After reading today’s Henry Kissinger op-ed in The Washington Post (he does seem to have those rather frequently, does he not?) on North Korea, I seemed to recall another one on the same subject from a couple months ago. Then, he seemed to be urging the Obama Administration to refrain from restarting the six-party talks just yet. A nuclear test and a couple more missile launches later, you’d expect him to sound the same skepticism, his much-ballyhooed talk of “no preconditions” notwithstanding. But, um…I count six here.

A long-term solution to the Korean nuclear problem cannot be achieved by America alone. Nor is it sustainable without the key players of Northeast Asia; that means China, South Korea, the United States and Japan, with an important role for Russia, as well. A wise diplomacy will move urgently to assemble the incentives and pressures to bring about the elimination of nuclear weapons and stockpiles from North Korea. It is not enough to demand unstated pressures from other affected countries, especially China. A concept for the political evolution of Northeast Asia is urgently needed.

I tried not to think that this was the same guy who attempted to engineer the “political evolution” of Southeast Asia 35 years ago. And while the op-ed is strangely wispy in its policy recommendations, full of broad hypotheticals and conditionals, the concluding note is certainly in the right tune:

There could scarcely be an issue more suited to cooperation among the Great Powers than nonproliferation, especially with regard to North Korea, a regime that is run by fanatics; located on the borders of China, Russia and South Korea; and within missile range of Japan. Still, the major countries have been unable to galvanize themselves into action. [emphasis mine]

“Action,” of course, is difficult, particularly with such a confounding regional situation, an enigmatic and intransigent regime, and two unjustly imprisoned American journalists, to boot. Kissinger doesn’t seem able to acknowledge that we can’t go back in time to prevent North Korea from reaching the nuclear stage it is at right now; nonproliferation, even the preferred multilateral kind that Kissinger rightly supports, must proceed from existing realities. Only then can we work on changing them.

(image from flickr user World Economic Forum under a Creative Commons license)

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