Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Whence This "Direct Talks" Nonsense?

Today's China Post features this article on North Korea's continued insistence on "direct talks" with Washington as a precondition to any promise to not conduct a test launch of its Taepodong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile in the near future. Washington, through John Bolton, has thankfully made it clear not only that threats are not the way to induce diplomacy, but also that it will remain firm on insisting that any negotiations be conducted in conjunction with China, Japan, South Korea, and other regional powers.

The story is pretty straightforward, and Kim Jong Il's actions entirely predictable, but I must ask: why is there a recurring theme of dictatorial powers asking for direct talks with the United States? We expect such idiocy from Kim, but I have heard this direct-talks theme echoed among critics of the administration as well. I find the insistence amusing, since these same armchair diplomats who insist that we indulge North Korea in its request for direct talks are the ones who have taken the Bush administration to task for engaging in "unilateral" action in Iraq (I put "unilateral" in quotes because it is not actually true; action in Iraq was the result of a multi-national coalition that was in its inception larger than the coalition that countered Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1991).

North Korea wants direct talks with the United States for two reasons: it wants to stall, and it wants its Asian neighbors kept in the dark about the lack of progress. Fortunately, Kim won't be getting his way on this one.


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