Even After North Korea Frees American Journalists, Bolton Insists Clinton Trip Was A Mistake

Reports emerged yesterday that President Clinton — along with Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta — was traveling to North Korea to negotiate the release of two imprisoned American journalists. In an interview with AFP today, super-hawk John Bolton attacked Clinton for “negotiating with terrorists” and “rewarding bad behavior“:

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. […]

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.

However it seems Clinton’s trip has paid off. Reuters reported this afternoon that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il granted “a special pardon” and, according to Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin, both would be traveling back to the U.S. with Clinton and his team. Bolton appeared on Fox just after Griffin’s report and despite Clinton’s successes, he still couldn’t bring himself to offer any praise and instead again attacked the move:

BOLTON: But I worry that the outcome is a lot better for North Korea than for the United States. I mean this is a classic case of rewarding bad behavior, the seizure of these two basically innocent Americans. Obviously all of us want to get them out but we want it done in a way that doesn’t increase the risks in the future for other Americans seized by North Korea, seized by Iran, seized by other despotic regimes and then turned into pawns to get senior officials like former presidents to come and legitimize the regime in order to get them out.

Watchi it:

On CNN this afternoon, nonproliferation expert and Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione explained why Clinton’s trip is not rewarding bad behavior:

CIRINCIONE: The Obama administration seems to have played North Korea just about right — largely ignoring them for the first eight months, not rewarding their bad behavior, not reacting to their provocative statements or actions and now after about two months of relatively quiet, moderate North Korean behavior and the involvement of China…you now send in a real power player to hopefully negotiate the release of the journalists…and help reset U.S.-North Korean relations, refreezing that nuclear program and if things work out we could see the beginning again of the dismantlement of that nuclear program.