ABC News reports that Condoleezza Rice will replace out going Colin Powell as Secretary of State.
I think most pundits will see this as a signal that the Bush Administration will take a tougher line with North Korea (some Korean will be shocked to find out that the Bush administration's North Korea policy has not nearly been as tough as it could have been). I'm not so sure about that. Time will tell. This could also be seen as a chance for South Korea to get over some fantasies about how the US will conduct itself diplomatically.
The regime of Kim Jong Il is so opaque that it is difficult to know its motivations, other than that they are malign. But North Korea also lives outside of the international system. Like East Germany, North Korea is the evil twin of a successful regime just across its border. It must fear its eventual demise from the sheer power and pull of South Korea. Pyongyang, too, has little to gain and everything to lose from engagement in the international economy. The development of WMD thus provides the destructive way out for Kim Jong Il.
President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea is attempting to find a peaceful resolution with the north through engagement. Any U.S. policy toward the north should depend heavily on coordination with Seoul and Tokyo. In that context, the 1994 framework agreement that attempted to bribe North Korea into forsaking nuclear weapons cannot easily be set aside. Still, there is a trap inherent in this approach: sooner or later Pyongyang will threaten to test a missile one too many times, and the United States will not respond with further benefits. Then what will Kim Jong Il do? The possibility for miscalculation is very high.
It turns out that the miscalculation was continuing with their nuclear weapons program rather than another missile test.
One thing is clear: the United States must approach regimes like North Korea resolutely and decisively. The Clinton administration has failed here, sometimes threatening to use force and then backing down, as it often has with Iraq. These regimes are living on borrowed time, so there need be no sense of panic about them. Rather, the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration. Second, we should accelerate efforts to defend against these weapons. This is the most important reason to deploy national and theater missile defenses as soon as possible, to focus attention on U.S. homeland defenses against chemical and biological agents, and to expand intelligence capabilities against terrorism of all kinds.
Emphasis is mine. Please note that this was written well before 9/11, so calculations (and America's reliance on deterrence) have changed some.
I especially like the part about not panicking. The Norks always try to make their opponents wet their panties with threats and bluster. I think her appointment should be taken as a clear sign that the US is not going to sign on to just any deal.
I fully expect that Senate Democrats will give Rice a tough time during her confirmation hearings (as they should and is their right), but I don't see how they can reasonably block her. She is the choice of a president who was just reelected based at least in part on the foreign and national security policies which she helped implement.
All things considered, I think Condi's appointment is a step in the right direction.