North Korea and the Risk of Rattling Sabers


North Korea is acting up again at a time when the United States is seriously bogged down in Iraq and finding new resistance from the Taliban in Afghanistan. To make matters worse, the political scene for the Bush administration has hit a new low, according to the latest polls.

Whether the North Koreans have a nuclear weapon or not is in doubt. And they do not have a delivery system, so it is hardly time to rattle sabers.

Predictably, the dour John Bolton comes to the microphones at the United Nations and calls for tough sanctions. As a man who truly seems to hate the U.N., he is hardly a good spokesman on this problem. Yes, it could be a dangerous development, but let's not go off half cocked and force a climate of warlike moves.

North Korea is full of bluster and pride. So why are we refusing to call it at its game and engage in some semblance of talks?

Former U.N. Ambassador and now New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and former State Department higher-up Wendy Sherman know the North Koreans. Before the administration refuses to listen to them as Democrats, they should be heard on how they size up the situation.

Nothing will be gained if we continue to stand on the sidelines and holler: "'Axis of evil' country."

The president has talked tough about North Korea, and the world community is with him in its concern about a rogue nation and a foolish leader. Incidentally, there are plenty of foolish leaders on the international stage these days.

One argument for talks is that we have a large contingent of U.S. troops in South Korea. Their interests would be better served by offering to at least hear what North Korea has to say. We can then decide whether to go ahead with those sanctions or not. No one wants to just ignore this.

Our allies in the region, including China, are distressed about this latest test. They should be.

But in the interest of diplomacy over bombs, let's leave some room for a meeting. After all, we talked to Russia and the former Soviet Union when President Reagan was denouncing them and their leaders.

We should not be in a hurry to take action we'll regret.