From Publishers Weekly
The Bush administration's bellicose but feckless attempts to quash North Korea's nuclear weapons program were the nadir of its famously maladroit diplomacy, to judge by this revealing blow-by-blow. Ex-CNN Pyongyang correspondent Chinoy details the rancorous infighting during which hardliners like John Bolton and Dick Cheney talked down State Department doves to impose an intransigent North Korea policy, replacing negotiations with Axis-of-Evil rhetoric and unilateral demands. Their approach backfired disastrously, he argues, as Pyongyang restarted and escalated its dormant nuclear initiative and finally tested an atom bomb while the U.S. fulminated helplessly—a needless outcome, he suggests, given the North Koreans' oft-expressed readiness to abandon their nuclear program in exchange for aid and normalized relations. Chinoy presents a lucid exposition of the issues along with a colorful account of diplomatic wrangling in which U.S. officials rivaled their North Korean counterparts in dogmatism and prickly sensitivity to niceties. (One joint statement was almost derailed when the Americans insisted on changing the phrase peaceful coexistence to exist peacefully together.) His is a fine, insightful diplomatic history of a dire confrontation—and a hard-hitting critique of the Bush administration's foreign policy. Photos. (Aug. 7)
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North Korea exploded an atomic bomb in October 2006, representing the failure of American diplomacy to thwart the country’s nuclear ambition. Chronicled here by former CNN reporter Chinoy, that diplomacy came in two flavors: negotiations favored by the Clinton administration, and a more confrontational approach preferred by the successor Bush administration. That neither succeeded probably says more about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a despotic Stalinist relic, than it does about the merits of carrots versus sticks, but that debate dominates Chinoy’s narrative. Clearly critical of sticks, Chinoy plainly gained greater access to advocates of negotiation than to its skeptics, and none to relevant North Korean officials. But the latter appear at one remove in the impressions of Americans who bargained with them, rendering a picture of North Korea’s truculent belligerence on the nuclear issue. Depicting, too, the politics within the D.C. foreign policy bureaucracy, Chinoy extensively quotes major players’ viewpoints, pegging their strategies and tactics to milestones on the path to the present impasse. A lively journalistic review of the past decade in U.S.–North Korean relations. --Gilbert Taylor