Peter Wehner

In the wake of North Korea's claim that it conducted its first-ever nuclear weapons test, leading Democrats presented their solution: bilateral negotiations with the Kim Jong Il regime. According to Senator Joseph Biden, “We should deal directly with, not negotiate, just lay down, have a straight out, flat out talk with North Korea to find out -- let them know exactly what our bottom line is and find out whether there's any possibility of them ceasing and desisting from their going forward. But the failure to talk at all seems to me to make absolutely no sense.”

Minority Leader Harry Reid put it this way: “[T]he White House must rally the international community and must directly speak with the North Koreans so they understand we will not continue to stand on the sidelines.”

Former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson said this: "I would engage directly in face-to-face talks. When you have face-to-face talks, that's when you deliver your toughest message."

And Senator John Kerry said this: "Even when told this test was coming, the administration sat on the sidelines and hoped others would do the job. Surely George Bush could have sent a top-level negotiating team with a mandate to stop this test from going forward. We need to get off the sidelines."

The claim that the Bush Administration is "on the sidelines" is a risible one. The United States has been participating in the six-party talks, which is a multilateral effort -- consisting of the United States, Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and North Korea -- to negotiate the end of North Korea’s nuclear program.

(It's worth noting, in passing, that some critics of the President can't seem to stick to the same script. Sometimes the Bush Administration is criticized for being too "unilateralist;" in this instance, it is criticized for being too multilateralist. One might be forgiven for believing that some of the criticism leveled at the Bush Administration is both incoherent and highly partisan.)

Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner, former deputy director to the President, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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