Undaunted by John Kerry’s failure to make headway with the issue during last year’s presidential campaign, the Democrats’ spin machine continues to peddle the false idea that President Bush is more responsible for North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs than the gangsters in Pyongyang.
The current orthodoxy from ex-Clinton administration hands like Wendy Sherman, Foggy Bottom’s former North Korea coordinator under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, is this: If only the backward-thinking Mr. Bush and his administration would accede to North Korean demands for bilateral negotiations, Washington could hammer out some kind of Grand Bargain that would satisfy the legitimate concerns of the United States, South Korea and Japan as well as the Stalinists in Pyongyang.
With North Korea stating in general terms a willingness to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear-weapons program, political partisans like Ms. Sherman have stepped up their efforts to depict the Bush administration’s policy rather than the nature of the North Korean regime as the crux of the problem. In particular, they object to the fact that Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Ambassador-designee John Bolton have had the temerity to say that North Korea is a brutal dictatorship that murders and starves its own people while illicitly producing weapons of mass destruction — in other words, to tell the American people the unpleasant truth. “Name calling only begets name calling, further loss of face, more stubborn posturing and less talking,” says Ms. Sherman. “The U.S. should remember that we are the big country and North Korea is the little country.”
To listen to Ms. Sherman, the Clinton administration’s policy toward Kim Jong-Il was a glorious success story; in fact, it was a failure. The centerpiece of the Clinton North Korean policy was the 1994 Agreed Framework, which North Korea systematically violated and used to obtain more time and resources to produce atomic weapons.
This is certainly not to say that all of the blame lies with the Democrats. North Korea’s WMD programs began in the 1970s, and they have advanced during Democratic and Republican administrations alike. In October 2000, as Mr. Clinton attempted to achieve a legacy for himself, Mrs. Albright visited Kim Jong-il, obsequiously courting him, but achieving absolutely nothing — as North Korea’s weapons efforts continued unabated.
Ms. Sherman and other Clintonistas would do well to spare Mr. Bush the tedious lectures about how to deal with North Korea.