Memo to U.S. Mission in Vienna: Obama No Longer President
Quite likely you don't spend a lot of time following the doings of Andrew J. Schofer, a career State Department officer who is currently the Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna (UNVIE). Nor was Schofer anywhere high on my radar until this week, when he delivered a statement on North Korea that seemed to me slightly at odds with what Ambassador Nikki Haley was saying at the United Nations in New York. Which sent me to the web site for his legation in Vienna ... but before I get ahead of myself on that, here's a bit more background.
Haley, at a UN press stakeout in New York, following a Security Council meeting this Wednesday on North Korea, said that while the U.S. reevaluates how to handle North Korea, "all options are on the table." But Haley also went out of her way to imply that the Trump administration is far from eager to accede to pressures, such as those from China, to default to talks or deals with North Korea. Referring to North Korea's tyrant, Kim Jong Un, Haley told reporters:
I appreciate all of my counterparts wanting to talk about talks and negotiations. We are not dealing with a rational person.
To my mind, Haley may be wrong in her assessment of Kim Jong Un as irrational. We can debate whether Kim is actually a madman incapable of rational calculation, or a wily thug, who in the interest of maintaining his hereditary totalitarian throne has been proving adept, like his forebears, at calibrating what he can get away with in the way of threats, hostage-taking, assassinations, executions, extortion rackets, and nuclear missile projects -- all in the interest of consolidating his grip on power and expanding his reach.
But wherever one comes down on the crazy-Kim question, Haley deserves applause for deflecting the pressures to start bargaining with Kim. Deals with North Korea do not work, and will not work while Kim remains in power. The long record of U.S. talks, deals and attempted talks with North Korea is one of humiliation and failure for the U.S., as North Korea's dynastic Kim regime has repeatedly pocketed any gains, milked every concession, cheated on every agreement, and carried on with its atrocities and its nuclear missile projects.
Which brings me to the statement delivered this Wednesday by U.S. Charge D'Affaires Schofer, at a meeting of the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. Schofer's words did not quite mesh with Haley's polite dismissal of pressure for "talks and negotiations." Rather, Schofer repeated what was for years the refrain of the Obama administration -- and of former Secretary of State John Kerry, in particular -- offering Pyongyang, under conditions North Korea had previously agreed to, and then violated, the option of returning to the bargaining table: