This is a nice dose of good news for once. North Korea has agreed to begin permanently dismantling its main nuclear reactor in exchange for a pile of aid from the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia.
I have written about Asst. Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill before and surmised that if he was given some running room to construct a deal with North Korea, he could walk the situation back from the brink.
This deal could still blow up. That would not be out of character for either the North Korean side — nor the U.S.
However, somehow Hill has been able to successfully sideline and silence naysayers in Cheney’s wing of the national security establishment and keep them from undermining his work.
The fact that Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control Robert Joseph had resigned may have been a key “environmental positive” in getting this right with North Korea this round. The absence of Ambassador John Bolton‘s bluster at the U.N. also helped improve the negotiating environment.
There is one thing I fear in this success in Asia though — when all other eyes have been turned towards Iran and Iraq.
It seems that one of the reasons why the U.S. ignored a serious Iran proposal for comprehensive negotiations leading to normalization in March/April 2003 was that Secretary of State Powell and his staff worried that moving forward on an Iran effort would so antagonize Cheney that they would not get agreement from the White House to push forward on the fragile deal-making getting the North Korea-focused Six Party Talks going.
In other words, Powell and Co. — in addition to Cheney’s team — quashed the Iran possibilities to do North Korea.
One hopes today that Chris Hill has not succeeded in securing a positive arrangement in North Korea in some sort of quid pro quo that State will acquiesce to Cheney’s desire for military action against Iran.
– Steve Clemons