A hostage release, a huge propaganda coup, and, very likely, the end of the six-party negotiations:
We don’t begrudge the congratulations Bill Clinton deserves for saving the two journalists from what might have been a nightmare 12 years of hard labor; that was the sentence a kangaroo North Korean court imposed for allegedly blundering across its border with China in March. But the important question going forward is whether Mr. Clinton’s visit was merely the down payment Kim extracted from the Obama Administration for a potentially larger set of American concessions.
That question is hard to avoid given that Mr. Clinton was met at the Pyongyang airport by Kim Kye-gwan, North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator. North Korea may have had its own propaganda reasons for putting its diplomat in the photo-op, and the White House insisted that Mr. Clinton’s mission was strictly humanitarian and that he was not carrying any messages from President Obama. We hope that’s true.
Yet Mr. Clinton’s visit is a message unto itself. It will bolster Kim’s bid to dissolve the six-party negotiations in favor of the direct talks with the U.S. he has long sought. It will also dismay some in South Korea and Japan, which have their own hostages in North Korea and will wonder why Mr. Clinton couldn’t obtain their release as well.
If it turns out that if a new nuclear negotiation really was begun during Mr. Clinton’s visit, it will also send the signal to North Korea that the worse its behavior, the more it stands to gain from the U.S. And it will mean that Kim’s price will be even higher to spring the next American hostages.
For years the North Koreans have wanted one-on-one negotiations with the US. They have them now.
Darleen congratulates Mr. Clinton, and waits for the other shoe to drop.