bargain" they made in 1994, and suggested that the U.S. and North Korea both bore responsibility for allowing the situation to escalate.
Unfortunately, Mr. Lieberman is indulging in more than a tiny bit of revisionist history. The reality is that Washington has long been accumulating evidence that North Korea has been flagrantly violating the 1994 agreement, under which it agreed to get out of the nuclear-weapons business in exchange for the United States and South Korea's agreement to supply myriad forms of economic and humanitarian assistance. In fact, U.S. officials, among them Secretary of State Colin Powell, now believe that, even as the International Atomic Energy Agency and world have been focused on the Yongbyon nuclear reactor which was just restarted by North Korea, the communist regime has had a secret nuclear weapons program operating away from the prying eyes of international inspectors.
Mr. Lieberman's remarks serve to obfuscate the reality that the Clinton policy of attempting to bribe Pyongyang out of the nuclear business was a program that was fatally flawed from the start and has proven to be a miserable failure. Mr. Lieberman has shown outstanding leadership on critical issues like homeland security and the need to confront rogue states such as Iraq. The nation would be well-served by his doing the same on the Korean front as well.

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