Martin Walker, with whom I had lunch at the National Press Club yesterday, has an interesting piece on Talking to North Korea. He correctly notes that that regime is a much greater threat to world peace than Saddam’s and is doubtful that diplomacy can achieve much:
These are not people to be talked into dismantling their nuclear facilities or their missiles. The North Koreans have learned the lesson of Saddam; do not take on the almost omnipotent Americans without a nuclear equalizer. They now have one, or at least have convinced the CIA that they do. And Pyongyang suspects that the moment they negotiate their nukes away is the moment they probably will not be able to get a meeting with the State Department doorkeeper, let alone Kelly.
The North Korean asset is the fear of their nukes. The American asset is the fear of their readiness to use force. Looking at the rubble of Saddam’s palaces, North Korea’s leaders must know they are playing poker with a very dangerous gunslinger. And the Americans played this card Tuesday, letting it be known that the Pentagon tried to get Kelly replaced at the Beijing talks by neo-conservative superhawk John Bolton.
* * *
The American message was clear. If the North Koreans refuse to deal with the soft-cop U.S. diplomats led by Secretary of State Colin Powell, they will then have to face the hard cops of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
One hopes that leverage is sufficient.
(Hat tip: RealClear Politics)