North Korea Kabuki

I, for one, am glad to see the Bush administration finally holding bilateral talks with North Korea, even if they’re just “discussions” and not actual “negotiations.” In the good old days, this was known as the “John Kerry plan,” and in those good old days it was the only feasible idea anyone had for dealing with Kim Jong Il and his budding nuclear program. Why the White House decided to wait years and years before facing the inevitable and pursuing this route is anyone’s guess.

More annoyingly, though, there’s so much smoke being thrown out in the article that it’s all one can do to grope around and try to figure out what’s going on. We hear that “Condoleeza Rice has repeatedly assured the North that the United States accepts North Korean sovereignty and is not seeking to invade it,” but in the intricate language of this particular chess game, that’s not quite true: as far as I know, the United States still has not uttered the three magic words Kim Jong Il wants to hear—“no hostile intent.” Then you have a Chinese “policy commentator” suggesting that China and North Korea don’t “get along well,” and Chinese involvement in negotiations would prove useless, which could be true, or it could be an excuse for China to continue to do nothing. And only in the very last sentence do we learn that, oh yes, North Korea may well have returned to the negotiating table because their neighbor to the south offered up 2,000 megawatts of electricity as a bribe. That would seem rather relevant, no?