Should Bush Meet Kim Jong-Il?

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), March 7, 2001 | Go to article overview

Should Bush Meet Kim Jong-Il?


Should U.S. President George W. Bush meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to address a package of pending issues at the highest level?

It is still an elusive question, as the Bush administration has not completely drafted its policies towards the Korean peninsula. There is a multitude of views on the pros and cons of such a meeting, which is still in the conceptual stage.

Former negotiators of the Clinton administration, who have experience in dealing with their North Korean counterparts, answer ``yes'' to the question because Kim is the only leader capable of making a decision in the North Korean hierarchy. They are apparently convinced that meeting with his deputies is more or less a waste of precious time.

On Tuesday, former North Korea policy coordinator Wendy Sherman said in a forum organized in Washington by the U.S. Institute for Peace, ``North Korea operates its policy at its highest level. They pay attention to the highest level. To get to the end of this story will require some kind of communication, and probably a meeting with President Bush and Chairman Kim,'' she added.

Gordon Flake, executive director of the Manfield Center for Pacific Studies, said in a recent contribution to a vernacular newspaper, ``Students of political science in the United States are familiar with the axiom: Only Nixon could go to China. Just as Nixon's staunch conservative credentials enabled him to visit the PRC with minimal suspicion at home, President Bush may have relative maneuverability in regards to Pyongyang.''

He contended that the Clinton administration's policy of engagement with North Korea originated in the previous Bush and Reagan administrations.

However, those in the Bush camp still believe it is necessary to adjust the pace of engaging the North, contending Clinton was going too fast and far and giving up too much in a desperate bid to engage the country.

Larry Wortzel, director of Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said in an ``executive memorandum'' that Bush ``should not visit the North as long as a formal state of war exists on the Korean peninsula. …

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