Thursday, June 28, 2007

Getting together with North Korea

Here's a story that explains some of the contortions U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill had to go through to meet with North Koreans and continue negotiating what has finally become an agreement for the North Koreans to shut down their nuclear reactor in exchange for aid. In January, for example, he got former diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who now heads the American Academy in Berlin, to invite him to give a speech -- and hardly by coicidence lead North Korean negotiator Kim Gye Gwan was there too. Then a couple of weeks ago he went to Mongolia for the annual meeting of the Asia Society, also chaired by Holbrooke -- and while he was there a flap over North Korean money deposited in a Macau bank broke, clearing the way for the agreement to be implemented.

There are plenty of people who will call this appeasement. but it strikes me as fairly wise. Even though there's doubt about whether the Koreans really did explode a nuclear weapon underground last year, it's clearly better to have them agree not to keep going for nukes and to have the IAEA in there, which is starting this week, than to have them continuing to try to build a nuke or more. South Korea wants to normalize relations with the North, and it's time for the U.S. to let that happen -- and get U.S. troops, which serve more as a tripwire than a deterrent, out of South Korea.

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