The Rosett Report

El Baradei Speaks for Pyongyang?

Just who is the head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency working for?

IAEA chief Mohamed El Baradei has just emerged from a visit to North Korea to tell reporters in Beijing that “The DPRK says their cooperation, accepting inspectors, will come after the lifting of the sanctions.”

That’s an interesting formulation, which basically puts the burden on the sanctioners, not on North Korea’s totalitarian government — which has turned nuclear extortion into one of its main industries, and has already lied and cheated on previous nuclear freeze deals. We can expect that kind of statement from officials working for Kim Jong Il’s regime, but why should the IAEA be a purveyor of Pyongyang’s duplicities?

One might hope the U.S. State Department — or some higher placed U.S. official – would respond by pointing out that America does not pay nuclear blackmail, and that the onus is entirely on North Korea. But instead, President Bush and Secretary of State Condi Rice seem to have turned over U.S. policy almost entirely to Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, envoy to the Six-Party talks on North Korea. And in Chris Hill’s universe, all we have to do to be safe is close our eyes, cover our ears, bow down and pay tribute to Kim Jong Il.

Hill has been prostrating himself to North Korea for some time, most recently telling the press that the mere fact that North Korea “received” El Baradei was “a good sign.” Under what we might now call the Chris Hill Doctrine, the U.S. has already promised 50,000 tons of free fuel, with another 950,000 tons to follow, and given in to North Korea’s demands for bilateral talks (North Korea officials met last week with Hill in New York). And Treasury, which until Hill’s giveaway was doing a great job of pressuring North Korea, has just taken steps — see the latest on Macau’s Banco Delta Asia — expected to ease the financial pressure.

Pandering to North Korea’s nuclear extortion racket is not the way to stop North Korea’s nuclear threat. It is the way to create more and bigger nuclear extortion rackets and threats. That might be terrific business for the IAEA’s El Baradei, and for negotiators like Chris Hill — now surfing a wave of publicity and self-importance — but it’s a very bad idea for the rest of us.