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July 19, 2005

Misunderstanding History: Kristof Calling for Appeasement of Kim Jong Il

Nick Kristof is an old friend and wonderful guy. He is also a great reporter. But he is decidedly wrong in his repeated calls for the US to unilaterally negotiate with North Korea rather than pursue the Bush's administration's policy of multilateral, six-nation talks between the US, North Korea and its neighbors and allies, including North Korea's most significant ally and economic benefactor, China.

In today's column, Nick dredges up the sorry tale of USS Pueblo, the US spy ship siezed by the North Korean navy in 1968. He uses the Pueblo to make two points: first, that it is impossible to prevent North Korea from secretly exporting nuclear weapons to terrorists or other willing buyers (since western navies were unable to detect and prevent the DPRK from secretly moving the Pueblo from the port where it had been captured to the other side of the Korean peninsula) and second, that in the end there is no alternative to negotiating directly with the DPRK as, for example, we did in 1968 to obtain the release of the Pueblo's crew.

Kristof is probably right that it would be impossible to prevent North Korea from secretly exporting nuclear weapons. But he is wrong in asserting that there is no alternative to kowtowing to North Korea.

The Bush Administration, correctly perceiving that the only way to apply pressure to the North Korean government is through China, which is that country's sole ally and economic lifeline, has insisted that China (and the DPRK's other neighbors) be at the table for any negotiations. As the Clinton administration's well-intentioned, but failed, policy of trading aid for promises that were promptly broken illustrated, there is no alternative. What's more, if the US had taken a harder line with North Korea back in 1968 -- for example, by threatening military reprisals if the Pueblo and its crew were not promptly released -- perhaps we would not be in our current weak bargaining position viz-a-viz Korea's nuclear armed madman.

July 19, 2005 at 06:59 AM | Permalink


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Were you college classmates with Kristof, or did you meet him while travelling? Just curious about what makes him tick and why he hates Bush so much.

Posted by: James | Jul 20, 2005 9:46:11 PM

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