Bush and Bolton on North Korea: Back to Tough Talk


This ran in Al Kamen’s column today:

In the fight over John R. Bolton’s nomination to be U.N. ambassador, there’s been a huge fuss over a speech Bolton gave in 2003 in Seoul, which some have suggested was not diplomatic enough and was out of sync with administration policy.
It certainly wasn’t appreciated in some quarters of the State Department, although Bolton’s theoretical former boss, Colin L. Powell, said it was “fully cleared” and “was consistent with administration policy.”
So let’s compare Bolton’s language with President Bush’s news conference on Thursday. Here’s Bolton in Seoul:
“Kim Jong Il . . . keeps hundreds of thousands of his people locked in prison camps with millions more mired in abject poverty, scrounging the ground for food.
” . . . To give in to his extortionist demands would only encourage him, and perhaps more ominously, other would-be tyrants around the world.
” . . . Let me be clear: The United States seeks a peaceful solution to this situation. President Bush has . . . mobilize[ed] world public opinion to support us in finding a lasting multilateral solution. . . . The operative term is ‘multilateral.’ ”
Okay. Now Bush last week: “Look, Kim Jong Il is a dangerous person. He’s a man who starves his people. He’s got huge concentration camps. . . . [T]here is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon. [I]t’s best when you’re dealing with a tyrant like Kim Jong Il to assume he can. That’s why I’ve decided that the best way to deal with this diplomatically is to bring more leverage to the situation by including other countries.
“It used to be that it was just America dealing with North Korea. I felt it — it didn’t work. In other words, the bilateral approach didn’t work.”
Maybe Bush was Bolton’s speechwriter?

— Steve Clemons