Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today sent the following letter to President Bush urging the U.S. to begin bilateral talks with North Korea immediately.  Smith will work with colleagues in the coming days to pressure the administration to pursue a multilateral diplomatic approach to the situation in the Korean peninsula.

March 17, 2003

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to express my deep concern over the failure of this Administration to effectively address the growing crisis involving North Korea.   This situation impacts the entire region – and indeed, the rest of the global community – and American leadership is needed to break the current diplomatic stalemate.

While I recognize that there are perhaps no good options with respect to managing this crisis, starting bilateral talks is the best policy at this time.  The current policy of doing nothing is leading us into an increasingly dangerous situation.

Since acknowledging the existence of their nuclear program last fall, North Korea has grown increasingly bellicose and unpredictable.  They apparently removed from the Yongbyon reactor spent nuclear fuel rods which, if reprocessed, could yield enough plutonium for as many as six nuclear weapons.  They have announced an intention to withdraw from the Nonproliferation Treaty, expelled International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, removed IAEA safeguards and disabled monitoring equipment at the Yongbyon facility.  Recently, North Korean fighters have engaged American surveillance aircraft in international airspace.  Further, North Korea’s failing economy, large conventional forces and growing proliferation of chemical and biological weapons pose a grave threat to international stability.

Based on recent official statements, it is clear that the Administration remains unwilling to marshal the appropriate diplomatic resources and engage in a direct dialogue with North Korea.  This is not a tenable strategy.  I strongly urge you to appoint a high level envoy charged with engaging in high level, direct dialogue with North Korea.  This person should also be responsible for working with South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and other nations that have influence over North Korea - or a stake in resolving North Korea's nuclear status diplomatically.  At the very least, the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor must aggressively develop a short term strategy for engaging North Korea.

Talks should begin immediately.   We should not simply stand aside while a dangerous and unpredictable dictator builds nuclear weapons.  The risk involved in allowing this to happen far outweighs the problems of agreeing to bilateral talks with North Korea. 

I request that you inform the Congress of your plans to resolve the crisis in North Korea as soon as possible.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.

                                                                        Adam Smith
                                                                        Member of Congress