Facing increasing criticism of their North Korea policy from the right and left, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow lashed out at the Clinton administration. Snow accused the Clinton administration of going to North Korea with “flowers and chocolates.” He said the Clinton strategy “failed” and President Bush had “learned from that mistake.” Watch it:
Let’s review the progress of North Korea’s nuclear program during the last three administrations:
1. George H. W. Bush: one to two bombs’ worth of plutonium
2. Bill Clinton: zero plutonium
3. George W. Bush: 4–6 nuclear weapons’ worth of plutonium
There are legitimate criticisms of every administration’s approach to North Korea’s nuclear program. But the Clinton administration’s strategy, objectively, has been the most successful.
QUESTION: When you hear from your allies on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who are in favor of the preemptive doctrine, and they are critical of the administration, they think that the administration is not doing enough in terms of North Korea and Iran, essentially continuing the Clinton administration policy in North Korea, for instance, what’s your response? What do you tell them?
SNOW: This is not the Clinton administration policy.
I understand what the Clinton administration wanted to do. They wanted to talk reason to the government of Pyongyang, and they engaged in bilateral conversations. And Bill Richardson went with flowers and chocolates, and he went with light water nuclear reactors, and he went with promises of heavy oil and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan, and many other inducements for the dear leader to try to agree not to develop nuclear weapons, and it failed.
But there was at least a good faith effort on the part of some very smart people to use that as an approach.
SNOW: We’ve learned from that mistake. One reason not to go bilateral with the North Koreans is what we’re seeing right now, which is that you need to have concerted pressure, especially from those who have very close and ongoing ties with the government of North Korea, so that you can get results.So this is not a continuation of the Clinton program.