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Posted at 12:26 PM ET, 01/ 4/2011

No time to 'engage' North Korea

By Jennifer Rubin

Former United Nations ambassador and potential 2012 presidential contender John Bolton writes in the Wall Street Journal:

President Obama's North Korea policy has come to an entirely predictable dead end. Having for two years correctly resisted resuming the six party talks on the North's nuclear-weapons program, Mr. Obama is now pressuring South Korea to do just that. This is a significant mistake. It would have been bad enough had Mr. Obama simply picked up where the Bush administration left off in January 2009, but restarting the talks now will signal weakness and indecisiveness.

Rather than resume six-party talks, Bolton advises:

We should thoroughly isolate North Korea by denying it access to international financial markets, ramping up efforts to prevent trade in weapons- related materials and pressuring China to adhere to existing U.N. sanctions resolutions. Opening North Korea to foreign commerce to benefit its near-starving population, as some advocate, is utterly fanciful. If the regime had ever cared about its people, they wouldn't be in such dire straits.

We should also dramatically expand preparations for Kim [Jong Ill]'s inevitable demise

It is time, he posits, to make Korean unification our goal.

Christian Whiton, a Far East expert who served in the State Department from 2003 to 2009, agrees with Bolton's admonition that we should cease strong-arming South Korea. Whiton e-mails:

Pyongyang no doubt senses and is encouraged by a split between Seoul and Washington -- something it appears poised to exploit. America trying another kick at Lucy's football, as six party talks might be characterized, would also be a gift for the Chinese government, whose unelected boss is being given the honor of a state visit this month by the Obama White House. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak now gets to figure out how to handle the nuclear-armed regime that twice attacked his country last year -- without help from his treaty ally.

Rather than pushing around our ally, Whiton urges that, in addition to the measures Bolton suggests, we take a number of steps to counter North Korean aggression.

First, he urges that we should be "dramatically increasing defector-led radio broadcasting from outside North Korea. The truth is Kim Jong Il's greatest foe, and dissent movements thrive on factual information that undermine the dictators' propaganda." It is a truism that, as we pump more information in, thereby bolstering oppostion forces, our ability to extract intelligence from a despotic regime increases.

Second, he recommends that we halt "remaining UN aid and other funds flowing to North Korea, which the regime uses to survive." As we have done with Iran, Whiton argues that we "should also deny any financial organization that deals with North Korea the ability to clear transactions in U.S. dollars -- essentially a threatened death penalty for banks that would end the regime's ability to move funds and reward those who keep it in power." He also argues in favor of stopping trade and seaborne proliferation, if necessary by impounding "ships going to or from North Korea." And finally he argues that we need to change the military balance in the region:

We should consult with South Korea and Japan about increasing the forces of our three nations available for a rapid move on Pyongyang should one ever become necessary. More importantly, we should talk openly about placing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the 5-150 kiloton range in the region to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. For the first time, this would make China realize supporting North Korea is harming Beijing's own security, which just might make it less willing to aid Pyongyang. Kim's generals would also see they are worse off for following him.

Yes, these are strong measures, but the alternative is to accept an increasingly belligerent North Korean regime and to signal to China that we are ill-prepared to defend our national interests. As a bonus, moreover, a robust U.S. stance toward North Korea would serve as a sharp reminder to Iran that, if need be, we will act to destabilize rogue regimes. But of course, continuing on our present course would send the opposite signal to the Iranians, and make a mockery of Obama's goal of a nuclear-free world. Unfortunately, we have yet to see any effort to "reset" our stance toward North Korea and/or our relationship with China. The Iranian regime is taking note.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 4, 2011; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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During Bush's campaign for re election it became clear to me that Kerry simply disagreed with everything Bush did.

Kerry complained that Bush was being unilateral in Iraq and multilateral in Korea. Of course he had no actual facts to support his contention, just visceral hatred. it almost worked. If the guy wasn't such a stiff (John Grimjaw!) he might have prevailed at peddling that drivel.

It would be fun to review Obama's statements about Korea made during those rare occassions when he deigned to grace the senate with his presence. I wonder if he supported multilateral talks, even though Bush relied on them.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 4, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"we should talk openly about placing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the 5-150 kiloton range in the region to counter the growing nuclear threat from North Korea."

Yeah, nothing teaches rogue regimes that there is no value to acquiring nuclear weapons like threatening them with nuclear weapons.

Posted by: StevenDolley | January 4, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

as if North Korea does not already know the U.S. has submarines with nuclear warheads already programmed for Pyongyang.

as if China itself does not now feel threatened by their spoiled child with nukes.

I question why unification is the sole endgame. China wants Noth Korea's mineral assets. I think China should legally annex North Korea as a demilitarized mining colony, and send the Kims to a Zimbabwe retirement villa. Sign a formal peace treaty. Once China has extracted what they want, then the two Koreas can politically reunite. China's mercantilism is no threat to South Korea or Japan, who will probably get lots of contracts for heavy equipment and other exports. And the North Korean people will finally get food and far more freedom even if it is economic colonialism for another generation.

Posted by: K2K2 | January 4, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

The last time we went to Korea,we left 50000 dead,I guess that's ok with the Boltons&Rubins as long as its someone not them. And what did we get for our "Sacrifice",an economic competitor and a nation that hates our guts. Thank you Mr. Truman,great job.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 4, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

"First, he urges that we should be "dramatically increasing defector-led radio broadcasting from outside North Korea. The truth is Kim Jong Il's greatest foe, and dissent movements thrive on factual information that undermine the dictators' propaganda."

Ah the "experts" weighing in again. The above quote reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story about Johnny Cash being requested not to play Folsom Prison Blues in one of his performances at a prison, so as not to reimnd the prisoners of being in prison. To which he replied "You think they've forgotten?"

I am sure the North Koreans won't know they're starving until we broadcast the fact.

"It is a truism that, as we pump more information in, thereby bolstering oppostion forces, our ability to extract intelligence from a despotic regime increases."

Like any true Stalinist regime, there are NO living opposition forces. If you want governmental change then you need to make a secret deal with a NK general or generals in the unlikely event that is possible.

Re-unification is a great idea for the people, but a little less so for the NK government who would be unemployed under any such plan, and so little less likely to agree.

All of this nonsense from desktop general Bolton ignores the fact that the Chinese LIKE having an in-house crazy totally dependent on them for survival. Nobody goes near the property where the biker gang member with multiple felony convictions is living over the garage as a guest.

If you want action on North Korea, offer Taiwan to the Chinese as a trade. It can't be any worse idea than all the above nonsense.

Posted by: 54465446 | January 4, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

you want action on North Korea, offer Taiwan to the Chinese as a trade. It can't be any worse idea than all the above nonsense.
Posted by: 54465446

Take a look at the "natural" history of our Taiwanesse foreign policy. Not long ago,it was the keystone of our West Asian Strategy,and the Bulwark against the Communist takeover of the Pacific. And now,it recedes into ambivilance and ambiguity.
The same process is occuring with Israel and the Jihadist monolith of WW4 terror against all civilization. Just substitute Israel for Taiwan,and Jihadism for Red Chinese Communism,and you should get the drift.

Posted by: rcaruth | January 4, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Who cares what Christian Far East Expert and John "Nuke 'em" Bolton think? Honestly, will you provide John Bolton a microphone every time he comes up with something stupid to say? Bolton's an idiot, and you're an idiot for posting his idiocy.

Posted by: danw1 | January 4, 2011 1:52 PM | Report abuse

here is the question that is being asked:
Who are we to believe, the former US Ambassador to the UN who has been plugged into world diplomacy at the highest levels for years or a know-it-all commenter writing anonymously on WaPo blog thread?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | January 4, 2011 3:06 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 4, 2011 3:11 PM | Report abuse


I don't think you can find many people who consider what Bolton does "diplomacy". LOL

Posted by: 54465446 | January 4, 2011 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Other famous who are you going to believes:

-Bernie Madoff, former head of the NASDAQ, or Harry Markopolos some nobody?

-Dick Cheney about WMD's and Al Queda in Iraq or the inspectors from the IAEA?

-Roger Clemens Hall of Fame pitcher extraordinnaire who says that he didn't use steroids, or little Brian McNamee, who says that he did?

. . . and so on and so forth!

Posted by: 54465446 | January 4, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Hey Libs,

Are we men, or mice?

I mean, you're mice, but don't you ever want to be men? Even just a little?

When are you people ever going to get it into your selfish, timid, craven little mouse brains that the only thing ruthless and evil tyrants understand is force and an opponent willing to call their bluff. It's like you guys don't even soak in basic 20th century history. Is it the marijuana? Or the antidepresants? Too much television? Self-loathing? Just plain nastiness? I'm asking.

Posted by: johnnyramone | January 4, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

johnny ramone:

Quite frankly most of your posts are about as informed anything I could hear in the cellblock of my local District station.

However I'll answer this one to point out that if you ever want to use force against any of this nation's enemies, Bolton and Whiton will be there at the docks cheering you on, but that's about as far as either of them will ever go.

We have already established that Bolton was in his own words a supporter of the Vietnam war; that is right up until the point where it was his turn to go, at which time he declared the war "already lost" and took his Cowardly Lion act into the Maryland National Guard.

Whiton on thew other hand is not exactly the "Far East expert" that Jennifer portrays. Here is his bio in his own words:

"Christian Whiton (pronounced wī-tən) is an American diplomat and businessman. He was a State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, in which he served as the Deputy Special Envoy focused primarily on the promotion of human rights in North Korea. Whiton advised senior administration officials on policy, communications and programmatic activities related to democracy efforts. Whiton has criticized the governments of North Korea and China for their human rights records."


Mr, Whiton, who worked on mergers and acquisitions at KPMG after getting his MBA, was the friend of somebody influential in the Bush Administration who gave him a job.

He started off as a speechwriter at age 27 and then got the job promoting human rights in North Korea, from the US of course, at about age 29. Since most of his prior experience had been college and M&A, it is doubful that Mr Whiton had ever been to South Korea and certain that he had never been to North Korea. I sure he brought a "wealth" of Far East experience to his position which was probably more ideology than knowledge.

Like the Bush youngsters who went to Iraq to "organize' the country after our victory in 2003, I'm sure he will leave a lasting mark on the country of his "expertise".

Which brings me to ask the following question of Jennifer.

Do you EVER do any research about the people you bring into your columns? Do you even feel the slightest embarassment about quoting people who know little or nothing about their subjects? (think Anne Applebaum too on Russia)

Posted by: 54465446 | January 4, 2011 11:08 PM | Report abuse

John Bolton is always for war, Not newsworthy at all.
The world need peace not war.

Posted by: HappyJoe | January 4, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

A bold, ambitious and EXTENSIVELY RESOURCED attempt at using reason and facts to pressure North Korea's leadership to agree to a set-in-writing pathway to reunification of the two Koreas ought to be actioned before a blockade, increased sanctions and/or military strikes are used against N Korea...


1) The major international players- preferably along with Asia's most-affected by the North Korea threat countries- need to, for once, agree- in a written joint-policy document- on what a future Korean peninsula ought to look like in terms of unification of the two Koreas and, generally, the types of economic, political and legal structures that ought to be in place and used in a unified Korean peninsula;

2) A heavily resourced, professionally-delivered international 'public relations campaign' for positive change of North Korea- with the objective of bringing about the conditions needed for facilitation of the objectives that make up the above proposed joint-policy document- would have to be commenced - and lead by a competent, respected and- above all- perceived-as-reasonably-impartial focal point such as a U.N. permanent-5 Security Council member- other than the U.S. (due to its adversarial and war-like relationship with N Korea), and other than countries which are in oppositional relationships with the U.S. on other world stage issues- IE: Russia and China...

Why couldn't the United Kingdom take on this role??;

3) The above proposed international 'public relations campaign' for positive change of North Korea would need to be 'speaking directly to' North Korea's leadership and population along with, less directly, to the wider world...

4) The international public relations campaign for positive change of North Korea could be used as an argument directed at North Korea's leadership:

Ideally, it would be intended to convince N Korea's leadership and military personnel of why their country's insular, dictatorship model governance- in effect imprisoning 24 million Koreans- ought to be replaced with human rights-based legal and democratic political systems, capitalism and- most importantly- why North Korea and its citizenry- and those residing on the Korean peninsula generally- would be better off living within a unified North and South Korea state- perhaps a 'federal' "one country two systems" model...

Posted by: mrrodericklouis | January 7, 2011 12:52 AM | Report abuse


A substantially advertised and disseminated- in all major medias- comparison of the enormous economic, technological, scientific, political, human rights-upholding, wealth generating, and international bodies' participation success that is South Korea today with the abject squalid political, legal, economic and quality of life disaster of North Korea today and the further damages to it and suffering of its citizenry that will be caused by N Korea's continued lack of positive changes to its political, legal and economic structures and by North Korea's continued international isolation ought to be part of an international 'public relations campaign' for positive change of North Korea...

Roderick V. Louis,
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Posted by: mrrodericklouis | January 7, 2011 12:53 AM | Report abuse

The continued lack of legitimate cohesion between major world powers concerned by the North Korean threat is the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean peninsula...


China has the power to solve the North Korean 'problem' tomorrow if it wanted...

But due to China's politicians' perceptions of their country's competitive relationship with the planet's other mega-power: the United States- and the US's deep entwining in the Korean peninsula's underlying root problems- unfortunately for decades China has been unable- or unwilling- to take the types of steps required to diplomatically- or militarily- force rectification of the North Korean threat..

So, what could be lost by a highly experienced and widely respected international player- such as the United Kingdom- getting involved as an interlocuter between China and the U.S. regarding North Korean issues???

Why couldn't the United Kingdom take on this role?

And considering the UK's:

- history,

- its close ties to (Asian & other) British Commonwealth countries,

- its current substantial presence & roles worldwide,

- its 'special relationship' with the U.S., along with

- its extensive knowledge-base & several hundred years of previous experiences in top table geopolitics...

... what country would be better suited to fill the role of an interlocutor between the U.S., China, North Korea & South Korea with the objective: reunification of the two Koreas??

What would be lost by the UK's bureaucrats and politicans working assertively to convince China that it is in China's interests- and would be highly constructive for China's world leadership aspirations- for China to play a direct role in ending the real, very serious and urgent threats to world stability and trade represented by a mal-governed North Korea...

Although N Korea likely does not have- and never has had- a fission bomb: according to most diplomatic assessments, the purported-by-N Korea as 'successful' fission N bomb tests (occurring during the last several years) were faked!!... N Korea could still easily powderize small amounts of (purified) plutonium or uranium and, coupling this to small amounts of conventional explosives and using its short and medium range ballistic missiles- could deliver such 'Dirty Bombs' to S Korean cities and strategic targets...

This would create havoc and inflict many 10's of billions of pounds/dollars of damage rectification/clean-up costs on not only S Korea but also the wider world- due to the immense interconnectedness of S Korea's economy with- and sales of its products and services to- much of the industrialized and developing world...

Posted by: mrrodericklouis | January 7, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

The continued lack of legitimate cohesion between major world powers concerned by the North Korean threat is the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean peninsula...


Surely it would not be beyond China's politicians' and bureaucrats' abilities to assess international relationship dynamics to understand that their country would obtain an enormous positive boost in its international profile and reputation by being seen to be fixing- or at least making a substantial contribution to fixing- Asia's most egregious and dangerous geopolitical problem: North Korea and its outrageous dictatorship governance; void of human rights; and lack of a functioning capitalist market system...

In lock step with S. Korea, the U.K., U.S.and allies, a China that was seen to be forcefully laying the law down to N Korea's current leadership and, as part of a joint international effort- diplomatically or otherwise- forcing positive governance structure and economic model changes within North Korea- with the publicly stated objective of eventual incorporation of N Korea into a Federal state comprised of both N Korea and S Korea could only result in thankyou's for China by the responsible international community... along with an enormous rise in global stature and influence...

Roderick V. Louis
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Posted by: mrrodericklouis | January 7, 2011 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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