The Mandarin and the Empress’s New Clothes

Last month AFP reported on remarks by Bush administration special envoy for human rights in North Korea Jay Lefkowitz at an American Enterprise Institute forum (the text of Lefkowitz’s remarks is accessible here). Lefkowitz candidly acknowledged the dead end the administration has reached with North Korea.
Secretary Rice reacted to Lefkowitz’s remarks as though he had asserted that the empress wears no clothes. Rice dressed Lefkowtiz down as a fool who was too benighted to observe the administration’s fine new policy threads. In a remarkable postscript, Claudia Rosett discovered that the State Department sent Lefkowitz’s speech down the memory hole. In the various reports on Rice’s comments on Lefkowitz, however, Rice has cited no fact that belies his observations.
A friend at the State Department has been following our remarks about the Lefkowitz-Rice tussle with interest. He points out the North Korean response to Lefkowitz’s comments, a response that harmonizes with Secretary Rice’s, but that belies Rice’s derogation of Lefkowitz. The nastiest part of Rice’s response was her utterly petty assertion: “I would doubt very seriously that they would recognize the name [Jay Lefkowitz].” North Korea’s response shows that they do indeed know who Lefkowitz is. He is entitled to wear the designation Reckless Mandarin as a badge of honor.
It should be a clue that one is on the right track when Kim Jong Il criticizes you. However, it’s a sorry spectacle when a nominally Republican Secretary of State’s sentiments are echoed by the mad North Korean tyrant. Here is the dispatch forwarded to us by our friend at State:

NORTH KOREA CRITICIZES US HUMAN RIGHTS ENVOY’S REMARKS ON NUCLEAR ISSUE
Text of report in English by North Korean news agency KCNA [Following appears to be DPRK media’s first mention of comments by President Bush’s Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea Jay Lefkowitz on 17 January urging the US administration to “revisit” its “objectives” on North Korea. KCNA headline: “KCNA Ridicules US Mandarin’s Reckless Remarks”]
Pyongyang, January 28 (KCNA) – Some days ago, Lefkowitz, special envoy for North Korean human rights issue of the US, was impudent enough to poke his nose into the nuclear issue, only to bring shame to himself.
What he uttered is nothing but rubbish which admits of no argument as it only provoked wry laughter.
But what merits attention here is that some American guys who do not know even where they stand, to say nothing of the way the world goes, are watching for a chance to scuttle the processes to settle the nuclear issue and improve the DPRK-US relations, displeased with them.
According to the International Herald Tribune, a few hard-line officials in charge of national security at the office of the vice- president and the State Department were reported to have asserted a more confrontational approach towards the DPRK.
It was in this context that Lefkowitz underlined the need to include the human rights issue in the agenda items of the six-party talks and complained that China and South Korea are not pressurizing [pressuring] North Korea at the American Enterprise Institute, a centre of conservatives.
This assertion was, in every respect, prompted by a dangerous attempt to sacrifice the process for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula directly related to the interests of the US and other countries concerned and the peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia for meeting their selfish purpose as it is a revelation of their extreme uneasiness created by their impending political bankruptcy.
As well known, the US conservative hardliners led by neo-conservatives are now seized with extreme uneasiness and anxiety, marginalized in the political arena for the catastrophic consequences entailed by their extreme and subjective way of thinking.
They have neither anything new nor future.
Lefkowitz, Bolton and others are keen to misuse the process for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula for achieving their political ambition under the slogan of hard-line and conservative policy which has already proven bankrupt inside the US Nothing is graver mistake and crime against history than this.
The hackneyed methods used by the US during the Cold War will never work on the DPRK although they may work on others. The six-party talks cannot be treated the same as the “Helsinki process” under any circumstances.
The agreements reached at the six-party talks on the principle of simultaneous action and progress made in this course are welcomed by all countries. Lefkowitz and others who seek to scuttle them cannot escape public censure and jeer.
The reality goes to prove that the negotiated settlement of the nuclear issue remains the general will of the international community and the trend of the times.
We would like to question them what they really seek by turning back the clock.
Such nonsensical remarks would never help stem the trend of the times.
Now that the denuclearization process has reached an important phase the US should refrain from irresponsible remarks that may deflect it from its focus and countries concerned should thoroughly abide by the principle of “action for action.” [Source: KCNA, Pyongyang, in English 0720 gmt 28 Jan 08]

Yesterday’s New York Sun provides an intersting footnote to our exploration of the administration’s North Korean diplomacy. On the eve of the New York Philharmonic’s departure on a tour that will include a stopoff in Pyongyang, music director Lorin Maazel suggested that Americans are not in a position to criticize the North Korean regime, because America’s own record on human rights is flawed. To borrow the formulation of the KCNA report on Jay Lefkowitz, such nonsensical remarks help further the trend of the times.

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