The Corner


Peter Beinart is generally smart and reasonable, but was caught out on this one. From his TRB on March 17:

“The administration would like observers to interpret its calm as steely resolve. But it actually signifies a refusal to face reality. The Bush administration says it wants multilateral talks with Pyongyang and a series of other countries, including South Korea, Russia, China, and Japan. The theory behind this approach is that only a united front among North Korea’s neighbors

can exert the pressure necessary to convince Kim Jong Il to turn back. But the

diplomatic reality is that there is no united front. North Korea adamantly

rejects multilateral talks, and South Korea, Russia, and China adamantly

refuse to turn the screws. The Bush administration is paying the price for

having helped fuel the anti-Americanism that elected an ultra-soft-line president in Seoul last December. And it cannot pull out all the diplomatic stops with Moscow and Beijing since its highest priority is convincing those governments not to veto an Iraq resolution at the Security Council. The unhappy result is that the United States is basically facing this crisis alone. Recognizing this diplomatic reality means accepting unconditional, one-on-one talks with Pyongyang.”


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