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Tick, Tick, Tick

I always thought the six party talks with North Korea were a wacky idea. A nuclear-free Korean peninsula may be the stated goal of each party, but their priorities are wildly different. Japan is more interested in its kidnapped citizens, China doesn’t believe North Korea even has a uranium program, South Korea would rather pursue its “sunshine policy”, and I still have no clue why Russia is involved.

I’ve come to doubt direct bilateral talks would produce results, but I don’t think the six party format will either. Is there another alternative?

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently remarked that North Korea is "only deepening its international isolation by developing nuclear arms." HELLO! McFLY! That's exactly what Kim Jong-Il wants.

If North Koreans, millions of whom starved to death over the last few years, knew what the rest of the world was really like, they'd string Kim up from a lamp post. Unfortunately, that's the very reason no coherent attempt has been made to bring it about.

Both China and South Korea fear the result of North Korea's demise. There's a lot of trepidation over the inevitable flood of refugees, the massive humanitarian crisis, chaos on the borders, the cost of reconstruction, and of course the power vacuum. No one wants Kim Jong-Il in power, but no one wants to deal with the consequences of a collapsed North Korea, either.

And this is where the Bush administration's approach is totally wrong. Rather than confront Kim over uranium enrichment programs that may or may not exist, they ought to just build a consensus for the inevitable regime change in North Korea.

Forget about negotiating with Kim Jong-Il. He's irrelevant. The Bush administration should address our allies' concerns about the aftermath of a North Korean collapse. Let's help China and North Korea figure out how to deal with the refugees and the inevitable humanitarian crisis. Let's get Japan's pledge for help with reconstruction. Let's get everyone talking about the government that will replace Kim's regime.

Let's engage directly with the North Korean people through various media (we already have a foot in the door with black market Chinese cell phones). Let's enlist their support along with their neighbors and other players in the region, and really hammer out a consensus and a plan for toppling Kim Jong-Il and dealing with the aftermath.

If we get everything right, Kim's regime just disappears and we all swoop in with humanitarian aid and an army of civil affairs officers. Even if things don't go as planned, we still have the enthusiastic support of major players in the region to get things sorted out. But if we let Kim Jong-Il set the pace of events - if we don't lay the groundwork and finesse the details for something we know is inevitable - we get another Iraq.

Kim's next step is to publicly test an atomic bomb. How will we respond? The clock is ticking...

Posted by American Pundit at February 25, 2005 7:49 AM