Since the mid-1990s, each U.S. president in turn, from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, has gotten himself a North Korean nuclear freeze deal — and seen it dissolve. Each time, the pattern has been the same. North Korea ups the ante, brandishing its out-sized military and its nuclear pursuits, and issues threats about “seas of fire,” “war,” and “catastrophic” attacks. The U.S., the UN and related players hold fevered meetings and wring their hands over the crisis. Then North Korea puts out the word via some eager shill that it might be open to a deal. With relief, yabbering on about how “encouraging” it all is, America and allies sit down again at the bargaining table and pay wergeld to the Pyongyang regime.
Now it’s Obama’s turn. Since Obama took office, North Korea has conducted a nuclear test; tested an array of missiles (including ballistic); sunk a South Korean warship killing 46 members of the crew; hit Yeonpyeong with the worst artillery shelling since the 1953 armistice; carried on its sanctions-busting weapons traffic with Iran; and –after denying any uranium enrichment — unveiled an in-your-face uranium enrichment facility for visiting U.S. nuclear physicist Sigmund Hecker to observe and report home about.
In a saner world, these would all be among the long list of reasons for America and U.S. allies to devote themselves not to dignifying Kim’s regime at the bargaining table, but to undermining this totalitarian dynasty in every possible way — with the aim of bringing it down, at speed. But in this crazy old world, Kim Jong Il has every reason to believe that attacks, threats and a multi-track nuclear weapons program are all chips he can bring to the bargaining table — there to reap rewards for promising, again, to desist from things he should not be doing in the first place. That’s how his regime has survived since the collapse of its old godfather, the USSR. And here we go again. In sum, Kim Jong Il has just hung out his Christmas stocking, expecting Uncle Sam to again play Santa. No doubt we will soon be hearing more from Richardson and Blitzer about the happy news they believe they just discovered in Pyongyang. This North Korean routine — murderous, cynical and hideously destructive to any civilized order — does not deserve even a lump of coal.