North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attempted to engage President Bush directly on the nuclear weapons issue three years ago but the administration spurned the overture, two American experts on Asia said on Wednesday.
Writing in the Washington Post, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea Donald Gregg and former journalist Don Oberdorfer expressed concern that Kim's November 2002 initiative was never pursued and urged Bush to respond positively to his current overture, made last week.
When Bush took office in 2001, U.S. officials estimated Pyongyang had fuel for one or two nuclear weapons. Now, that estimate is up to at least half a dozen and, the authors said, "many believe their claim to have fabricated the weapons themselves."
Oh, and then it got even better...or is it worse, it is so hard to remember what these terms mean after four and a half years of this "up is down" bullshit.
Gregg and Oberdorfer said while in Pyongyang in 2002 "we were given a written personal message from Kim to Bush."
Kim stated if the United States recognized the North's sovereignty and provided non-aggression assurances "it is our view that we should be able to find a way to resolve the nuclear issue in compliance with the demands of a new century."
Also in the message, Kim further promised "if the United States makes a bold decision, we will respond accordingly," the authors wrote in an opinion piece.
They said they took the message to senior White House and State Department officials and urged them to follow up on Kim's initiative.
But the administration, then planning for the Iraq invasion, "spurned engagement with North Korea," said Gregg and Oberdorfer.
Within weeks, Kim expelled U.N. inspectors, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and reopened plutonium production facilities frozen since 1994.