December 6, 2007

Dear Dear Leader?

How does one address a letter to the dictator-for-life of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-Il? Would it be a "Dear Jong" letter? Maybe if one comes from Texas, a fine "Howdy, partner" would suffice. Unfortunately, we may not ever know the answer -- because George Bush wrote the letter, but has not revealed its contents:

In a rare move, President Bush has sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the North's official news agency said Thursday without giving further details about the message.

U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill delivered the letter to North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun during his recent trip to Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korea has just about met its opening obligations in the agreement to end its nuclear-weapons program. Hill predicted that the Yongbyon shutdown would meet its scheduled target, which will allow the DPRK to start receiving the oil it desperately needs. While questions remain about Pyongyang's involvement in proliferation -- notably Syria, where it seems to have come to a screeching end -- the shutdown of the reactor complex marks a success for the diplomatic efforts over the last few years.

A personal communication at this point might help build confidence in the process for Kim. He has demanded normalization of relations between the US and the DPRK for denuclearization, but the US has played coy with that particular carrot. Bush can dangle it again by using personal connections to soften the "axis of evil" label he applied to North Korea. After all, even Ronald Reagan greeted Soviet leaders with warmth, and Nixon shook hands with Mao. A note on White House stationery seems reasonable at this point of the process.


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