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Monday, May 26, 2008

The Bush administration and North Korea

Glenn Kessler has a very interesting article in The Washington Post which is full of praise for Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill, who, according to Kessler has achieved amazing things.

In the twilight of the Bush presidency, the nuclear agreement that Hill has tirelessly pursued over the past three years has emerged as Bush's best hope for a lasting foreign policy success.

To be specific

Under the agreements Hill has reached, Pyongyang has shut down its nuclear reactor, disabled key facilities and provided thousands of pages of records meant to verify the size of its stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium. Hill is traveling to Asia this week to prod North Korea to fully declare its nuclear programs. But the United States has backed off an earlier demand for detailed information about North Korean uranium enrichment or assistance to a clandestine Syrian reactor -- and is poised to remove key sanctions against North Korea.

Ah so the Bush administration has decided that North Korean efforts to enrich Uranium are unimportant and has managed to get Pyonyang to shut down Yongbon.

This means that the current Bush administration position is uhm the agreed framewrok negotiated by the Clinton administration which they abrogated because of ... alleged uranium enrichment related program activities.

Unfortunately to get back to where we were when Bush took office, the Bush administration will have to convince the North Koreans to surrender the plutonium which they extracted between the time the Bush administration decided that the agreement on plutonium was irrelevant because of the uranium enrichment efforts and the time that the Bush administration decided that the uranium enrichment efforts don't matter at all.

As Kessler notes, this is an outstandingly excellent result by the standards of the Bush administration.

Kessler buries some of the strongest evidence of Bushian incompetence and the most amazing accomplishment of Hill (bolded below)

In perhaps his biggest coup, Hill convinced Rice and Bush that the top priority is to get ahold of North Korea's stash of plutonium, and that other issues are secondary. In Bush's first term, the administration had accused North Korea of having an uranium-enrichment program, which led to the breakdown of a 1994 agreement that kept Pyongyang from separating plutonium to make nuclear warheads.

The uranium-enrichment issue has faded in importance because the original intelligence was overstated. In changing gears, the president has acknowledged that his previous approach was a mistake.

Leddy said that last fall, when China first proposed separating the plutonium issue from other concerns in North Korea's nuclear declaration, she saw a White House document describing the idea with the notation "President says No." But that is precisely the deal Hill struck last month.

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