Thursday, February 10, 2005

North Korean Nukes

The web headline of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reads:

U.S. warns that N. Korea faces isolation

"Isolation." Compared to what, exactly? North Korea is already the most isolated nation on earth. This is precisely why experts have been urging the Bush administration for two years to adopt a carrot/stick approach to negotiation with Kim Jong-il. The man realizes that, with the exception of his very life, he and his country have practically nothing to lose.

Add to this the fact that Kim is likely more disconnected from the real world than was Saddam Hussein. We learned from former Iraqi officials that nobody dared to tell Saddam things that he might not wish to hear. It is the peculiar blessing and curse of being an autocrat that you get exactly what you want, even if it is not always what you need. Dictators do not always have accurate information about the world outside their compound gates.

We could take Kim Jong-il at his word when he says he has built a nuclear arsenal to defend himself against a U.S. invasion. We know we're not about to attack his country, but Kim doesn't necessarily know that. Mere months after President Bush identified North Korea as one point on the Axis of Evil, the U.S. wiped one of the other points right off the chart.

It would be ironic if Kim has a sincere fear of an invasion while U.S. military posture is thus strained:

"House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the Bush administration has failed to sufficiently pressure China to use its leverage with the North Koreans and said the administration also should consider direct, two-party talks with North Korea.

'This administration has not paid enough attention to the situation in North Korea,' Pelosi said. 'The North Koreans know that we are otherwise occupied in military actions in other parts of the world and they have taken the liberty to be brazen.'

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he did not know whether North Korea had the weapons it claimed, but 'one has to be concerned about it from a proliferation standpoint.'

'One has to worry about weapons of that power in leadership of that nature,' he added. 'I don't think anyone would characterize the leadership in that country as being restrained.'"