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Taboo Talk About North Korea

So, congratulations to Hillary for her taboo-breaking mention of a possible succession in North Korea. Unfortunately, all other signs, including the rest of Hillary's remarks -- as she makes her maiden swing through Asia as Secretary of State -- are that the Obama administration is about to "engage" the current North Korean regime with efforts to revive the Six-Party Talks. The logic there seems to be that if a policy has failed, and failed repeatedly, we need lots more of it.

To help with the next round of "engagement," it looks like Clinton will tap Stephen Bosworth as the new special envoy for North Korea. Bosworth is a retread from Bill Clinton's failed North Korea policy: Bosworth's background includes a stint from 1995-1997 as executive director of the New York-headquartered KEDO consortium that was set up in the mid-1990s to building two sparkling new multi-billion dollar nuclear reactors for Kim Jong Il, with regular shipments of free food and fuel thrown in, in exchange for the promise of a nuclear freeze. (Kim cheated, and deal broke down in 2002, leaving North Korea with technicians already partly trained, and the foundations of the reactors already poured). Will we be seeing that project, and those reactors (yes, regardless of what Jimmy Carter told us, they could be used to produce nuclear bombs) rise from the grave?

Engagement certainly seems to be the diplomatic verb of the hour. The Obama administration has already begun "engaging" Syria, as I noted in a column last week on the waiving of Syria sanctions for airliner repair. This weekend Senator John Kerry plans to drop in on Damascus. And of course, when Obama takes a breather from spending the earnings of your great-great-grandchildren on bridges, high-speed trains to Vegas, and mortgage bailouts, we may yet witness those promised "no preconditions" talks with Iran.

A note -- in surveying this gloomy scene while writing the column on North Korea, linked above, I went hunting on the web for Ronald Reagan's famous 1984 slip with the open microphone -- or was it a slip? -- when he broke a taboo in talking about his desire for regime change in the Soviet Union. Shock! Horror! Wow, was he good. When do we get another like him? Remember: "We begin bombing in five minutes."