Bigger Picture In Bill Clinton's N. Korea Mission?
Bill Clinton has now secured pardons from Kim Jong Il for the two journalists who he has now met with -- but more importantly, Clinton has engaged directly with North Korea President Kim Jong Il and this may steady things in Northeast Asia for a bit. As one observer told me today, engaging Kim directly matters and prevents the complex filters around him from distorting and derailing earnest efforts to get the relationship pointed in a more constructive direction. Former Japan Prime Minister Koizumi learned this through two direct meetings with Kim, and the Chinese and South Koreans also have learned that direct engagement with the North Korean leader produces radically different results than dealing with the bureaucratic minions around him.
Clinton may have just given North Korea a "face-saving way" back to negotiations in the Six Party Talks -- and North Korea may have found a valuable informal back channel to both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to partially sate its own yearning for direct bilateral talks with the United States that America can't endorse given other stakeholders in Northeast Asia committed to a six party process.
Interesting take. Not sure I buy it, but here's hoping.
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