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Bill Richardson on North Korea
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New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was on Meet the Press this morning, and I wasn't impressed.

He stressed diplomacy, which is important, but he didn't seem very realistic about what might happen if diplomacy fails or about the prospect of diplomacy failing.

Tim Russert asked him if it was even possible that North Korea would agree to dismantle their existing nuclear weapons and stop all new development and processing of new weapons, simply in exchange for a non-aggression pact and food aid. Richardson said he thought the chances for that were decent.

Given the North Korean history and the character of their regime, does anybody believe this is possible (besides Richardson)? What incentive does North Korea have to make such a deal?

The regime has retained power and continued to succesfully garner more power by doing what they've been doing. Namely, blackmailing regional countries and stringing the international community and the U.S. along with treaties they have absolutely no intention of abiding by.

I don't pretend that the answer to dealing with North Korea is easy. But I think the Bush Administration's insistence on multilateralism is the right course of action. North Korea, in order to cave to diplomatic pressure, needs to be confronted with a solid front that includes the bulk of the international community. The U.S. alone putting pressure on them is not going to do it. In this way, it is somewhat like the months leading up to the Iraq war. Hussein played off anti-Americanism and divisiveness among U.N. members. He didn't fold and cooperate because he didn't have to. There wasn't a united front opposing him.

It's a bit different with North Korea, but similar enough. If the U.S. tells North Korea it needs to dismantle its weapons systems and allow intrusive verifications, they're not going to give a crap. If Japan, South Korea, Russia, China, Europe, and so on, all stand up to North Korea and say, "Shape the hell up", it's the only viable chance of diplomacy working.

If the international community dithers and bickers, North Korea will be emboldened. They've booted out the IAEA inspectors, and so far there has been absolutely no repurcussions for doing so. North Korea has declared that sanctions would be seen as an act of war. So the U.N. hasn't even been able to release a statement condemning them, much less leveling sanctions against them.

This weakness and timidity of the international community only emboldens North Korea, and makes the situation more difficult and dangerous.

Richardson has faith in talks. I hope he's right, but I simply do not see how, unless the international community is united in the common cause of disarming North Korea, that talks will be successful.

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