Richmond World Affairs Council

Hot Topic – Diplomacy in the Obama Administration

Today’s hot topic [President Bill Clinton’s trip to North Korea] is full of controversial talking points.

With relations between the US and N. Korea decidingly unfavorable, it is no wonder that the Obama Administration would tap a figurehead of such notoriety (President Clinton has been likened to the “Rock Star” of governmental figure heads) to act as its envoy in securing the two imprisoned American journalists. Some say doing so only rewards the N. Koreans for their bad behavior by delivering something they crave – status and bragging rights .

Does President Clintons journey undermine the public stance of his wife, Secretary Clinton? It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists. She has also caused a personal rift between herself and the N. Koreans by calling them “unruly children” who demand attention.

Secretary Clinton has made it clear that negotiations for the release of the two American prisoners, and the nuclear talks are completely separate issues. Calling to mind President Clintons nuclear negotiations with N. Korea in the 1990’s while in office, it is hard to imagine that the issue was not addressed when he was picked up at the airport by Kim Kye-Gwan [lead North Korean Nuclear Negotiator] or at dinner when he met with Kim Jong II.

John Bolton, an outspoken hardliner of the Bush Administration, said “If you wanted to divorce the kidnapping, abduction issue of the two reporters from the nuclear issue, you couldn’t have picked a less likely envoy than president Clinton.”