First Libya, now this. Bush supposedly has said he won’t consider a peace treaty unless NK resumes six-party talks on its nuke program, but…

For several years after he first took office, Mr. Bush vowed not to end North Korea’s economic and diplomatic isolation until it entirely dismantled its nuclear program. That stance later softened, and the administration said some benefits to North Korea could begin to flow as significant dismantlement took place. Now, if the president allows talks about a peace treaty to take place on a parallel track with six-nation talks on disarmament, it will signal another major change of tactics.

It’ll signal more than that. An anonymous source tells the Times, “There is a sense that [the U.S.] can’t leave Korea out there as a model for what the Iranians hope to become — a nuclear state that can say no to outside pressure.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s a little late to worry about that now. To be sure, suing for peace with a rogue regime that has some nuclear leverage will send a message to Tehran, but it won’t be the one this guy has in mind. Besides, haven’t the NorKs already proved that it’s possible to say no to international pressure? They’ve been using the pretense of negotiations to cheat and retreat for nearly a decade, and they’ve never enjoyed superpower support like Iran does right now with China and Russia. The only way this makes sense as a “model” for Iran is if you believe the mullahs care less about nukes than about re-establishing diplomatic relations with America. Do you believe that? I don’t. Especially when the same NYT article features quotes like this:

[S]aid one official who has participated in the recent internal debate, “I think it is fair to say that many in the administration have come to the conclusion that dealing head-on with the nuclear problem is simply too difficult.”

That’s a stern lesson for Iran, all right.

A more reasonable explanation for the peace talks is that Bush would want to neutralize NK as best he can before possibly having to move against Iran. A treaty would ensure that the NorKs won’t do something crazy on the Korean peninsula if/when we’re preoccupied with Tehran. It would also give Bush some political capital with which to confront the mullahs. If he can resolve the standoff with North Korea diplomatically, it leaves him less open to the charge of warmongering when the cold war with Tehran turns hot. In fact, it so happens that Debka has a new item tonight alleging that, “[f]or the first time, the Bush administration has embarked on serious preparations for military action against Iran.” I don’t put much stock in it, but surely there are some contingency plans afoot; why not get North Korea off the table in the meantime, just in case?

As for whether a treaty will actually solve anything, what do you think?

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Tags: China