Obama and Nuclear Deterrence
January 05, 2010

The Los Angeles Times ran an important story yesterday about the Obama administration's Nuclear Posture Review, which evaluates U.S. policy towards the use of nuclear weapons. Apparently there's a debate inside the administration--one that is splitting the civilians from the generals--not just about the size of our nuclear stockpile but also how we conceive of possible first-strike and retaliatory policies.

Uncovering Syria's Secret Nuclear Site
November 06, 2009

In case you haven't gotten your issue of Der Spiegel this month, the German mag has some very cool details on the intelligence work that led to the discovery--and eventual destruction by Israeli airstrike--of a suspected Syrian nuclear reactor being built with North Korean help: In the spring of 2004, the American National Security Agency (NSA) detected a suspiciously high number of telephone calls between Syria and North Korea, with a noticeably busy line of communication between the North Korean capital Pyongyang and a place in the northern Syrian desert called Al Kibar.

North Korea's Creepy New Uranium Disclosure
September 04, 2009

If you want to make sense of the latest confusing news out of North Korea--in this case, Pyongyang's claim to have mastered the difficult process of uranium enrichment, giving them a complement to their plutonium program as a means to developing nuclear weapons--then you should read the story I wrote recently about this prospect and how it could complicate the Obama team's dealings with the Hermit Kingdom. Whether or not the Norks have a uranium problem has been a long-running--and politically-charged--debate within the intelligence community.

North Korea Follies
August 24, 2009

WSJ: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il sent a conciliatory message to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday, in the latest action by North Korea that appears to reverse months of antagonistic behavior, and once again left diplomats puzzling over Pyongyang's motives. Is it really so puzzling? It makes (cynical) sense to me: When Obama takes office, you cause a bunch of crises to make sure he's paying attention to you and the media is asking what you're going to do about those scary maniacs. And then after a while you throw open your door and give the U.S.

Can We Really Deal With North Korea?
August 06, 2009

A New York Times editorial suggests so: Even before Mr. Clinton’s mission this week to rescue Laura Ling and Euna Lee from a 12-year sentence to North Korea’s gulag, Obama administration officials concluded that Pyongyang was looking for a face-saving way to re-engage with Washington.  But not everyone would agree. Yesterday I was a guest on NPR's "On Point" with Mitchell Reiss, a Bush and Clinton administration diplomatand and former negotiator with the North Koreans. Reiss argued that the U.S.

"a Hostage Ransom"
August 05, 2009

That's how Charles Krauthammer derisively refers to Bill Clinton's trip to Pyongyang, which Krauthammer speculates must have involved some kind of secret payoff, perhaps in the form of fuel or food supplies, to Kim Jong Il. Maybe so; at minimum, clearly we would have preferred not to give Kim what was undeniably a propaganda coup.

Bill Clinton Frees Nk Prisoners
August 04, 2009

A statement from Pyongyang via Reuters: "Kim Jong-il issued an order of the chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission on granting a special pardon to the two American journalists who had been sentenced to hard labor in accordance with Article 103 of the Socialist Constitution and releasing them," KCNA said in a statement which carried a Pyongyang dateline. And so the former president, long dormant, returns to the public eye in a sudden and dramatic way. --Michael Crowley

Viva Pyongyang
August 04, 2009

Here's the video of Bill Clinton's arrival in North Korea. Although he's there, according to the White House, on "a solely private" mission to work for the release of the two imprisoned American journalists, you should tell that to the North Koreans, who had their chief nuclear negotiator greet Clinton at the airport. I'm sure the North Koreans would have pressed the nuclear issue with any visiting American representative, but the fact that the rep is Clinton--former president and husband of the current Secretary of State--does make this a bigger gamble for the Obama administration.

Tnrtv: Is China Finally Sticking It To North Korea?
August 02, 2009

Ambassador Wendy Sherman, Vice Chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group and the former North Korea policy coordinator under President Clinton, defends the strategy Beijing has recently adopted towards Pyongyang. --Ben Eisler Check out the latest on TNRtv: Eisler: When Lawmaking Gets Bloody Scheiber: Why The Press Corp Is Wrong On Health Reform Johnson: Why Another Six Billion's Going To The Automobile Industry

The SE&Ds of Change
July 27, 2009

China has arrived ... again. Beijing is growing confident enough in its own power and position in the world that it is increasingly and actively influencing world events. It can choose--and has chosen, in many cases--to play a helpful role in tackling shared threats. But China has also been standing its ground on disagreements with the United States.