Abductions Appeasement Six-Party Talks U.S. Politics

Who Remembers Kim Dong Shik? Answer: The Washington Post, Barack Obama, and Condoleezza Rice

Regular readers know that I’ve been a persistent critic of politicians of both parties who would  politicize and trivialize two  essential and  long-standing principles of American national security policy:  the intolerance of state terrorism, and the intolerance of proliferation.  North Korea’s refusal to be bound by any norms of  human civilization tempts a certain  class of politician to simply exempt North Korea from those principles.  Notwithstanding President Bush’s hawkish and mostly empty  words, his administration is about to  do exactly that  for  the dubious political rewards of a deal that won’t disarm  North Korea.   

You will also  recall that in this recent post, I published a letter containing Barack Obama’s signature, in which Obama  and other members of the Illinois congressional delegation  promised to oppose de-listing North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism until North Korea accounts for Rev. Kim, whom its agents are believed to have kidnapped in China in 2001.  (I invite anyone to correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I’m the first to have published it.)   Rev. Kim is believed to have died under interrogation  [Update: Another theory has it that they starved him to death].  His body is still in North Korea.  North Korean agent Ryu Young-Hwa* was convicted of taking part in  the crime and sits in a South Korean jail today.   

An appeasement-loving  press corps has mostly suspended its withering criticism of George W. Bush  on North Korea,  in spite of  his unprincipled betrayals regarding Kim Jong Il’s human rights atrocities.  That’s why it’s doubly unexpected see any of them scrape Barack Obama’s hair off of  their tongues long enough to  speak of  his first broken promise:

In January 2005, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and other Illinois lawmakers co-signed a letter to North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, describing Kim as a “hero” and demanding answers from North Korea about his whereabouts. The signatories warned that they would oppose North Korea’s removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism — long a goal of the government in Pyongyang — until a “full accounting” of Kim’s abduction was provided.

But the case of the only North Korea abductee with U.S. connections has been largely forgotten as the Bush administration has pressed ahead on a diplomatic deal to end North Korea’s nuclear program. The State Department has all but ignored the pleas of lawmakers and Kim’s wife for greater attention to the case. And the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee no longer believes that North Korea’s removal from the terrorism list should be conditional on information about Kim.  [Washington Post, Glenn Kessler]

There’s a personal irony here for me.  Last February, I attended this  panel discussion  at a synagogue in northern Virginia  that featured  Kessler, Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, and NPR’s Don Siegal.   The subject was  North Korea’s suspected nuclear proliferation to Syria.  I didn’t mention this before because I wanted to do some research first, but at the Q&A session at the end of the event, I specifically asked Kessler about Rev. Kim’s case in the context of removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.  Had you been there, you’d have agreed that Kessler  seemed dismissive and uninterested in the question of Rev. Kim and  the implications of his abduction — or any other abductions —  for North Korea’s terror de-listing.  When I related the facts of Rev. Kim’s case, Kessler’s reaction was nonplussed, and he seemed unfamiliar with it.  I asserted, and Kessler disputed, that congressional action would be necessary for de-listing North Korea (in fact, such action is Congress’s prerogative, only if it objects to the de-listing). 

Now that more congressional action — successful or otherwise — to  oppose that de-listing  seems imminent, I hope Kessler will have enough class to award me the argument.  As for Kessler’s implicit concession of  the significance of this story, I’m frankly so astonished  by Kessler’s decision to cover this story and cover it accurately that I’ll waive any claim on that.

* By an unfortunate coincidence, one of Rev. Kim’s kidnappers shares  a common first name with his  widow.


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