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Pivotal Power

August 4, 2009
Mr. Clinton goes to Pyongyang

Clinton made a surprise trip to North Korea.

Update: North Korea has reportedly pardoned the two U.S. journalists.

Those who have complained that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has too many envoys are going to have a field day with this. But the decision to send former President Bill Clinton to Pyongyang to try to negotiate the release of the two Americans held there, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, is a smart move.

First, sending a well-respected former U.S. president shows the kind of respect Pyongyang is likely to respond well to.

Second, having such a seasoned political observer on the ground will give the U.S. some intelligence about what is going on in Pyongyang these days, with rumors about Kim Jong Il on dialysis and the plan to hand the reins to his youngest son, Kim Jong Un.

To the extent that the Obama administration wants to send a signal that they want to find a way to reengage after the second nuclear test, President Clinton can be trusted to handle that carefully.

Fourth, Bill Clinton is an excellent hands-on negotiator, and he won’t give up.

Finally, the fact that the U.S. is sending such a high-level figure means that back channels have indicated the possibility of success. I’m willing to live with the smirks for a decision that might return two Americans to safety and could help break the impasse with North Korea.

– Nina Hachigian

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments

3 comments

#3

Will it happen? China gets tough with N Korea and become adversarys. N Korea cosy up to the US . US uses DPRK to contain China like India who was a nuclear cheat and now US ally.

#2

Bravo!
Welcome home Laura and Euna. Our prayers have been answered.

#1

“…back channels have indicated the possibility of success.”

But do these
horizontal
surface…
back
Channels…
include all
Necessary
Interlinear Concepts
(a sort of multi-layered
Oppositional Dialogue)
…half immersed
by Necessity…
in the vertical
depth-considerations
of the (psychological) Tunnels
long dug
horizontally
beneath (the surface considerations)…

through
deep Earth
in regions (of the Psyche)
hidden far below
such…
(polite
and
diplomatic)
surfaces?

New Dilemmas
easily
infiltrate
…unseen…
through
such
subterranean…

Tunnels.

Nina Hachigian is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the co-author of “The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise.” She has worked on the staff of the National Security Council in the White House and been a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. She specializes in U.S.-China relations and great power relationships, multilateral institutions and U.S. foreign policy.

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