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« Hey, Andrew Sullivan: Bush says the war is 'hard work'! | Main | Debate is a draw »

September 30, 2004


Jon Snyder

Although I do not have first-hand knowledge, my impression over the years was that North Korea's primary motivation for promoting bilateral dialog between itself and the U.S. in lieu of multilateral dialog (not merely discussions over nuclear issues, but other issues as well) was to diplomatically insult South Korea as a "puppet" of the United States. On the obverse, the United State’s main reason for steering clear of bilateral talks was because we consider South Korea to be a legitimate country and consider their interests to be important relative to our own. Bush’s assertion that the reason for avoiding bilateral talks was that they would conflict with multilateral discussions hardly seems compelling to the same degree. Kerry, by proposing that we should move to bilateral dialog, appears not to realize this either.
Any further thoughts?


Just to clarify a point:

Kerry proposed bilateral talks in addition to the multilateral talks. It is not unusual to approach a problem from multiple angles. All bilateral talks mean is that the two countries will sit down and talk. It hardly makes N. Korea our problem alone--every other country in that region is too anxious about the outcome.

Frank Warner

Permit me to clarify further.

When the United States enters bilateral talks, those talks overwhelm all others. That is exactly what we don't want vis a vis North Korea.

North Korea isn't primarily a U.S. problem. It's on the other side of the planet, and it's in a region where four other nations with much more at stake also happen to have greater leverage with North Korea.

So let them handle it. Yes, we can be partners. But no, let's not fall into another extortion trap. If we step forward alone, all other nations will step back.

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