Armitage on North Korea, etc.

Chris Nelson included “this interview”: with Richard Armitage from _The Oriental Economist_ in a report last week.

Read the whole thing, but here’s one of the more interesting portions:

TOE:Would you clarify a controversial episode regarding North
Korea policy? Early on, you testified to Congress that the
Bush administration would eventually hold bilateral talks
with North Korea. President Bush was said to be very angry
with you. Is that true?

RA:Some people in the administration were very angry. But
members of Congress were very happy. All of our allies in
Asia were delighted. And, what I said eventually became our
policy. But it is true that after I initially made my comments, I
knew that some people in some quarters of the administration
were very unhappy.

TOE:So, what is the relationship between the Six-Party Talks and
the bilateral talks with North Korea?

RA:I was very clear in that testimony that, in the context of
the Six-Party Talks, of course we would have bilateral talks
with the North Koreans. And that is exactly what has
happened. We’ve had bilateral talks with the North.
It took a while. Some people in the administration are
frightened that diplomacy is a signal of weakness. I disagreed.
I was convinced that if we knew who we are, and we know
what we are and what we are about, we can make diplomacy
work for us. In the end, diplomacy is the art of letting the other
guy have our way.

TOE:Will the Six-Party Talks work?

RA:They are a good exercise. We have five of the six parties
of a common mind, that North Korea should not have nuclear
weapons. That’s a good starting point. It provides a good
reason for us to get together a talk. I think the process is very
worthwhile. Having said that, it is not going very far, very
fast. The same splits that existed in the Bush administration
when I was in office still exist.

I give my highest compliments to Chris Hill, the State
Department’s new Asia chief. He is doing a tremendous job.
But he has the same problems that we faced when Jim Kelly
and I were there.

TOE:What problems did you face?

RA:There is a fundamental disagreement over how to
approach the North Korea problem. There is a fear in some
quarters, particularly the Pentagon and at times in the vice
president’s office, that if we were to engage in discussions
with the North Koreans, we might wind up with the bad end of
the deal. They believe that we should be able to pronounce our
view, and everyone else, including the North Koreans, should
simply accept it. This is not a reasonable approach.

Those of us at the State Department concluded: From the
North Korean point of view, the nuclear issue is the only
reason we Americans talk with them. Therefore, the North
Koreans would be very reluctant to let go of the nuclear
program. We knew it was going to be a very difficult process.
But you have to start somewhere. You start by finding out
what their needs and desires are, and seeing if there is a way of
meeting those needs and desires without giving away
something this [sic] is sacred to us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *