Henry Kissinger elaborates on what I posited here when Bill Clinton rewarded Kim Jong Il with a presidential visit and the imprimatur of legitimacy. I said, "To reward those who commit the worst of crimes with the sanction of the highest political representation of the US? This on the same day that one of the worst regimes, Burma, goes nuclear vis a vis the North Koreans. Something has already done with Iran and Syria.
Looking at the longer term picture and the implications of a such suicidal approach leaves me with great worry for what's next on the savages' advancement of evil totalitarianism." Iran will certainly take note of an evil ally (a terror regime) getting such a handsome ransom, not to mention Kim’s other hostages. They include more than 1,000 foreigners and 23 million North Koreans.
Henry Kissinger says the same in today's Washington Post: The North Korea Fallout
The impulse to save two young women from 12 years of hard labor in a North Korean gulag is powerful. Yet now that this goal has been achieved, we need to balance the emotions of the moment against the precedent for the future.
It is inherent in hostage situations that potentially heartbreaking human conditions are used to overwhelm policy judgments. Therein lies the bargaining strength of the hostage-taker. On the other hand, at any given moment, several million Americans reside or travel abroad. How are they best protected? Is the lesson of this episode that any ruthless group or government can demand a symbolic meeting with a senior American by seizing hostages or threatening inhuman treatment for prisoners in their hand? If it should be said that North Korea is a special case because of its nuclear capability, does that create new incentives for proliferation?
Context matters. Less than six months ago, Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test and resumed the production of weapons-grade plutonium in violation of an agreement signed in February 2007 at the "six-power" conference in Beijing. Recently, North Korea refused a visit by the new U.S. envoy charged with discussing its proliferation efforts. Pyongyang has rejected various U.N. Security Council resolutions to desist from these activities and to return to the talks with the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia. A visit by a former president, who is married to the secretary of state, will enable Kim Jong Il to convey to North Koreans, and perhaps to other countries, that his country is being accepted into the international community -- precisely the opposite of what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has defined as the goal of U.S. policy until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear weapons program.
Already, speculation is rife that the Clinton visit inaugurates the prospect of a change of course of American policy and of a bilateral U.S.-North Korea solution. But two-party talks outside the six-party framework never made any sense. North Korean nuclear weapons threaten the North's neighbors more than they do the United States. The other members of the six-party talks are needed to help enforce any agreement that may be made or to sustain sanctions on the way to it. These countries should not be made to feel that the United States uses them as pawns for its global designs. To be sure, the Obama administration has disavowed any intentions for separate, two-power talks. But the other parties will be tempted to hedge against the prospect that these assurances may be modified. That feeling is likely to be particularly strong in Japan, where a national election campaign is underway and where Tokyo already feels it has secured inadequate support on behalf of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea.
Read it all.