The coalition of foreign-policy hawks that promoted
the 2003 invasion of Iraq is pressing President George W. Bush to adopt a more
coercive policy toward North Korea, despite strong opposition from China and
By most accounts, North Korea ranked high in bilateral talks between Bush and
Northeast Asian leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao, at the summit
of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Santiago, Chile, this
past weekend, although the final communiqué did not address the issue.
Bush reportedly tried to make clear that his patience toward Pyongyang and
its alleged efforts to stall the ongoing "Six-Party Talks" was fast
running out and that Washington will soon push for stronger measures against
North Korea in the absence of progress toward an agreement under which Pyongyang
will dismantle its alleged nuclear-arms program.
Bush claimed Sunday that his interlocutors, who included the leaders of the
four other parties Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea agreed
with him, but Hu and South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun have not backed down
publicly from their strong opposition to a harder line toward Pyongyang.
Indeed, just before the weekend summit, Roh told an audience in Los Angeles
that a hardline policy over North Korea's nuclear weapons would have "grave
repercussions," adding, "There is no alternative left in dealing with
this issue except dialogue."
The South Korean leader also denounced the idea of an economic embargo against
That the hawks back in Washington are indeed mobilizing became clear Monday
when William Kristol, an influential neoconservative who also chairs the Project
for the New American Century (PNAC), faxed a statement entitled "Toward
Regime Change in North Korea" to reporters and various "opinion
leaders" in the capital.
PNAC, which boasts Vice President Dick Cheney, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld,
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Cheney's powerful chief of staff,
I. Lewis Libby among a dozen other senior Bush national-security officials
as signers of its 1997 charter, issues statements relatively infrequently.
"It's clear that they see the transition [between the Bush administration's
two terms] and before any new round of the Six-Party Talks as the time to try
to set policy direction," one veteran analyst told IPS on Monday.
Kristol's statement referred in particular to two recent articles, including
one published last week by Nicholas Eberstadt, a Korea specialist at the American
Enterprise Institute (AEI), which appeared in the neoconservative The Weekly
Standard, which is edited by Kristol.
The article, "Tear
Down This Tyranny," called for the implementation of a six-point strategy
aimed at ousting North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-Il, in part by "working
around the pro-appeasement crowd in the South Korean government," which
apparently includes Roh himself.
The second article, published Sunday in the New York Times, detailed
a number of recent indications cited by right-wing officials and the press in
Japan including high-level defections and the reported circulation of
anti-government pamphlets that Kim's
hold on power may be slipping.
The article noted in particular a recent statement by the ruling Liberal Democratic
Party (LDP), Shinzo Abe, that "regime change" was a distinct possibility and
that "we need to start simulations of what we should do at that time."
"Recent reports suggest the presence of emerging cracks in the Stalinist
power structure of North Korea, and even the emergence of serious dissident
activity there," wrote Kristol. "This should remind us that one of
President Bush's top priorities in his second term will have to be dealing with
this wretch[ed] regime," he went on, citing Eberstadt's strategy as "useful
guidance for an improved North Korean policy."
Eberstadt's article, which criticized Korea policy in Bush's first term for
being both "reactive" and "paralysed by infighting," proceeds
from the explicit assumption that efforts to persuade North Korea to give up
its nuclear program which U.S. intelligence believes may already include
as many as eight nuclear weapons are almost certainly futile.
"We are exceedingly unlikely to talk or to bribe the current North Korean
government out of its nuclear quest," according to Eberstadt in an implicit
rejection of the basic goal of the Six-Party Talks.
Moreover, he wrote, the nuclear crisis and the North Korean government are
essentially one and the same: "Unless and until we have a better class of dictator
running North Korea, we will be faced with an ongoing and indeed growing North
To achieve the desired "regime change," Eberstadt called first for a purge
of State Department officials who argued for engaging Pyongyang during Bush's
Washington, according to Eberstadt, should also increase "China's 'ownership'
of the North Korean problem" by making clear to Beijing that it "will
bear high costs if the current de-nuclearization diplomacy failed."
At the same time, U.S. officials must recognize that South Korea has, under
Kim and the "implacably anti-American and reflexively pro-appeasement"
core of his government, become a "runaway ally" "a country
bordering a state committed to its destruction, and yet governed increasingly
in accordance with graduate-school 'peace studies' desiderata."
"Instead of appeasing South Korea's appeasers (as our policy to date has attempted
to do, albeit clumsily)," according to Eberstadt, "America should be speaking
over their heads directly to the Korean people, building and nurturing the coalitions
in South Korean domestic politics that will ultimately bring a prodigal ally
back into the fold," he argued.
Washington should also ready "the non-diplomatic instruments for North Korean
threat reduction," Eberstadt wrote, arguing that preparing for the deliberate
use of such options presumably an economic embargo or even military strikes
"will actually increase the probability of a diplomatic success."
Finally, echoing the LDP's Abe, Eberstadt called for planning for a "post-Communist
Korean peninsula" with other interested parties, "to maximize the
opportunities and minimize the risks in that delicate and potentially dangerous
Eberstadt's strategy, according to a number of analysts, largely echoes the
views of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security
John Bolton, a former AEI vice president who is openly campaigning to become
deputy secretary of state under Condoleezza Rice.
Bolton, perhaps the administration's most extreme hard-liner, has strong support
in Cheney's office and other right-wing strongholds, including The Weekly
Standard and on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
On Saturday, right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who claims to be
on friendly terms with Bolton, told Fuji Television that Bolton wants to impose
economic sanctions against North Korea, which, in the U.S. official's view,
would lead to Kim's ouster "within one year."
(Inter Press Service)