28 October 2008

McCain, Obama and North Korea

From The Washington Times.

While the mainstream media fixates on Gov. Sarah Palin's wardrobe and the fact that she is lawfully charging her home state when she takes her children to speeches around the country, serious national security issues go largely ignored. This is particularly true regarding U.S. efforts to halt North Korean nuclear-weapons programs — a subject that doesn't fit the current campaign storyline of Barack Obama the change agent vs. John McCain, purported Republican lackey of President Bush.

The Bush administration's approach to Pyongyang has softened dramatically in recent years. So determined are Mr. Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and and Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill to keep the North Korea negotiations going that they have been cutting corners on major issues. The most recent example is the subject of North Korea's removal from the U.S. list of terror-sponsoring states. On this issue, Mr. Obama and the Bush administration are in agreement, while Mr. McCain suggests that the Republican administration may be giving away the store.

In recent months, North Korea pushed the administration to capitulate on the subject of what conditions Pyongyang would have to meet for removal from the terror list. The deal announced earlier this month contains a number of gaping loopholes. For example, access to undeclared North Korean sites would only be possible with mutual approval - which would enable Pyongyang to block inspection of suspected covert nuclear facilities. It is also unclear whether North Korea would be required to provide information about its nuclear-proliferation activities with rogue states like Syria, and whether Pyongyang's uranium-enrichment efforts would be covered by the agreement. Washington's handling of the situation sends an unmistakable message of weakness to proliferating regimes like the one in Tehran: that by remaining intransigent they will eventually be able to wear down the United States and its allies.

Mr. Obama reacted favorably to the deal, calling it a "modest step forward." Mr. McCain takes a more realistic approach. In an interview with the Weekly Standard, the Arizona senator sharply criticized the process and substance of the Bush administration's latest deal and likened it to the Clinton administration's 1994 deal with Pyongyang. We know what that eventually led to.


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