[TODAY]What the neocons now wantThe stubborn neoconservatives in Washington, who can scarcely spare time for concentrating on Iraq problems, have suddenly become vocal about the North Korean issue.
In an article in the Weekly Stan-dard, Nicholas Eberstadt, a senior research associate at the neocon think tank American Enterprise Institute, intensely criticized the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s tolerant policy toward the North.
He claimed that the only way to resolve the nuclear tension on the peninsula is by changing the regime in North Korea.
William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, is the commander of the neoconservatives. His father, Irving Kristol, was the godfather of neoconservatism and his mother, Gertrude Himmelfarb, is a well-known neocon scholar.
Like many other neocons, William Kristol’s focus is normally on the Israeli and Middle Eastern issues. However, he suddenly circulated an article urging a regime change in North Korea to American opinion leaders. He urged a change of regime in the North during the second term of George W. Bush, more specifically a policy aiming at an overthrow of Kim Jong-il.
Mr. Kristol has advocated “Operation Babylon” as the model for America’s foreign policy strategy. Operation Babylon refers to the complete destruction of the Iraqi nuclear facilities in Osirak, north of Baghdad, by eight Israeli fighter-bombers in June 1981.
If necessary, Washington should not be reluctant to launch a pre-emptive strike, he insists.
Therefore, it is not a coincidence that Mr. Kristol and his colleagues are irritated by Seoul’s open attitude toward Pyeongyang and the Bush administration’s attachment to the six-nation talks.
The question is, however, why are they suddenly paying attention to the Korean Peninsula now?
To the neocon’s eyes, North Korea is a rogue state. It appears that the neocons have detected signs that the Bush administration, influenced by the Roh administration’s appeasement policy toward the North, might ease its present attitude toward North Korea.
Because Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry had highlighted the North Korean nuclear issue as one of the top two tasks to be resolved, along with Iraq, in foreign policy, President Bush has no choice but to handle the nuclear issue transparently. Therefore, President Bush is limited to adopting North Korean policies that cater to the tastes of the neoconservatives.
The neoconservatives might be sending a warning signal to President Bush out of a sense of crisis: that the situation could develop where the administration would take its cues from Seoul even when the more hard-line Condoleezza Rice replaces Secretary of State Colin Powell, a moderate.
The neocons also hope that Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, a prominent neoconservative, will be promoted deputy secretary of state and turn the Bush administration’s North Korean policy back to a more hard-line stance. The Christian conservatives, the solid supporters of President Bush, share the interests of the neocons. In the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz are close to civilian neocons. Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
If John Bolton is indeed appointed to the deputy secretary’s position as the neocons hope, President Bush’s strategy to resolve the nuclear tension through dialogue that the new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will carry out will be checked effectively.
If President Bush’s North Korean policy is based on a plan to overthrow the Kim Jong-il regime, we cannot expect the six-way talks to succeed.
The only way to shut off the neocon influence in the nuclear talks is for Pyeongyang to show an earnest and sincere attitude when it sits at the six-way talks and prove with deeds that the nuclear tension can be resolved through dialogue. Pyeongyang should understand the backgound of President Roh Moo-hyun’s comments in Los Angeles, risking the danger of offending people in the Bush administration to block the second-term Bush administration’s North Korea policy from turning to a hard-line one.
In Santiago, President Bush met with the heads of Korea, China, Japan and Russia and confirmed the principle of a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear problems. At the same time, he reiterated his determination not to tolerate North Korea’s nuclear armament.
Pyeongyang must seriously review Washington’s new proposal presented at the third six-way talks in June and produce a constructive alternative if necessary. If more flexibility and creativity is added as Seoul has requested, a compromise between Washington’s plan and Pyeongyang’s more comprehensive demand can be feasible.
If Pyeongyang truly wants to revive the economy with foreign assistance in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapons program, it should not hesitate to sit down at the table. If it wastes any more time, Seoul’s restraint on Washington will only weaken, and the neocons will only become more vocal and influential.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie