Wednesday, October 11, 2006

McCain wrong about North Korea

Sen. John McCain has attempted to blame President Clinton for North Korea's development of nuclear weapons:

"I would remind Senator [Hillary] Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure," McCain said at a news conference after a campaign appearance for Republican Senate candidate Mike Bouchard.

"The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They've diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military," he said.

But McCain is wrong. In 1994, the North Koreans were producing weapons-grade plutonium. The Clinton Administration negotiated the Agreed Framework, under which they halted their program and allowed inspections of the plutonium they had produced. The North Korean plutonium program remained halted until 2002. In 2000, George W. Bush came into office wanting to terminate the agreement over plutonium, and in 2002 he did so on the basis of evidence that the North Koreans were trying to enrich uranium. As a result of U.S. withdrawal from the agreement, the North Koreans again began producing weapons-grade plutonium, which was used in their bomb test.

The evidence is that the Clinton Administration agreement kept North Korea from developing plutonium-based nuclear weapons from 1994 to 2002, and that the Bush Administration's withdrawal from that agreement and failure to replace it led to North Korea detonating a plutonium-based nuclear weapon on October 9, 2006.

Now, of course I place the blame for developing a nuclear weapon on North Korea rather than the United States--but if we're looking for who in the United States is most responsible for allowing them to do so, I don't see anyone with greater responsibility than President George W. Bush. McCain's attempt to divert blame to Clinton is ridiculous.

If Clinton's posture is criticized as all carrots but no sticks (which is itself in error, since war was threatened to get North Korea to the bargaining table in 1994), the accurate criticism of Bush's posture is no carrots and no sticks.

UPDATE: Condi Rice has made the same criticism as McCain.

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