The Value of Talk in the Debate on Nuclear N. Korea

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As the recent North Korean nuclear test ushers us into a new nuclear era, the president's "tough talk" is no longer enough, and new strategies are needed for dealing with North Korea, NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr says.

DANIEL SCHORR: President Bush's frequent assertions that a North Korean nuclear weapon would be intolerable or unacceptable have become, you might say, inoperative.


NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: The red line is being moved and the president indicated at his news conference that a priority concern now is to keep North Korea from sharing its nuclear know how with others, especially non-state players like Osama bin-Laden, who has proclaimed it his religious duty to acquire a nuclear bomb. It will take more than sanctions to get North Korea's cooperation. The president said that the United States remains committed to diplomacy and has no intention of attacking.

Apparently important to Kim Jung Il is what the president has so far refused -a meeting of the two governments. Selig Harrison, author of Korea Endgame, who has been in Pyongyang ten times, most recently last month, says that a bilateral meeting is a prerequisite for the Pyongyang regime. Harrison writes in The Washington Post that over dinner in Pyongyang, the vice foreign minister said that North Korea would not dismantle its nuclear program until all relations with the United States are fully normalized. It sounded a little like an Asian Rodney Dangerfield demanding a little respect.

Harrison recommends that the United States agree to bilateral talks and press North Korea to suspend further missile and nuclear tests while negotiations on denuclearization proceed.

The regime toppling era may be over, but there is no sign of an invitation to Kim Jung Il to Crawford, Texas anytime soon. For one thing, the administration has denounced North Korea as a criminal state, guilty of counterfeiting and money laundering.

In any event, our government would think twice about striking a country with a nuclear capability. As we enter the post non-proliferation era, a new strategy may be needed.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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