Bill Clinton’s North Korea reward

Clinton brought home U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, but at what cost?

Bill Clinton took a big risk flying to North Korea to win the release of journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, and “we are thrilled” with his reward: Lee and Ling’s pardon and release, at apparently no cost to the U.S. “beyond a visit from a former president who is now a private citizen.” Clinton’s visit may have provided some “propaganda” to shore up Kim Jong Il’s dynasty, but it was clearly “of value to the United States.”

The only thing Clinton’s visit accomplished was rewarding North Korea for “hostage taking,” said John Bolton in The Washington Post, thus creating “potentially greater risks for other Americans in the future.” Iran just arrested three U.S. hikers—“will Clinton be packing his bags again for another act of obeisance?” The rescue was well-intentioned, but “negotiating with terrorists” is never worth the cost.

John Bolton and his fellow “former Bush bullies have no credibility” on North Korea, said Maureen Dowd in The New York Times, with their “0-6” track record—“zero meetings with Kim and enough plutonium for six nuclear bombs.” In fact, our strategic interests will be well served if Bill Clinton can “bring back valuable information about Kim’s mental and physical health.”

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That may not be of too much use, since Kim Jong Il is reportedly dying, said Gordon Chang in The Wall Street Journal. “Everyone can be happy” that Clinton brought home Laura Ling and Euna Lee, but let’s hope he didn’t use his meeting with Kim to negotiate over Pyongyang’s nukes. North Korea has lots of other foreign “hostages,” and it’s a dangerous game to let them be used as nuclear “bargaining chips.”

All the focus is on Bill Clinton, said Cullen Thomas in The Daily Beast, but what did he do, really? The success of his mission was virtually preordained by Ling’s admission, in a phone call to her sister, that she “broke the law,” and Hillary Clinton’s talk of the journalists’ “remorse” and desire for “amnesty.” In Korean culture, those signs of remorse gave Kim Jong Il the “face” to let them go.

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