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McCain on North Korea

While the mainstream media continues to fawn over Christopher Hill’s efforts in the Six Party talks, John McCain sets out his own views on North Korea (and Asia more generally) in the Asian Wall Street Journal. While much of the piece contains relatively familiar words of support for free trade and strengthening existing alliances, this jumps out:

We must use the leverage available from the U.N. Security Council resolution passed after Pyongyang’s 2006 nuclear test to ensure the full and complete declaration, disablement and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in a verifiable manner, which we agreed to with the other members of the six-party talks. We must reinvigorate the trilateral coordination process with Japan and South Korea. And we must never squander the trust of our allies and the respect for our highest office by promising that the president will embark on an open-ended, unconditional personal negotiation with a dictator responsible for running an international criminal enterprise, a covert nuclear weapons program and a massive system of gulags.

The first two sentences are aimed squarely at the Bush administration. Many voices are urging McCain to get to the left of Bush on foreign policy. But here McCain goes the other way, in essence crying foul on the increasingly preposterous attempts (detailed by Stephen Hayes most recently) to ignore North Korea’s nuclear testing and proliferation (not to mention gross human rights abuses) for the sake of what some call “legacy deals.”

McCain continued these themes in a speech today on nuclear proliferation, stating that

North Korea pursues a nuclear weapons program to the point where, today, the dictator Kim Jong-Il has tested a nuclear weapon, and almost certainly possesses several more nuclear warheads. And it has shared its nuclear and missile know-how with others, including Syria. It is a vital national interest for the North Korean nuclear program to be completely, verifiably and irreversibly ended. . . .

Again, this criticism seems to be directed mainly at the unwillingness of the Bush administration to push for verifiable restraints on North Korea’s nuclear program. The latter may not do much to endear McCain to mainstream pundits, but it will likely cheer the conservative base (which has grown increasingly disgusted with Bush’s second term foreign policy record). North Korea is one issue on which McCain seems inclined to break with Bush, albeit not the way most critics envisioned.


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