Did Obama Buy North Korea’s Pre-Election Silence?

I’m not fond of conspiracy theories, and I’ve credited President Obama with a “not bad” North Korea policy so far, but when the evidence right before your lying eyes begs for an inference … well, I’ll stop short of answering my own question and say that Congress ought to inquire further.  Exhibit 1:

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Yonhap) — A White House delegation made a secret trip to North Korea in August in what might be an attempt to discourage it from taking provocative steps ahead of the U.S. presidential elections, a South Korean newspaper reported Thursday.

If confirmed, it would mark the second known visit by U.S. officials to Pyongyang this year, following the previous one before the North’s rocket launch in April.

“A U.S. Air Force plane flew into Pyongyang through the Yellow Sea route after leaving Guam on Aug. 17,” the Dong-A Ilbo quoted an unidentified diplomatic source as saying. “This jet stayed in Pyongyang for four days and flew out of the city on Aug. 20.”

The source was quoted as adding it took the same route four months earlier.

Given such a relatively long journey, the newspaper said, the Barack Obama administration might have attempted “in-depth negotiations” with North Korea prior to the Nov. 6 elections.

“Chances are high that the U.S. sought to curb North Korea from taking military provocations and offered some measures in return,” the source said, according to the daily. [Korea Times]

Less than a month after America’s election, Kim Jong Un announces his next great erection.  Exhibit 2:

North Korea announced Saturday that it would attempt to launch a long-range rocket in mid-December, a defiant move just eight months after a failed April bid was widely condemned as a violation of a U.N. ban against developing its nuclear and missile programs.

The launch, set for Dec. 10 to 22, is likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul as the United States prepares for Barack Obama’s second term as U.S. president and South Korea holds its own presidential election on Dec. 19.

This would be North Korea’s second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father Kim Jong Il’s death nearly a year ago. The announcement by North Korea’s space agency followed speculation overseas about stepped-up activity at North Korea’s west coast launch pad captured in satellite imagery.  [AP]

President Bush removed North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism on October 11, 2008, to reward it for its progress toward disarmament.  Discuss among yourselves.

There is a distinctly murine odor to all of this.  A Grand Bargain with North Korea would be a diplomatic policy choice and debatable on its own terms, but that isn’t what this story suggests.  No fair-minded citizen — regardless of whether you voted for this President — should tolerate the use of our diplomats as partisan political bagmen to buy the temporary silence of the world’s worst despots with taxpayer funds.  Democrats who are old enough to have condemned arms-for-hostages can’t offer a principled defense to buying Kim Jong Un’s pre-election silence, if that is what the evidence shows.  If Republicans are an effective opposition, then it is their duty to the people to explore this question at confirmation hearings for the next Secretary of State, if not sooner.

For the Administration, shooting the North Korean missile down over the Yellow Sea would be an excellent way to show North Korea and China that there are limits to our patience without attacking North Korean soil.  It would also be a good way to show Japan and South Korea that if they’re not willing to defend themselves, they need us.