Today's Star Tribune contained a piece by Nicholas Kristof (yeah, the one from the New York Times) about how in his opinion the Bush administration has blown it in dealing the homicidal lunatics who run North Korea (into the ground, but I digress...). Apparently if the US had just followed the Clinton model of bilateral negotiation and giving them stuff the North Koreans would not be a source of trouble for anyone but themselves, to hear Kristof tell it. He even has a diplomat to quote saying the Bushies blew it to back him up. Imagine that. At least he admits the problems in Korea are mostly of Kim "I'm so 'ronery" Jong-ll's making, as well. However there are a couple of vital questions about negotiating with the NKs that Kristof doesn't even attempt to address.
First, if the Clinton policy that resulted in the "Agreed Framework" of 1994 was so effective, why did the North Korean government announce it had built nuclear weapons early in the Bush (43) administration? Since one doesn't build the infrastructure for these sorts of projects in a day (or even in a year), the most logical conclusion to me is the North Koreans did not (and probably never intended to) abide by the agreement. If so, what did the Clinton policy actually achieve?
Second, since the North Korean government cheated on the previous agreement, what reasonable expectation can we have that they will abide by another one? Precedent, to say the least, is not comforting here.
It seems to me the Bush policy of getting China, South Korea, and Japan involved in the talks has a better chance of creating a better, more likely to be enforceable deal. If nothing else, the North Koreans have to pay attention to what China wants, since that's where much of their food and fuel is coming from these days. It is also reasonable that the other Korea and Japan be involved, since if the NKs start another war, those nations will be the most affected by a Korean attack (and the inevitable response from the United States). Ignoring these questions definitely lowers my opinion of Kristof's critique.