The Unmourned Death of Agreed Framework 2.0

Just as Washington seems to have almost forgotten the name of the current president, hardly anyone still remembers Chris Hill, a media hero for one brief while after he conned George W. Bush out of one part of the “cowboy diplomacy” they loved to loathe. Also mostly forgotten: for the brief interlude when it was tried, the cowboy diplomacy worked. Less so: what replaced it did not.

Hill is now about to round up the six various parties for one last great charade, where the North looks likely to renounce any agreement to allow meaningful verification.

The American assistant secretary of State, Christopher R. Hill, will use the Beijing talks, scheduled to begin on Monday, to try to persuade North Korea to allow outside experts to take nuclear waste samples for testing, a key procedure in determining the reclusive country’s past nuclear activities.

Mr. Hill held preliminary talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Kye-gwan, in Singapore last week and later said he expected the Beijing conference to be “difficult. On Sunday, Kim Sook, the South Korean envoy to the six-nation talks, said: “I am not very optimistic.

In its final weeks in power, the Bush administration is struggling to complete the so-called “second phase” toward Washington’s ultimate goal of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. [NYT, Choe Sang Hun]

The Times report includes this neat little epitaph for whatever it was that Chris Hill wasted the last two years of Bush’s presidency doing:

Since he became Washington’s front man on North Korea in 2005, Mr. Hill has cobbled together key agreements with North Korea, including the September 2005 deal that laid out a road map toward the North’s nuclear disarmament. But he has stumbled over Pyongyang’s tactic of giving vague commitments to win American concessions and then retracting them, saying nothing was written down.

The latest case in point involved the dispute over nuclear samples. In October, Washington announced that the North agreed to allow sampling, and removed the North from the terror list. But a month later, the North said it had never given such a promise and Washington had no written document to prove otherwise.

Off the record, U.S. officials will tell you that North Korea most definitely did agree to allow sampling at the agreed sites at Yongbyon, but then reneged on that commitment. The North Koreans know Bush lacks the will to use what power he has left. They’re already calibrating their concession-seeking strategy for the next administration.

Just for extra drama, the North will also try to exclude Japan from the next session of the talks. Japan, understandably, won’t contribute Yen One to the North Korean fuel oil fund until its abducted citizens are returned. Bush’s de-listing of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism — despite North Korea’s refusal to even seriously discuss returning the abductees — has done grave damage to U.S.-Japanese relations. The Times report that the United States is now approaching Australia and New Zealand to kick in Japan’s share of the contribution. Such a strategy is sure to worsen matters by creating the perception that America is going about Japan, reducing its bargaining power regarding a vital national interest, and abandoning Japanese hostages to the whim of their captors.

It’s exceedingly difficult to see what benefit we have gained to justify the alienation of our most important ally in Asia.

5 Comments

  1. Cowboy diplomacy is easy to mock in the leftist media, but it strikes fear into the heart of belligerents.
    I’m with the Japanese on this one. And the South Korean relatives of abductees. If AQ does it we call it terrorism. If N Korea does it it is diplomacy by other means.

    Chris Hill appears to be as Winston Churchill called Neville Chamberlain, “a sheep in sheep’s clothing.” The door is about to slam tight on the last best effort for the US to force the DPRK to do anything. Obama + Mrs. Clinton hardly seems like an intimidating DoS coupling if you are the DPRK. I hope I am 180 degrees wrong but I smeel the return of a unilateral US/DPRK Sunshine Policy – or more accurately, moonbat policy.

    God please bring the Juche regime down TODAY.




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  2. I think we’ll get v2.1 during Obama’s moving-in phase, which will morph — by mutual U.S. and North Korea consent — into v3.0. Because my bleakest predictions always come true, I predict that North Korea will demand (and mostly, get) an expanded list of concessions in v3.0. As before, our disarmament demands will be scaled back until they reach the vanishing point that Hill’s deal reached last summer. v3.0 will also lack clarity, specificity, deadlines, and benchmarks, and will dissolve in the same way. Up until the drearily predictable point of failure, Obillary will market this as a bold new way of approaching an old problem.

    A few critics will quickly realize that the approach is neither bold nor new. They will mostly be ignored. To the extent they are heard at all, they will be answered with “look what a sh*tty hand Bush left us,” which will be true, but which won’t really answer the fact that the new crew will be mostly compounding the old crew’s errors.

    Why, you ask?

    Because that’s what we always do, that’s why. We do the same old sh*t and find new ways of packaging it while actually making as few decisions as possible and making no really bold ones at all. For you newcomers out there, this is known as “politics.” At the first sign of anyone showing an actual spine, the North Koreans will throw a hissy and Kim Jong Bill Richardson will be off to play Special Envoy — leaving some GS-13 behind to run the Commerce Department — and try to steal a base from Hillary (who, after all, was the ChiCom’s favorite). Obillary will be secure in the knowledge that someone will be there to stay their hands, but the North Koreans will catch on quickly and play them against another.

    Why? Again with the straw-man questions!

    Because that’s what they always do, that’s why. Nothing will change, because nothing ever does … until it changes dramatically. But that will have nothing to do with us. And what a pity.




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  3. US diplomacy seems to be guided by the principle that half an ass is better than none. The only upside I can see is that it might be costing NK more than us to keep up this charade.




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  4. “Obillary”? Brilliant!

    How long before Obillary ends up in Pyongyang toasting the “peace” co-signed by Mr. Il?




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