Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bush administration responsible for North Korean nuclear tests

Some situations, when not dealt with properly, can come back to haunt you.

When North Korea tested a nuclear weapon last Monday morning, the ominous specter of Kim Jong Il had to be hovering around in the thoughts of President Bush and his administration.

Of course, the Bush administration was too busy dealing with Iraq to really pay attention to North Korea. However, Kim Jong Il didn’t want to be ignored and sure had an emphatic way of showing it.

The U.S. has known about North Korea’s attempts at making nuclear weapons since the 1980s. With the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Clinton administration secured a freeze of capital city Pyongyang’s plutonium program.

However, after a series of breakings with the Agreed Framework, including the suspension of shipments of heavy fuel oil in early 2003 promised under the agreement, North Korea restarted a major reactor at Yongbyon and resumed producing plutonium.

Then, on Oct. 9, a perceived threat became a reality as North Korea tested a nuclear bomb in defiance of the United States.

That explosion must have coincided with an explosion of guilt within the Bush administration for failing to deal with North Korea properly.

Our harsh diplomatic separation from North Korea began after the 9/11 attacks when President Bush decreed North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and Iran, in his 2002 State of the Union speech.

While Il is certainly one despicable little man, putting his regime in the category of the “axis of evil” was a bad move for foreign policy. The Bush administration failed to properly engage the country by implementing North Korea into the “antiterror” strategy and hurt relations with South Korea who resented this designation.

From this point on our relationship with North Korea went from bad to worse as our administration seemingly forgot diplomacy.

During the six-way talks between the United States, North Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea in August of 2003, our Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly was almost impervious to negotiation.

In response, Kim Jong Il proclaimed that if the United States was not willing to negotiate with North Korea it would have “no choice but to declare its possession of nuclear weapons” and “conduct a nuclear weapons test.”

These kinds of threats from Il became common occurrences, yet they were met with a hawkish attitude by the Bush administration.

The administration imposed economic sanctions and threatened North Korea, which did nothing to better the international crisis. These actions lent themselves to the insane notion that threatening an isolated country with nuclear capabilities was going to somehow deter it from using them.

Although the 1994 Agreed Framework was successful in freezing North Korea’s nuclear program at that time, it was abandoned by the Bush administration.

According to the agreement, light water reactor power plants were scheduled to be built in 2003 as a replacement for North Korea’s nuclear power plants, but the foundations for these plants were not started until late 2002. Similarly, heavy fuel oil promised in the accordance was often delivered behind schedule.

The Bush administration’s disregard for this agreement, in turn, led to a similar disregard by North Korea as it began to reopen the reactors frozen under the 1994 Agreed Framework.

The war in Iraq is another big factor to consider when looking at the current North Korean crisis. The billions of dollars invested in the war along with the attention that it has garnered took away from what should have been the United State’s main focus all along, North Korea.

With so much concentration put upon what is increasingly becoming a failing war, it is no wonder Kim Jong Il did what he did. The United States was too busy with Iraq to soundly work together with North Korea in order to avoid serious conflict.

It seems very clear that Kim Jong Il’s testing of a nuclear bomb last Monday was more an attempt to secure his regime than to start a nuclear war. If the Bush administration would have been more diplomatic in clearing up this insecurity, there is a large possibility that we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Of course, people are always going to blame Clinton, but in this situation there is no merit in doing so.

Sure he didn’t get Bin Laden when he had the chance, but it is the 1994 Agreed Framework that kept our relationship with North Korea stable enough as to avoid our current predicament.

The Bush administration failed in its chance to prevent the crisis that is now haunting its member’s dreams. By not taking the proper diplomatic action, the administration has thwarted us into a very bleak and nuclear oriented era.

One has to wonder if the failures of the Bush administration will haunt future generations. Will the offspring of tomorrow grow up in a world of nuclear aggression? It is possible, but there is still hope.

Negotiating with North Korea may seem far-fetched at this point, but it is certainly not. It is of thorough importance that more diplomatic action is taken in order for us to avoid even further international risks.

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