Jeffrey LewisBush Tries to Take Kim up the Qadhafi

U.S. Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) has apparently confirmed that the United States is attempting to establish a backchannel with North Korea through Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi [I am going with the State Dept. spelling].

In July, US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice reportedly told told South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon that “I wish Kim Jong-Il would talk to Kadhafi.” Wink, wink.

A few weeks later, just in case Ban didn’t pass along the message, John Bolton gave a speech emphasizing that “Kim Jong Il could follow the advice of Dr. Condoleezza Rice. She was serious when she expressed several days ago her hope that Kim Jong Il would talk to Colonel Qadhafi.” A few days after that, Bolton responded to a reporter’s qestion about using a Qadhafi backchannel (“is the United States government willing to arrange a meeting between Kim Jong-Il and Colonel Qadhafi, or maybe a telephone conversation between them for that matter?”) by noting that “it would make for an interesting conversation.”

Hey baby, you need a date?

Now, Curt Weldon (R-PA) seems to suggest that these efforts are getting somewhere. Or rather, working toward getting somewhere, telling Global Security Newswire that “The United States is working to use third-party channels to resolve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula. ”

“Weldon declined to provide further details on such efforts or whether the channels have aided in resolving the dispute surrounding North Korea’s nuclear work. He did say, though, that during a one-on-one meeting with Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi earlier this year, he called on Qadhafi to aid U.S. efforts in ending North Korea’s suspected nuclear weapons program.”

“Working to use” is hella-vague. Weldon could just as easily be referring to the very public statements by Rice and Bolton.

Or, he might be attempting to exaggerate his own role in North Korean diplomacy. Weldon is a publicity hound. In October 2003, Weldon was planning to make a trip to North Korea before the White House blocked him. Weldon strongly implied to The Hill, however, that his trip to Libya was on behalf of the NSC. This was a couple of months before Rice and Bolton started flashing some leg at Kim Jong Il, so Curt doesn’t seem to have gotten the job done.

All that said, the constant references to backchannels—real or imagined—suggests the Bush folks are caught in their zipper. They refuse, as Peter Scoblic notes, to take the straightforward way out (negotiations) because it looks too Clintonian. So, they are desperate that North Korea will take the Libyan unilateral disarmament route, perhaps aided by some promises that Bush would be ever so greatful if Kim will help him look like the bigger man.

It’s tough when you have to ask that from someone who is 5’ 2”.