John Bolton Slams Korea Nuke Deal

John Bolton, President Bush’s former UN ambassador, is not at all pleased with last week’s deal with North Korea on the nuclear stalemate.

With much fanfare and choreography, but little substance, the administration has accepted a North Korean “declaration” about its nuclear program that is narrowly limited, incomplete and almost certainly dishonest in material respects. In exchange, President Bush personally declared that North Korea is no longer a state sponsor of terrorism or an enemy of the United States. In a final flourish, North Korea has undertaken a reverse Potemkin Village act, destroying the antiquated cooling tower of the antiquated Yongbyon reactor. In the waning days of American presidencies, this theater is the stuff of legacy.

North Korea has consecutively broken every major agreement with the U.S. since the North’s creation. The Bush administration provides no reason why this one will not be added to that long list except the audacity of hope. Where have we heard that recently? Barack Obama and John Kerry both announced support for the deal, and Mr. Obama said he intended to apply Bush’s policy to other rogue states, thus confirming the early start of the Obama administration.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Bolton will suddenly become a legitimate authority on international diplomacy among his former enemies on the Left while his cheering section among Bush Republicans will quiet considerably.  (See-Dubya, blogging at Michelle Malkin‘s place, meanwhile, still adores him.)

While I have no reason to think Kim Jong Il is more trustworthy now than he was two weeks ago, I’m befuddled by the reaction of Bolton and others who dismiss this agreement altogether.  (As to Bolton specifically, Steve Clemons notes that there has been quite a bit of bad blood between him and Ambassador Christopher Hill, who negotiated this deal.  I’m willing to give Bolton the benefit of the doubt, though, and chalk it up to his rather obstreperous view of international diplomacy.) In exchange for some progress in stopping the DPRK from proliferating nuclear weapons technology, most notably getting China on board as a key player, we’ve taken them off of one of our many lists of naughty states.  If they cross us, we can put them back on just as easily.

What’s the harm?  Yes, twenty-one years ago, when Kim’s dad was running the place, they blew up Korean Airlines Flight 858.  That’s, to say the least, old news.  Meanwhile, Pakistan is letting al Qaeda run amok and Saudi Arabia is financing them.   We call them our “allies” in the war on terrorism.  Somehow, I think we can live with the consequences of taking North Korea off the list.  (Technically, as Michael Kraft details at great length, it won’t happen for 45 days, during which time Congress has the right to intervene.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cernig says:

    James,

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Bolton will suddenly become a legitimate authority on international diplomacy among his former enemies on the Left

    Umm…No.

    Bolton’s been kicking his old boss for a while now on a range of issues including NK and I’ve yet to see a left-leaning pundit, journalist, think-tanker or blogger mention him with anything except contempt.

    On NK specifically, the consensus on the Left seems to be that, were it not for Old Walrus Face, the Bush administration could have been where they are now only 2 years ago or more. (With concommitant space and time to have done more on diplomacy with Iran and others.)

    Regards, C

  2. sam says:

    Hey, Sean Hannity was for the deal before he was against it (like, uh, 10 seconds later).

  3. Bithead says:

    Bolton’s comments do seem a trifle offbase here:

    North Korea has undertaken a reverse Potemkin Village act, destroying the antiquated cooling tower of the antiquated Yongbyon reactor.

    Forgive me the observation, John, but what in NORK isn’t antiquated? I suspect that Bolton’s comments disregard the idea that the showmanship involved with this is for Iran’s benefit. Not a shock since he’s been out of the loop on such things for a while. While I don’t share his urgency over NORK for the reaons James mentions, he’s generally speaking correct in terms of that situation no it’s own. Add Iran to the mix, and the situation changes, I think.