Set more conditions for North Korea


POSTED: Saturday, August 08, 2009

Former President Bill Clinton's success in bringing home two American journalists held in North Korea removed a barrier to diplomacy with Pyongyang, but it is far from the green light to engage in direct talks. Further moves should be required of the North before the Obama administration agrees to the six-party talks of years past.

North Korea has proven in attempts to launch long-range missiles that the rogue country poses no immediate threat to Hawaii or anyone else. Greater concern should be focused on its export of nuclear technology and material. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said most recently that the administration is worried about possible transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Myanmar.

North Korea's state-run media reported that Bill Clinton apologized to Kim for the intrusion of Euna Lee and Laura Ling into his country and that Clinton brought him a message from President Barack Obama. The White House denied both claims.

Americans must not forget that Japanese and South Koreans abducted by North Korea remain under arrest above the 39th parallel. Bill Clinton broached that issue with Kim, according to an American official. Pyongyang has refused to talk about the South Koreans it has been holding in captivity — a worker at a joint factory complex in the North and four fishermen abducted when their boat strayed into northern waters.

Dictator Kim Jong Il has demanded bilateral talks with the United States, but Secretary Clinton said Wednesday that any diplomacy would be “;within the context of the six-party talks about the international desire to see them denuclearize.”;

Both Seoul and Tokyo have been irritated by the North's goal of bilateral talks. The other two parties — Russia and China — have departed from their past alliance with Pyongyang in their support of the May sanctions approved by a United Nations resolution following nuclear tests in May.

Rather than bilateral talks, Kim is likely to agree to the six-party talks, which have included side talks between the North and the United States. High on the list of U.S. requirements should be the dismantlement of Pyongyang's nuclear infrastructure.

At any rate, the conditions for talks should be set by the Obama administration and should not replicate the Bush administration's rewarding of North Korea with food and fuel. Such assistance should come after the North has provided evidence that it has abandoned its nuclear program, not as a precondition for talks to resume.