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Obama Legacy: North Korea January 25, 2017

Posted by geoff in News, Obama's Legacy.

It’s so fun to hear the ex-President tell us how great is administration has been, when by almost any measure it was at best impotent. In the case of North Korea it was far from its best.

Y’all may recall President Bush’s infamous “Axis of Evil,” which prominently featured North Korea. That same year (2002), it was revealed that North Korea had violated a 1994 agreement with the US by operating a secret nuclear weapons development program.

So yeah, Axis of Evil.

  • 2005: The Bush administration leaps into action, reaching a tentative agreement to give a bunch of  goodies to North Korea in exchange for all of North Korea’s nuclear efforts.
  • 2006: North Korea detonates its first nuke.
  • 2007: North Korea signs an agreement to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities in exchange for . . . a bunch of goodies. And Bush takes them off the list of countries that support terrorism.
  • 2008: Well howdy, howdy, howdy. Turns out that North Korea is missing its dismantling deadlines, and refusing to allow inspectors to check their nuclear weapons sites.
  • 2009: North Korea detonates its second nuke.

By this time everybody can see North Korea’s game. They really, really want to be a player on the international scene, but they have no technology or economy or culture that interests anybody else. Getting nukes is a shortcut to respect ==> just look at Pakistan.

So they string the international community along while they keep developing the nukes, collecting $200 every time they pass “Go.” …or every time they press “boom.”

Enter the Obama administration. Having seen that neither diplomacy, economic carrots, nor economic sticks (i.e., sanctions) are stopping North Korea, and that North Korea has blatantly violated two treaties, you might think they’d have learned something. Something like, “Gee, you can’t negotiate with these guys. You’re going to have to step things up.”

But of course they figured that the Bush administration was just incompetent at negotiating, because, well, cowboy Republican neanderthals is why.

  • 2011: They resume talks with North Korea.
  • 2012: North Korea agrees to stop missile and nuclear development in exchange for . . . a bunch of goodies.
  • 2013: North Korea detonates its third nuke.
  • By the end of President Obama’s term, North Korea detonates a fourth nuke, claims to have also detonated a hydrogen bomb, tests medium-range ballistic missiles, and claims to have developed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Obama administration didn’t do any worse than the Bush administration in terms of diplomacy. Their crime is not respecting their predecessor’s efforts and instead arrogantly/foolishly repeating their mistakes. As WaPo put it:

Mr. Obama has failed to take the North Korean buildup seriously enough. For years, his administration pursued a policy of “strategic patience,” which mostly consisted of ignoring North Korea while mildly cajoling China to put more pressure on the regime. In February, Mr. Obama signed into law a bill pushed by congressional Republicans that gave him broad new powers to sanction North Korea and cut off its economic lifelines.

However, . . . Mr. Obama has not used the powers Congress gave him. As The Post’s Anna Fifield recently reported, customs data shows that China’s trade with North Korea in June was almost 10 percent higher than the previous year, in spite of the sanctions. Though the White House has issued executive orders sanctioning Mr. Kim and other senior leaders, congressional leaders point out that it has yet to penalize any Chinese companies or banks for continuing to do business with the regime.

The upshot is that 10 years after North Korea detonated its first nuke, they have made significant progress on nuclear weapons technology as well as missile technology capable of carrying nuclear weapons. But the president thought that diplomatic business-as-usual would suffice, especially since his administration would be sooooo much more empathetic and diplomatic and stuff.

So it is directly due to both former President Obama and former Secretary of State Clinton that the world, and the United States in particular, have become a much more dangerous place.

[North Korea timelines taken from the BBC and CNN]


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