The Need for Direct Talks with North Korea
For obvious reasons, the Bush administration has focused much of its foreign policy energy on the Middle East. But there are other pressing threats. The largest of these by far is North Korea who has just resumed construction on two nuclear reactors capable of producing enough plutonium to make 50 nuclear weapons every year.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, is in Pyongyang and reports that the threat is most likely real and the need for action immediate. But he has harsh words for how the White House has handled the situation.
The threat of new reactors coming on line makes it all the more urgent that Mr. Bush try direct negotiations - not only about nuclear weapons but also, as some conservatives are suggesting, about North Korea's human rights abuses.
No one knows whether direct negotiations and a clearer road map of incentives would succeed, but they couldn't fail any more abjectly than the present policy…
So don't let the welcome resumption of the six-party talks distract us from the reality: Mr. Bush's refusal to engage North Korea directly is making the peninsula steadily more dangerous. More than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, we are on a collision course with a nuclear power.
The real threat isn’t that North Korea uses their nuclear weapons but that they sell them. Or they could use them as a means to blackmail Asia and the world. Either scenario would put us on the brink of war with a North Korean army that is well-armed and nearly 1,000,000 soldiers strong. The prospect is frightening and avoiding it should be very high on the Bush administration’s foreign policy agenda.
Kristof is likely right. Direct talks couldn’t be any more ineffective than the six-party talks have been. The Bush administration should give serious consideration to working with North Korean directly so that we can be sure we are doing everything possible to stave off what would be a large and potentially devastating war.