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Bill Clinton rewarding N. Korea for bad behavior: Bolton

August 4, 2009

johnboltonWASHINGTON — The Obama administration is rewarding North Korea for its bad behavior by sending ex-president Bill Clinton to Pyongyang to win the release of two US journalists, the former US ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.

John Bolton, an outspoken hardliner in the previous administration of George W. Bush, told AFP that Clinton’s mission to Pyongyang undermines a number of public stands held by his own wife, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists,” Bolton told AFP when asked about Bill Clinton’s trip to secure the release of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

The pair were sentenced in June to 12 years in a labor camp for an illegal border crossing and an unspecified “grave crime,” after they were detained by North Korean border guards on March 17 while working on a story.

“I think this is a very bad signal because it does exactly what we always try and avoid doing with terrorists, or with rogue states in general, and that’s encouraging their bad behavior,” Bolton said.

In a US television interview here on July 26, Secretary Clinton warned North Korea that even its traditional allies had turned against it and that the communist state’s rogue behavior will no longer “be rewarded.”

Bolton also scoffed the White House’s contention that Bill Clinton’s visit is “solely a private mission” when he said “this is a former president who is married to the secretary of state. There’s nothing private about this.”

The visit also undermines Secretary Clinton’s public remarks in which she separates the case of the two journalist from efforts to force North Korea to return to six-party nuclear disarmament talks, he said.

“Hillary has said she wanted to delink the two but (Bill) Clinton was met at the airport by Kim Kye-Gwan who is the lead and has been for 15 years or more the lead North Korean nuclear negotiator,” he added.

He added it “is hard to imagine” that Clinton did not talk about the nuclear issue when he had dinner with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, given the nuclear negotiations that Clinton pursued when he was president in the 1990s.

“If you wanted to divorce the kidnapping, abduction issue of the two reporters from the nuclear issue, you couldn’t have picked a less likely envoy than president Clinton,” Bolton said.

“I think this is a win-win for North Korea,” according to Bolton, who believes all negotiations are useless in trying to force North Korea to abandon its weapons-grade nuclear program.

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