North Korea merits constant attention


POSTED: Monday, March 02, 2009

NORTH Korea has been quick to test the Obama administration by threatening to test a long-range missile capable of reaching Hawaii and beyond, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must respond with tough diplomacy. Pyongyang's threat should result in resumption of six-party talks that have occurred too infrequently.

Clinton has indicated increasing the priority of dealing with North Korea by appointing Stephen Bosworth, ambassador to South Korea prior to the Bush administration, as special envoy to the North.

Christopher Hill played the leading role in U.S. talks with North Korea as assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific. Bosworth will be dedicated entirely to the North Korea problem, much as seasoned diplomats have been assigned as special envoys to other critical areas—George Mitchell to Israel and Richard Holbrooke to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Hill's assignment should convey to Pyongyang the heightened level of seriousness. Clinton sent Boswell late last week to travel to the four countries that have been seated at the table with North Korea and the U.S.—Japan, China, Russia and South Korea.

“;As the senior representative for North Korean policy,”; Clinton said during her tour of Asia this month, Bosworth will have a mission “;to stem the risk of North Korean ambitions.”; Clinton urged the government of Kim Jong Il to stop its “;provocative actions.”;

Boswell should make sure that shipment of fuel aid promised to North Korea by U.S. and its allies is timely to prevent Kim from claiming the right to stop disabling nuclear facilities. Constant attention is needed to prevent further outbursts from Pyongyang.