President Bush and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il are both hostages of the nuclear stalemate. The Bush zero-tolerance policy for North Korean nuclear weapons and the Kim military-first policy for national security have produced a “no-way-out” situation. North Korea’s nuclear program cannot be eliminated short of a regime change, which probably means war. But North Korea’s neighbors, including our allies Japan and South Korea, are strongly opposed to war. Under the circumstances, the best that President Bush can do is appoint a high-level official to open dialogue with North Korea, one-on-one if necessary, in order to assure Kim that he will not be attacked unless he exports nuclear materials to a third country. The President should also make it clear that the United States will not accept North Korea “as is,” but intends to continue working to open the country to outside influences and bring basic human rights to the North Korean people.
[John Bolton’s statement that the North Koreans “have not lived up to the commitments” made in Singapore] totally cuts Secretary of State Pompeo and the special representative, Steve Biegun, at the knees. What is the incentive for North Korea to actually talk about the meat-and-potatoes of denuclearization with the special representative and with the secretary of state if the national security adviser has said nothing is happening so we have to go straight to the top?