Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice acknowledged last week that America’s policies regarding North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program over the last three administrations had failed. She said, rightly, “You can call it a failure. I accept that characterization of the efforts of the United States over the last two decades.”
Former Vice President Al Gore said much the same. They should know. They served under President Bill Clinton, who started things rolling downhill with the Agreed Framework of 1994. This misbegotten deal provided Pyongyang 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil annually and two light-water nuclear reactors in exchange for the North’s promise to abandon its nuclear-weapons efforts.
Pyongyang violated its promise before the ink was dry. In 1999, former Secretary of State James Baker denounced Clinton’s approach as “a policy of appeasement.” Baker’s characterization also applies to much of the subsequent U.S. diplomacy. North Korea has always been willing to promise to abandon its nuclear ambitions to get tangible economic benefits. It just never gets around to honoring its commitments.
After 25 years of failure, we need not tarry long (or at all) on more diplomacy with Pyongyang. Fred Ikle once characterized the North as capable of “boundless mendacity.” He was being charitable. Talking to North Korea is worse than a mere waste of time. Negotiations legitimize the dictatorship, affording it more time to enhance its nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.
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