- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2008

DAVOS, Switzerland — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tamped down perceptions of internal resistance to the Bush administration’s North Korea policy yesterday, arguing that nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang offered hope for an end to conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

She made her remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos days after a State Department envoy dealing with North Korea had publicly questioned Pyongyang’s willingness to give up its nuclear-arms programs. A deal concluded last year calls for the North to dismantle those programs in exchange for political and economic incentives.

“We can imagine a better relationship with North Korea, and we are working to build it in the six-party talks,” Miss Rice said in her wide-ranging survey of U.S. foreign policy in Davos.

“We continue to believe that we can use the six-party talks for even larger purposes, to finally end the conflict on the Korean Peninsula, to forge a mechanism for security cooperation in Northeast Asia,” she said.

She conceded, however, that the negotiations, which include Japan, China, South Korea and Russia, have hit a snag with Pyongyang’s failure so far to provide “a complete and accurate declaration of all nuclear programs and activities.”

Jay Lefkowitz, the State Department special envoy for human rights issues with North Korea, said at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington last week that he thinks North Korea is “not serious about disarming in a timely manner.”

“North Korea will remain in its present nuclear status when the [Bush administration] leaves office in one year,” he added. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said later that Mr. Lefkowitz’ remarks “certainly don’t represent the views of the department.”

Before flying to Switzerland, Miss Rice met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi over breakfast in Berlin and urged him to put more pressure on North Korea to come clean on a suspected uranium-enrichment effort.

In Davos, the chief U.S. diplomat also spoke of the importance of “idealism and optimism” in trying to overcome the world’s political and economic turmoil.

Her positive speech contrasted sharply with the grim view of today’s world promoted by the administration after the September 11, 2001, attacks, when it emphasized the threats posed by terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

On the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan, Miss Rice said:

“It is tempting many people to turn inward, to secure what they have and to shut others out.

“Some want to go it alone, and there is certainly cynicism about the salience of our ideals when it seems hard enough just to protect our interests.”

Miss Rice also said that Western governments should come clean to their people about the nature of the Afghan conflict.

“Our publics need to be told honestly that we are engaged in a real war in Afghanistan, that there will be sacrifices, that this is not just a peacekeeping operation, and that the stakes could not be higher for the Afghan people, for our alliance and for international security,” she said.

“NATO is not performing perfectly,” she added. “Neither is America.”

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