Bush’s North Korea Meltdown: Japanese Nukes Next?

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I think Asst. Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific and our chief envoy on North Korea negotiations Christopher Hill is one of the finest and most capable diplomats in America’s foreign service — but he not only has Kim Jong Il to outmaneuver but also has to outfox Vice President Cheney and his team who are always threatening to knife Hill from behind.
Hill has been close to some serious breakthrough deals with North Korea over the last 18 months, but each time Cheney and his team have unceremoniously and quietly strangled Hill’s initiatives. Cheney’s fervent opposition to negotiated outcomes with North Korea was more flamboyantly on display when his then State Department puppet John Bolton attacked and blew up the North Korea related initiatives of then Secretary of State Colin Powell and then chief North Korea negotiations envoy Jack Pritchard in 2001.
But Cheney has been at war with the Six Party Negotiations process throughout the entire Bush tenure.
The tug-of-war over North Korea INSIDE the Bush administration has created a climate of uncertainty and inconsistency in the Six Party Talks. The absence of coherent U.S. strategy combined with astute North Korean exploitation of tensions and divisions among the U.S., Japan, South Korea, China, and to some degree Russia has produced a dangerous climate where rather than deploying a sensible and compelling strategic framework and judging progress or setbacks against that — we have moved into a far more fragile situation where micro-moments of Bush or Kim’s twist this way or that have been substituted for considerations of strategy.
In other words, Bush rather than shrugging off the North Korean missile tests might just as well have announced a limited military strike against North Korean launch sites or other military assets, or might have announced a naval buildup of U.S. and allied ships off of the Korean peninsula, or could have initiated with Japan and South Korea strident and threatening joint military exercises.
But the problem with any of Bush’s actions is that they are not measured against a coherent strategic game plan.
On the one hand, one might want to applaud Bush for not “over-reacting” to North Korea’s launch of its seven missiles. One might argue that Bush is working hard to “show restraint” in his response — but the overall climate of failed results and missed opportunities needs be fixed on the Bush administration as well.
Chris Hill needs room to run, and he should be given a platform to articulate the carrots and sticks of the Bush administration’s approach to North Korea within the Six Party framework. Bush should go public and either wholeheartedly endorse what Hill is doing — or roll back the parts he doesn’t support and suggest an alternative.
But given the absence of such robust articulation, Cheney and his team focus on the parts of the North Korean agenda which strangle the economic inputs into North Korea while at the same time undercutting and sabotaging the diplomatic exchanges and opportunities — the incentives part of the package — that Hill has helped to develop.
In the absence of American leadership, Japan is now flirting with harsher security options to preserve its own security. In other words, Japan is calculating that America may be so weakened or internally consistent that it can’t be the guarantor of Japan’s security. Counting on America less, Japan may consider adding to its security tool kit preemptive strike options of its own. Fascinating and disturbing.
Japan is far away from actually instituting such doctrine, but the fact that Japan’s likely next Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is speaking out loud about such a policy is stunning. While Japan has a serious domestic allergy to home-based nukes, if America looks even less dependable in the future, Japan may flirt with nuclear weapons acquisition as well.
It’s a slippery slope.
That is the cost of the failed North Korea diplomacy of George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, Scooter Libby, John Hannah, Robert Joseph, David Addington, Stephen Rademaker, John Bolton and others.
They have failed.
Hopefully, our envoy Chris Hill will be protected by Condi Rice and may — given the desperation of the situation — be given the opportunity to potentially succeed where the VP and others have produced such miserably poor results.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

25 comments on “Bush’s North Korea Meltdown: Japanese Nukes Next?

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  2. Friendly Fire says:

    Niel S. What would you say to this?
    Where is USA in all of this????
    Surely they have an interest in keeping Syria pacified. Why are they allowing Israel to act so rashly?

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  3. NeilS says:

    Where is China in all of this????
    Surely they have an interest in keeping Japan pacified. Why are they allowing North Korea to act so rashly?

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  4. sandstone says:

    leadership coming out of the usa is pretty clear- pre-emptive strikes are considered okay, even if there are no wmds, or threats… threats can be created on demand.. this is where cheney comes in.. he can provide as many as needed and in the best interests of the military establishment and the oil industry will do everything humanly possible to ensure their trust and support.. why seek an alternative to war, when war is your main purpose as veep?

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  5. weldon berger says:

    Steve, do you see any actual evidence that Rice is having any impact on foreign policy? So far as I can see, her primary accomplishment is avoiding the repeated public humiliations heaped on Powell by the White House. Maybe she’s secretly undermining the stupidest ideas advanced by the administration? It’s a serious question: she seems to have a lot of street cred among serious students of diplomacy, and I don’t get it.

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  6. Matthew says:

    Isn’t the real challenge that NK has challenged us? Robert Conrad: NK has knocked the battery off your shoulder. What do you do when you draw lines in the sand and someone crosses it? The problem with the American Empire is….us. To staff the legions, you need subjects, not individualistic citizens. (Note irony with Bush’s “freedom” crusade.) Does anyone need any more evidence of pre-emption’s dangers?

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  7. Rob W says:

    I read somewhere that with a crash program, Japan could have its first working bomb within a month. They have incredible techinical and engineering capability, both nuclear and non-nuclear.

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  8. vachon says:

    Good morning, Steve. Nice to see your blog is feeling better and has a new home. So where’s the coffee?
    I’m going to channel Pat Buchanan and say that N. Korea’s missile tests are none of our business atm. Note them in some file somewhere next to the horoscopes. Our priorities are elsewhere.
    This whole thing is blown way out of proportion because BlitzerMatthews had nothing else to be bombastic about that day.

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  9. Matthew says:

    It would have been better had Japanese officials not publically talked about pre-emptive strike on North Korea, especially since Japan lacks the capacity for such a strike. This type of loose talk is the real “slippery slope” of this doctrine. Having been threatened by Japan, wouldn’t NK be justified in taking out the Japanese threat? This is why I hate the doctrine of pre-emption.

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  10. bakho says:

    The Cheney alternative is based on a misoverestimation of the ability of military force or threat of force to solve political issues. Cheney believes that NK will cry uncle if he rattles enough sabres.
    Remember that Cheney was all in favor of sending the US military to Baghdad in GWI and believes we “lost” Vietnam because we did not use enough force. Basically, Cheney is a coward who would cry uncle himself so he believes everyone else should act the same way. That is so NOT the dynamics of international conflicts and bar fights.

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  11. Jay C says:

    Steve (Clemons):
    That the Bush Administration (in the persona of its eminence grise Dick Cheney) might seek to derail its “own” diplomatic efforts really shouldn’t be much in the way of “news” by this point. The factional rifts and infighting in this Adminstration is too well-known to be a surprise – but the big question is: what is the alternative policy that Cheney and his clique are seeking to implement? More “isolation” of North Korea (highly counterproductive)? International sanctions (useless)? Military saber-rattling (a waste of time)? Or are they agitating for a purely military “solution” (a scenario for which “mindless suicidal insanity” fall way short as descriptor) – a la Iraq?
    My own feeling is that the Veep and his Veepires merely want to punt the NK issue down the road for someone else to deal with, while meanwhile exploiting it (for domestic political purposes) with the sort of strutting, tough-talking kick-the-ass-of-Evil sloganeering that is the Bush 43 Adminstration’s hallmark.
    The main question is, though: WHAT, if anything will this accomplish?

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  12. ET says:

    This is a serious question. After reading this post I am still left wondering that if Cheney and his minions are so against the Six Party Talks, what is their alternative? How would they like to see things play out? Many throw the charge at the Democrats that they are against the GOP but not for anything, is Cheney et al just against the Six Party Talks and what Hill has worked for, but aren’t for anything?

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  13. Ben says:

    POA – I’d imagine they have the technical capability, even so far as they might actually have production facilities. But it’s a real cultural thing, nuclear weapons for any reason = political suicide. I’ve spoken to a couple of Japanese friends about this, about how they think their government should respond to acts of aggression perpetrated by NK – mentioning nuclear *literally* brings looks of revulsion.

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  14. jonst says:

    Steve wrote:
    >>>Hill has been close to some serious breakthrough deals with North Korea over the last 18 months, but each time Cheney and his team have unceremoniously and quietly strangled Hill’s initiatives.
    I don’t get it Steve. Tell me what I’m missing. Wouldn’t Hill better serve his nation, and race, as in human race, if he simply quit. And shared with the world all the attempts to ‘strangle [his] initiatives”? Or is this horribly old fashion because after all, how would he get work when he did such a thing?

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  15. Pissed Off American says:

    Steve, you undoubtedly know more Japanese people than I do but in my opinion they simply would not allow their government to develop nuclear weaponry, even faced with a Chinese invasion or DPRK missiles.
    Posted by Ben
    You gotta be kidding. My Bet??? They already have nukes.
    Egads, is it REALLY one thirty??????
    Pfffft.

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  16. Ben says:

    In other words, Japan is calculating that America may be so weakened or internally consistent that it can’t be the guarantor of Japan’s security.
    Inconsistent, shurely?
    Steve, you undoubtedly know more Japanese people than I do but in my opinion they simply would not allow their government to develop nuclear weaponry, even faced with a Chinese invasion or DPRK missiles.

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  17. EasyE says:

    Say goodbye to fine toro sushi and welcome charred protein.

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  18. Jerome Gaskins says:

    How do we get to create and guide into the books laws that make these fools accountable? Laws that give citizens the authority to fire the fools when they f*ck up.

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  19. profmarcus says:

    sharing nuclear technology with russia… encouraging civilian nuclear development in india… selling military hardware to both indian and pakistan, already nuclear powers… unconditionally supporting another nearly out of control nuclear power – israel… and now, blindly nugding japan towards developing nuclear weapons capability in the interests of its own self-defense… how is it possible that one presidential administration can make such a huge, goddam mess…?
    http://takeitpersonally.blogspot.com/

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  20. Jerome Gaskins says:

    I hope all the US idiots get rendered first to Iran, then China. Whatever’s left after that tour should be dumped in Kosovo.

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  21. Pissed Off American says:

    Well, if you consider the wackjob at the head of the snake in N.Korea, also that crazyman sitting in the high seat in Iran, mix in the Hitler-like hatred oozing out of Israel, factor in this fuckin’ imbecile in the Oval Office, and you have the EXACT kind of cast that will play the major roles in a nuclear matinee. These are not very comforting times.
    And hey, how about that Iraq, eh? Whatta success story THAT is, by golly. Reassuring, is it not,to have such competent leadership in these trying times?
    Anyone gotta Rolaids????

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  22. Den Valdron says:

    That’s a bit psychotic, isn’t it Abernathy? I mean, no actual relevance to the originating post. Just one of those wackjob court filings that never go anywhere? But you felt the need to share it with all of us on some random thread? Gee whiz.
    On the subject of Japan, I have been saying for the last four or five years, ever since Bush started his ‘f… you’ foreign policy, that sooner or later Japan would inevitably have to strike out on its own.
    For the last sixty years, Japan has existed under the US security blanket, secure in the belief that America will protect its strategic interests as if it were its own. In return, Japan has essentially handed over its foreign policy and forsworn its ambitions.
    Well guess what ladies and gentlemen, the Japanese are losing their trust in America. They no longer see you as rational or reliable, they are increasingly persuaded you will abandon them when the going gets tough, or sell them out to China, or in other ways betray their interests.
    What this means is that Japan now has to look after itelf. This is what the Japanese are now debating. “Do we have to look after ourselves now?”
    This will be followed by “How do we look after ourselves?”
    There will be two options open to Japan, neither of which America will like…
    One is to replace the hegemonic relationship with the US with that of another power. Most likely China, though Russia or India are also in the running. If this happens, consider yourselves finished in the Pacific. There will be a huge seismic shift of power, and you will immediately transition from world striding colossus to ‘also ran.’
    The other is for Japan to go it alone, pursuing its own security interests distinct from the US or China. For obvious reasons, Japan is too small in terms of population and resources to make a viable go of it.
    Japan’s only option, is to link up to other middling Asian nations, Indonesia, Phillipines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Korea, Myanmar and Taiwan.
    Together, such a collective federation would form a substantial enough population and resource block that they could deal with China or India, Russia or the US on even terms.
    Let’s call it the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Catchy ring, don’t you think?
    This scenario is in some ways marginally more appealling than the Hegemonic scene. Among other issues, the US would still experience a catastrophic loss of Asian influence, but would still be a player among players, rather than a newly reduced dwarf facing a newly enlarged giant.
    Still, it would speak to the end of the american empire.
    And good riddance.

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  23. Pissed Off American says:

    WTF?????

    Reply

  24. Carroll says:

    Scariest part to me…..
    “In the absence of American leadership, Japan is now flirting with harsher security options to preserve its own security. In other words, Japan is calculating that America may be so weakened or internally consistent that it can’t be the guarantor of Japan’s security. Counting on America less, Japan may consider adding to its security tool kit preemptive strike options of its own. Fascinating and disturbing.”
    ..cause now that American leadership is down the toilet and is no longer a stablizing force…..it’s back to the wild wild west and law of the guns.

    Reply

  25. steve duncan says:

    Success for Cheney is an inscrutable concept. How do we judge this regime’s approach to problems when we have no idea the results they strive for?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    “We will complete the mission and I will make my judgments as to the troop levels necessary to achieve victory, not based upon political polls or focus groups, but based upon the measured judgment of our commanders on the ground . . . Make no mistake about it, there is a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done . . . They are willing to wave the white flag of surrender and if they succeed the United States will be worse off, and the world will be worse off . . . We’ve got a plan to succeed, a plan for victory, a plan that will enable a new ally in the war on terror to govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself . . .”
    – George W. Bush, June 28, 2006
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    What plan? And what would define success? If it’s a functioning Democracy remotely akin to what we have in the U.S. success and hell freezing over are probably on a similar timeline. As long as the RNC coffers are full and the Republican Party maintains control of all three branches of government Cheney will view whatever he does as the winning formula. The number of people killed and the destruction wrought along the way are irrelevant.

    Reply

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