The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


McCain Breaks with Bush Over North Korea

By Glenn Kessler
Sen. John McCain broke today with President Bush's new policy on North Korea, co-authoring an opinion article with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in which he called for a return to Bush's original demand of a complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament of North Korea's nuclear programs.

With the prodding of secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Bush -- who once labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" -- has greatly softened his position on North Korea in the past year in an effort to convince Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. But the shifts have greatly angered conservatives in the Republican Party. McCain's new stance, which is outlined in an opinion article in Tuesday's editions of the Asian Wall Street Journal, calls for a return to sanctions and other levers to prod North Korea.

The administration has argued that the diplomatic engagement -- led by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher R. Hill -- has convinced North Korea to begin dismantling its facilities and turn over 18,000 documents on its reactor at Yongbyon. But conservatives say those achievements have come only after large concessions by Bush, including returning millions of dollars tainted by illicit activities, and that a tougher approach is still needed.

The Bush administration has also relented in its demand for a full accounting of North Korea's assistance to a reactor in Syria and its suspected experimentation of uranium enrichment, keeping the focus on seeking the return of weapons-grade plutonium.

"We must use the leverage available from the U.N. Security Council resolution passed after Pyongyang's 2006 nuclear test to ensure the full and complete declaration, disablement and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in a verifiable manner, which we agreed to with the other members of the six-party talks." McCain and Lieberman write. The Bush administration essentially abandoned enforcement of the U.N. Resolution when early in 2007 it decided to negotiate an end to the impasse.

The article also suggests that the Bush administration has abandoned the traditional alliance with Japan in pursuit of a deal. "We must never squander the trust of our allies and the respect for our highest office by promising that the president will embark on an open-ended, unconditional personal negotiation with a dictator responsible for running an international criminal enterprise, a cover nuclear weapons program and a massive system of gulags," the two senators said.

The language concerning North Korea in the article -- which overall sketches out a vision for engagement with Asia -- is remarkably similar to President Bush's first-term rhetoric, which the White House has largely dropped in recent months.

Posted at 7:00 PM ET on May 26, 2008
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Stop it there, or one day here. You each must be true to what you believe.


Posted by: Marcus | May 29, 2008 8:45 PM

Now I have heard it all. Bush is too soft to suit McCain. Has he become completely brain washed by the Neocons?
What does McCain propose, bomb North Korea back to the Stone Age? President Bush is to be congratulated for using a sensible approach towards North Korea, an approach that seems to be working. Can success be guaranteed? Of course not, but the new approach is better than the bluster of yesteryear. And McCain wants to reverse course! That alone disqualifies him.

Posted by: RHSchumann | May 27, 2008 4:32 PM

you who cannot communicate should save us from your rapier wit. sign off. you just need more mad dog koolaid. it will all become clear when your fearless? (that's a question mark) leader becomes part of the old soldiers' home. he can lead you to the koolaid dispenser and you can ask the master for the answers to that pressing QUESTION you posed so long ago. what was that COMPARISON you tried to phrase as a question? where does the right wing find you nuts?

Posted by: blue111 | May 27, 2008 3:26 PM

Those were indeed "questions" -- note the ("?") question mark -- again, if you'd rather not answer, that's fine with me. I will gladly answer your questions, however, just as soon as you show the same courtesy.

Posted by: JakeD | May 27, 2008 1:48 PM

that is not a question. mad dog is not lbj or hst. he is just an old man who was a marginal pilot in a ill conceived war. now he is attempting to justify his miserable life by keeping us in an even more ill conceived war. why are you so ready to jump on board with this multi timed loser? how about a new idea occasionally from you wack jobs? this war was lost years ago. wake up and smell the napalm.

Posted by: blue111 | May 27, 2008 1:37 PM

blue 111:

If you'd rather not answer my questions, that's fine by me.

Posted by: JakeD | May 27, 2008 1:09 PM

jake d : " memory lane is nice but too many trips down there will kill you." paraphrased from lee marvin.

Posted by: blue 111 | May 27, 2008 1:07 PM

blue 111:

LBJ and Harry S Truman had terrible tempers too -- how much more "fear-mongering" could you get than dropping TWO A-BOMBS on civilians -- were they not great Presidents nonetheless?

Posted by: JakeD | May 27, 2008 12:56 PM

mad dog true to his nickname has again shown why he and little traitor joe should not lead a cubscout pack. keep up the fear mongering you whack jobs. it is all you've got.

Posted by: blue 111 | May 27, 2008 12:51 PM

alewis97- Capitulation is a very long Four Letter word! :-(

I do not condone it for Tyrants, Dictators, Ivasarios, or towards the World Labor Party or their Stooge-"Barry".

Then, I have to agree that we should stop "Placating" extortion from N. Korea.

WHY? Why are we helping to settle unrest in that Country? The Sooner the N.Koreans Tear Down Kim Jung Il's regime, the Better!

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 27, 2008 12:24 PM

This is nothing more than strategic polical positioning to woo conseratives. McCain has failed to substantively differentiate himself from George Bush and Bush's failed approach to foreign policy. However, I would not be surprised if this tactic generates political support. Unfortunately, if McCain is elected, and abandons diplomacy, we will diminish in stature, regess as a nation and further strain our political ties with the Middle East.

Posted by: K D | May 27, 2008 12:09 PM

I, as a McCain supporter, disagree with him here. I don't understand why some politicians think that sitting around like third graders and refusing to acknowledge someone is a vital to the situation. Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have one thing absolutely right here. If Bush meets with Kim and nothing is accomplished, then nothing is accomplished. However, there are many opportunities for improvement of internation relations and Bush knows that a great deal of Kim's power comes from the U.S.'s disregard for North Korea. Kim uses this to convince N Koreans that we are "warmongers," which is pretty easy to back up when after 20 years of diplomatic relations and improving our relationship with North Korea, Bush stands up and deems them a rogue state. It's finally time for him to rectify that grave diplomatic mistake.

Posted by: Chris--Charlotte,NC | May 27, 2008 11:29 AM


We know that John SIDNEY McCain will, at the very least, be tough on the Communists.

Posted by: JakeD | May 27, 2008 10:59 AM

I am glad that we have a presidential candidate who will abandon Bush's faulty policy toward North Korea engineered by Kim Jong Hill (Christopher Hill. Kim Jong Il had been toppled years ago without the help of two leftist governments of Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo Hyun. The naive Hill and Condoleeza Rice do not know the North Korean Communists. I think McCain knows the Communists.

Posted by: chuck hahn | May 27, 2008 10:57 AM

The UN Security Council deemed N.Korea a threat that should be dealt with with a strong hand. Pres. Bush's new gentler diplomatic policies have not disarmed N. Korea, nor brought them any closer to disarmament. If you think they aren't plotting our distruction while shaking our hands you are sorely mistaken and we will pay for it with the lives of many Americans.

Posted by: Sue | May 27, 2008 10:53 AM


Imagine how far the man has come from being brutally raped repeatedly in that POW camp for 5 1/2 years -- where he even tried to commit suicide and refused the offer to leave early once it was discovered who his father was -- perhaps you could at least take that into consideration?

Posted by: JakeD | May 27, 2008 10:45 AM

Expect a lot of this during the general campaign. McCAin has to stand ground on Iraq for fear of tossing out his principles, but he can run away from Bush on most everything else. Question is, will it be enough?

Posted by: matt | May 27, 2008 10:31 AM

After I heard that McCain had forced sexual relations with another man while being held as a prisoner of war - I can not for the man.

Once a man is violated like that he is no longer a man.

Posted by: jim dorchester | May 27, 2008 10:30 AM

The Bush administration North Korea policy from 2002-2007 was a total disaster. We stopped negotiating with them, we called them an "axis of evil", and we basically did nothing while they produced more nukes. Bill Clinton had negotiated a stop to nuclear production in 1994, and Bush totally dropped the ball.

Now, Bush has changed course and pursued diplomacy again. And McCain wants to go back to the failed hard line policy that got us into this mess? Good lord, electing McCain would be like having first term Bush all over again. What a nightmare.

Posted by: Existenz | May 27, 2008 10:27 AM

George Bush was quoted as being 'humbled' by the sacrifice of our military.

Then played 36 holes in their memories.

MORE WAR 2008! Yeah!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 27, 2008 10:25 AM

Interesting the US was able to verify weapons of mass destruction in Iraq where in fact there were none but is unable to verify weapons of mass destruction in a country which clearly has the capability to produce them.

So the alternative to engagement is what? Walk away from the region altogether? attack North Korea (presumably after 2012) with either conventional or nuclear weapons?

Under Bush the US has been significantly weakened in its ability to respond to any other potential conflict because of it has used so much of its treasure and manpower to engage in an unnecessary war in Iraq. The Bush legacy will have long term consequences for the US in it's ability to project and protect its strategic economic, political and military interests in Asia. The Bush presidency's policies has assisted in the rise of China as the regional military power in Asia.

North Korea understands that the United States is negotiating from a position of weakness and that many of its so called allies in the region also understand this.

Posted by: George Ennis (Canada) | May 27, 2008 10:19 AM

He's bitter because he was raped by 'gooks' in prison camp.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 27, 2008 10:18 AM

What a dinosaur.

Posted by: sferris | May 27, 2008 10:06 AM

McCain needs to solidify his position as Chief War Hawk, and name Dick Cheney as his VP.

Posted by: steve boyington | May 27, 2008 9:34 AM

Are the neocons going to hold McCain hostage? I cannot believe that America will endure another Bush term, which is exactly where we are headed. My God, America. Wake up!!!!!!

Posted by: CG | May 27, 2008 9:12 AM

So, McCain is trying to sell himself as a bigger hawk than Bush. He needs to take this even further with a good slogan.

McCain '08: More Bush than Bush

Posted by: Justin | May 27, 2008 8:56 AM

John McCain's break with Bush's North Korea policy proves that he does not have any sound judgment--over war and Asia.

If Republicans try to use the North Korea card for the election (again), such political "pandering" will not work. It is "politically correct" that John McCain should distance himself from Bush, yet Bush was correct engaging with North Korea regarding their nuclear programs.

McCain's political aids should study more about North Korea, especially the long history of Cold War. Study more about why Bush had to change his approach to North Korea. It was not any "soft" sorts of thing at all: It was the only option that the United States had to win over war-on-terror first (Bush senior did the great job in stabilizing Asia, including North Korea; please study the past history of 1992--why he did it).

Nothing worked with North Korea--and nothing will--except engagement. Why? During the Bush's first term, his administration tried every single measure possible, yet nothing worked. Bush's decision to engage with North Korea, after learning from his Asia policy fiasco in 2006, was thus politically effective: The United States has no options here--we must end the war in Iraq first.

Posted by: peace4world | May 27, 2008 8:17 AM

lieBERMAN is lying again! be careful. Remember Iraq!

Posted by: john | May 27, 2008 8:16 AM

lieBERMAN is lying again! be careful. Remember Iraq!

Posted by: john | May 27, 2008 8:16 AM

We should stop throwing taxpayer dollars at North Korea to satisfy their extortion demands. This only prolongs a corrupt government. No deal is the best deal.

Posted by: Bigfoot | May 27, 2008 7:44 AM

Yeah, Saint: spoken like a true chicken- hawk, emphasis on the chicken. The politics of fear employed by McBush are not going to work this time around. He, and you, and the other cowards can rant and rave about how dangerous N. Korea is, but this time the more level-headed among the voters will prevail. Obama has shown the degree of calm intelligence and character, particularly in contrast to Shillary, which has been sorely lacking in the White House for the past 7+ years. Yes, we live in an unsafe and dangerous world, but the way to deal with that world is through engagement and diplomacy. Not by fear and intimidation, the Bush method of choice now embraced by McCain.

Posted by: alewis96 | May 27, 2008 6:39 AM

A ha! I see some North Koreans and their sympathizer posting here. McCain's call for a return to Bush's original demand alone is not sufficient. North Korea should be left to rot; which will certainly be their fate if left alone. Why bother with North Korea. There is absolutely no benefits in their existence. Just ask the Russians.

Posted by: George | May 27, 2008 4:41 AM


Posted by: JANICE | May 27, 2008 1:30 AM


Castro Casts His Vote For Obama
Ruthie Ackerman, 05.26.08, 5:15 PM ET (Forbes Magazine).

If former Cuban President Fidel Castro could cast his vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential election his candidate of choice would be Sen. Barack Obama.

On Monday the 81-year old Castro published a column in the state-run Granma making it clear that although he disagrees with Obama's decision to maintain Washington's trade embargo against Cuba, he believes Obama is "doubtless, from the social and human points of view, the most progressive candidate to the U.S. presidency." (See " Farewell, Fidel")

Posted by: Sabrina | May 27, 2008 1:00 AM

McCain doesn't know which way to take his campaign. McCain is going to the right of Bush in an effort to attract more conservatives, because of rejection of two conservative pastors.

Obama in 08!

Posted by: AJ | May 26, 2008 9:06 PM

McCain is a fool that does not realize good CIC's make the devils compromise to win. FDR helped Stalin to beat the hun. Reagan sold arms to Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia for increased oil production burying the Russian economy. The Taliban was formed to beat the Russians in Afghanistan (bad move). N. Koreas dirty money is worth nuclear non-proliferation. Egypt while somewhat radical has not attacked Israel because of Camp David. Kennedy pulled Pershing missiles from Turkey to get the missiles out of Cuba. Nixon opened trade with China and sold them sophisticated radars forcing Russia to add a million men to that front. Dubya supported Musharraf militarily for army intervention in the FATA region (bad move with tribal accord in place). Most of the time, it has a good outcome, although Dubya's cozy relationship with the Saudi's leaves doubts about his leadership in the war on terror and their proliferation of strict Wahabi style madressahs across the globe.

Posted by: Jimbo | May 26, 2008 8:35 PM

Now if he will back off of Iran and the Bomb Bomb bullcrap. How can someone be taken seriously when they can joke so casually about something so very serious?

If you haven't yet read this, please do. Bush Administration officials have been charged with war crimes.

No more war criminals in our government!

Posted by: MsJoanne | May 26, 2008 8:33 PM

McCain must sit spinning in a chair and throwing darts at a dartboard so he can choose a position he will take during the day.

Ask McCain what he stands for and watch him sputter.

Posted by: Michael | May 26, 2008 8:11 PM

What the Senators possibly do not realize is the seriousness of the situation.

OR, maybe they DO! N. Korea has an ability to cause catastrophic repercussions across the entire Pacific Basin. Being sheltered behind the Island Arc system that is Japan, affords them the benefit of protection from the Damage that they could create. Yes, they could suffer some, but Japan would suffer the worst.

I am talking about the Benioff Zone located below the Korean Peninsula. There is every bit the possibility the Hawaiian Earthquake that occurred shortly after the Korean Test, was Caused by said Test.

The Mad-man Kim Jung Il, is sitting on a Mountain of Dynamite!

Personally, I feel they need to quickly remove the threat, or be Removed themselves! In any case, another Underground Test on their Part, should be considered an Act of War-Nuclear War!

Much like a Demolition of a Dam, to destroy the Huge Structure is accomplished by a Smaller destruction that spreads. The Seismic Force exerted on the Sub-ducted Lithosphere, can cause a "Premature" break, that is considerably worse than the Earthquake producing "Normal" Breaks.

Normal Breaks in that part of the World, are bad enough!

A Nuclear attack on N.Korea, will not be nearly as bad, as what N.Korea could do with another Underground Test! :-(

Posted by: SAINT---The | May 26, 2008 7:56 PM

Mccain will begin to spin like a top as he changes directions over and over. By November he will look ridiculous.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 26, 2008 7:22 PM

Mr. McCain's position fails to take into consideration the ingrained Asian cultural requirement of saving face and without such an understanding of foreign affairs, Mr. McCain cannot be considered a Presidential candidate who can negotiate successfully on global world issues. The black and white thinking, rigid insistance on fear, coercion, and tough-minded insistance harks back to the Cold War which literally brought the world to the brink of extinction. The old ways are yesterday's diplomacy. The new world requires new thinking to address new challenges.

Posted by: Tab L. Uno, LCSW, from Utah | May 26, 2008 7:20 PM

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