Magazine article Newsweek

Nuclear Chicken: The Hawks Have Their Own Plans for Pyongyang

Magazine article Newsweek

Nuclear Chicken: The Hawks Have Their Own Plans for Pyongyang

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard Wolffe

What are they smoking?" asked one exasperated State Department official after last week's abrupt and abrasive talks with North Korea. "Which alternative universe do they inhabit?" He wasn't talking about the eccentric North Koreans and their nuclear brinkmanship. Instead the senior diplomat was frustrated by an equally tenacious foe: the conservative in-house critics of Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It's a mark of just how deep the wounds go inside George W. Bush's supposedly self-disciplined administration. While Kim Jong Il pushes Asia to the brink of a nuclear arms race, Washington's best and brightest push each other over the edge of patience and civility. Of course, friendly fire between the State and Defense departments has ricocheted around the Bush administration for the past two years. But after the failure of the latest attempt to negotiate with the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang, the administration faces its worst infighting to date--worse even than the prewar skirmishes on Iraq.

The latest squabbling began with Powell's secretive planning for the North Korean talks held in Beijing last week. For more than a month, after his brief trip to China in February, Powell worked to stage a three-way session with the mercurial North Koreans and their longtime Chinese backers. Powell toiled outside the usual National Security Council meetings to deal directly with the White House. Key conservatives, who oppose negotiating with the North, were clueless until it was too late and Bush had already agreed. …

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