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Bush's U-Turn on North Korean Talks

July 8, 2006

Just one day after President Bush forcefully defended his insistence on multilateral negotiations with North Korea, the White House has apparently okayed direct talks with envoys from Pyongyang.
Speaking in Seoul on Saturday, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Bush's point man on discussions with the North Koreans, signaled his willingness to meet directly with Kim Jong Il's emissaries once the stalled six-party talks resume:

"As many of you know, the Chinese have talked about putting together a six-party informal, and we both support that and we think that all countries are prepared to come to that informal meeting. Within the informal six-party talks, yes, I can [have direct discussions with North Korean envoys]. I just can't do it when they are boycotting the six-party talks."

That flexibility is a far cry from President Bush's stubborn statements Friday steadfastly affirming his commitment to his failing approach:

"What matters most of all is for Kim Jong-il to see the world speak with one voice...One thing I'm not going to let us do is get caught in the trap of sitting at the table alone with the North Korean, for example. In my judgment, if you want to solve a problem diplomatically, you need partners to do so."

The seeming flip-flip on talks with North Korea, which Perrspectives first reported was imminent in May, reflects the failure of the Bush approach in the wake of Pyongyang's missile launches this week. In March 2001, President Bush undermined the budding "Sunshine Policy" of South Korea by adamantly refusing to engage with the North. The new President stated "We look forward to at some point in the future having a dialogue with the North Koreans but ... any negotiation would require complete verification." But by June 2004, with reports of North Korean nuclear weapons surfacing, press secretary Scott McClellan signaled the Bush administration's willingness to deal with the North, "We will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation...what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs."
During the Friday press conference, CNN White House correspondent Suzanne Malvaux pressed Bush on the growing threat from North Korea's nuclear arsenal and missile tests. "Why shouldn't Americans see the U.S. policy regarding North Korea as a failed one?" Malvaux asked. Bush, angrily, refusing to acknowledge Malvaux's assertion, simply replied, "Because it takes time to get things done."
After five years of Bush's ineptitude towards the Korean peninsula, he doesn't have much time left.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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