President George W. Bush Thursday formally abandoned the last vestiges of a once-robust policy towards a North Korean regime he had rightly said he “loathed.” Worse yet, he is doing so in the face of Pyongyang’s manifest contempt exhibited through, among other things, its serial refusal even to provide promised data about the status and disposition of its nuclear arsenal, let alone to eliminate it.
Consider the following egregious shortfalls in the “declaration” supplied by Kim Jong Il’s representatives to the United States via Communist China:
‐ The North Korean declaration was delivered six months late. As time dragged on without any submission, Amb. Hill began making excuses and signaling that the United States would be willing to accept less than the “complete and correct” submission Kim’s regime was obligated to provide.
‐ Not surprisingly, the declaration that was ultimately served up conformed to this advance billing. There is no indication that the North Koreans are dismantling their nuclear arsenal. In fact, it has not even declared the size or whereabouts of its stockpile of atomic weapons. It is hard to believe that the United States has been obliged by its incompetent diplomats to make concessions desperately sought by the North — namely, ending the application to North Korea of the Trading with the Enemy Act and removing it from the State Department list of terrorist-sponsoring nations — for so little in return.
‐ Pyongyang has not disclosed the other countries to which it has proliferated nuclear technology. Such assistance to Syria was only prevented from translating into an indigenous source of bomb-ready plutonium for that state-sponsor of terror by an Israeli air force attack last September. Israel’s strike destroyed a North Korean-supplied nuclear reactor virtually identical to the weapons-related one in North Korea that Amb. Hill is taking such credit for dismantling.
Particularly worrisome are reports last week in the German publication, Der Speigel, that a further purpose of Pyongyang’s reactor project in Syria was to help yet another state-sponsor of terror — Iran — develop its nuclear program. It is hard to imagine how Pyongyang’s seeding of such states’ nuclear ambitions can be seen as anything other than state-sponsorship of terror.
What is more, in December 2007, the Congressional Research Service cited reputable sources in asserting that North Korea had provided arms and possibly training to the State Department-designated terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. There is also abundant evidence of North Korean involvement in the shipment of ballistic missiles and other weaponry to despotic nations around the world. In fact, such arms are the North’s only real cash crop and are used to enhance the offensive potential of both officially designated and undesignated state-sponsors of terror.
‐ Amb. Hill also allowed the North Koreans to get away with non-disclosure of any detailed data about North Korea’s separate program for developing nuclear weapons with enriched uranium. It was the discovery and acknowledgment by Pyongyang of that covert program early in the Bush administration that prompted this president to terminate his predecessor’s egregious act of appeasement of the North: the 1994 Agreed Framework.
In short, North Korea has done nothing that would justify lifting of U.S. sanctions under the Trading with the Enemy Act. To the contrary, it continues to deserve that designation. It is also utterly inaccurate to describe it as a country no longer engaging in acts of state sponsorship of terrorism in any commonsensical meaning of the term.
President Bush has evidently concluded that — despite the demeaning of the United States and discrediting of his presidency entailed in the appalling diplomatic malpractice of Special Envoy Hill and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — the bad deal they have served up is better than none. Sadly, that is not the case.
The effect of making such U.S. concessions in the face of a manifestly incomplete and incorrect North Korean declaration will be to: encourage financial life-support to hemorrhage to that odious regime; assure that Pyongyang persists in an array of dangerous activities at home and abroad that it has promised (repeatedly) to forego; and embolden others around the world to pursue nuclear weapons, confident in the knowledge that they will be rewarded — not penalized — for doing so.
The good news is that Congress has 45 days to block the removal of North Korea from the U.S. state-sponsors-of-terrorism list. The bad news is that to do so, veto-proof majorities in both houses would have to be found for resolutions of disapproval — something seen as unlikely. We are told that too many Democrats will support this initiative as a splendid opportunity to embarrass George Bush for failing to get such a deal years ago. Too many Republicans are said to be reluctant to criticize a leader of their own party for engaging in behavior they rightly would excoriate any Democrat for perpetrating.
Nonetheless, it stands to reason — especially given North Korea’s serial and continuing breaches of past commitments — that the United States would also defer complete fulfillment of its part of the present bargain by tying any rewarding of Kim Jong Il to his fulfillment of his part. At stake is not just President Bush’s legacy, but that bequeathed in terms of the future security of all Americans.
– Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy. Christopher Holton, the Center’s vice president, contributed to this article.