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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An explosive insight into failed diplomacy and diplomatic belligerence
Journalist Mike Chinoy provides a detailed, readable, and highly informative account of the long running nuclear dispute with North Korea, starting with the 1992-94 crisis that was averted by Jimmy Carter's visit, the progress and understanding of the Clinton years that led to the Agreed Framework, and the near establishment of Diplomatic relations, the confrontation,...
Published on April 1, 2010 by A. J. Smith

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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Honest examination or Useful stooge?
While I agree with Mr, Chinoy's assesment of the futility of the Bush Administration's "Talk tough, carry a wet noodle" approach, I have to say that I think he fundamentally misses the mark in his approach to his analysis of DPRK negotiating tactics.

The overall impression one gets of the DPRK after reading this book is that of small-threatened country...
Published on March 9, 2011 by Graham DeShazo


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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An explosive insight into failed diplomacy and diplomatic belligerence, April 1, 2010
Journalist Mike Chinoy provides a detailed, readable, and highly informative account of the long running nuclear dispute with North Korea, starting with the 1992-94 crisis that was averted by Jimmy Carter's visit, the progress and understanding of the Clinton years that led to the Agreed Framework, and the near establishment of Diplomatic relations, the confrontation, rhetoric, and ultimately proliferation of the Bush years, and ultimately the mess the Obama Administration has inherited.
While the North's motivations cannot be accurately ascertained, it would appear that the ultimate driving force is the need for security. The DPRK began its nuclear program in the wake of the Western victory of the Cold War and the end of Soviet Support, a climate wherein many in the West viewed the collapse of the regime as inevitable. The understanding of security was almost sealed under Clinton, in the visit of Marshall Jo Myong Rok to the White House in October 2000, leading to the agreed declaration of no hostile intent, and Madeleine Albright's subsequent visit to Pyongyang. What followed was an Administration unwilling to disavow the use of force against the DPRK, and steadfast in its refusal to recognize the sovereignty of the country.
It becomes clear from reading that while former president George Bush had almost no opinion on North Korea before taking office, members of the administration such as Donald Rumsfeld, who led a commission calling for the abandonment of the Agreed Framework in the late 90s, and John Bolton, another long term critic of the Clinton era diplomacy, had hawkish designs on the DPRK long before September 11th.
The hawks in the Bush administration had designs on both the Agreed Framework, and the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. North Korea was used as a posterchild for Missile Defense, and therefore had become a target of confrontation for Administration Hardliners.
We learn that the Agreed Framework was effectively frozen during Bush's initial month's in office, and gradually unraveled shortly after the "Axis of Evil" designation in the 2002 State of the Union, and effectively terminated following a dubious intelligence report that the North had a Uranium Enrichment program.
Most alarming is the rigid, confrontational approach of the Bush administration, refusing DPRK requests of direct talks, participating in the six party talks by only itterating of the DPRKs capitulation, and the sidelining and disenfranchisement of all the advocates of diplomacy, all the veterans of the Clinton talks, and anyone with a moderate line.
Veteran Korea hands such as Jack Pritchard were effectively muzzled by Administration hardliners and effectively disenfranchised from the process. Hardliners hoping to torpedo the process did so through the appointment of people such as John Bolton, and later Jay Lefkowitz to key positions in the negotiation framework. Indeed, Bolton is recurrent throughout the book, presented as one of the most truly determined individuals in his opposition to negotiations with the North, ranging from his workings at state, his 2003 denunciation of Kim Jong Il whilst in the South Korean capital, to his push for a tough line at the UN. NSC member and Bolton's successor at State, Bob Joseph is equally zealous, although his role in the process is not as significant as Bolton.
While his achievements may be in jeopardy, one cannot help but develop a sense of admiration for Christopher Hill. He is shown to be a man who was effectively fighting a two front war, dealing with the bellicosity and rigidity of the North Koreans on one front, and constantly fighting against the hardliners in the Bush administration who constantly sought to unravel the entire process. Hill took courageous steps, bypassing most of the diplomatic process, reporting only to his bosses Rice and Bush, and doing whatever he could to limit the machinations of hardliners, invariably found at the NSC, the Pentagon, the office of the Vice President, and to a lesser extent at State.
The ultimate sticking point is the Banco Delta Asia holdings of DPRK funds, which became a target of State Department hardliner David Asher who sought to extend the confrontation with the North to its perceived illicit activities. The assets which were subsequently frozen played a key part in unraveling the September 19th 2005 declaration, and created an impasse which led to the North's first Nuclear test in October 2006.
The current situation with North Korea is a state of limbo. The North has now tested a second nuclear device, restarted missile tests, and has threatened to weaponize its remaining plutonium. North and South tensions between the Koreas are also tense.
Chinoy also explores the complex dynamics of North Korean politics, which although unequivocally autocratic, nonetheless has certain constituencies that need to be appeased. The most important, and also the most troublesome, is the military. The military may view rapproachement with the United States as an existential threat, as it would erode the viability of the costly Songun "Military First" policy. Kim Jong Il requires the military's support for the anointment of his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, as heir apparent, and the 2009 nuclear test may have had more to do with the appeasement of this faction than anything else. However, no one, not even a veteran Korea hand like Chinoy, can be certain of the workings of the Hermit Kingdom.
Meltdown is not only an absolute must read for those interested in North Korea, it is valuable reading for anyone with an interest or stake in the workings of diplomacy. The very process of diplomacy is laid out from top to bottom, and as a Post Graduate who did his Masters on Diplomacy, one can confirm that this book contains the academic relevance of anything that could be found as course material on a post graduate degree.
Meltdown is an intricate, intriguing, informative, and utterly explosive examination of the workings of international relations. Essential reading for Korea enthusiasts, diplomacy enthusiasts, or anyone with a passing interest in world politics.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is the background story, January 9, 2014
If you've ever wanted to know how the Bush administration managed to miss the biggest foreign policy threat of our times (North Korea going nuclear) by incompetent infighting and preoccupation with an unnecessary crisis (invading the wrong country), Mike Chinoy lays it out in great detail for you. Profoundly researched and well presented material, very readable prose. Given the severity of the subject matter I wouldn't call this book "a joy to read", but Mike does grab and keep your attention.
Very well painted pictures of the main characters, most of whom are still in very responsible positions today. Highly recommend.
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11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Book on North Korea Policy To Date, August 10, 2008
By 
JWN (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
In this excellent book, former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy argues that the American failure to prevent North Korea from getting a nuclear bomb was the result of a combination of vicious, petty, and paralyzing bureaucratic warfare in Washington, an American unwillingness to negotiate, and North Korean brinkmanship.

Chinoy makes his case through a well-written, surprisingly exciting, and scrupulously fair account of the personalities, events, and decisions that made (and broke) Bush administration's often-confusing North Korea policies. The high quality of this reporting is clearly a reflection of the thoroughness and fairness of Chinoy's research: he seems to have interviewed just about everyone who is anyone in North Korea policy-making, from John Bolton to Colin Powell, and he gives all the sides their due.

Chinoy - who has been to North Korea something like 14 times, and reported on the North Korea issue for CNN for years - also offers some insights into why Pyongyang has often made seemingly irrational and dangerous decisions over the last eight or ten years. It's worth noting here that this is not the same thing as excusing or apologizing for North Korea's considerable duplicity and cruelty. Rather, Chinoy's examination of North Korean motives is a valuable and interesting contribution to our limited understanding of one of the most opaque countries in the world. To dismiss this as simply making excuses for North Korea's bad behavior is a gross and unfair oversimplification of a much more complex and sophisticated argument.

Bottom line: Meltdown is, without a doubt, the definitive account of the North Korean nuclear crisis. It is a brilliantly reported, exceptionally even-handed, and insightful book - and a must-read for anyone who wants to genuinely understand one of the most pressing and vital US foreign policy challenges today.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Honest examination or Useful stooge?, March 9, 2011
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While I agree with Mr, Chinoy's assesment of the futility of the Bush Administration's "Talk tough, carry a wet noodle" approach, I have to say that I think he fundamentally misses the mark in his approach to his analysis of DPRK negotiating tactics.

The overall impression one gets of the DPRK after reading this book is that of small-threatened country desperatly seeking compromise with a overwhelmingly large foe. If you take Mr. Chinoy's assessment at face-value, the North would have gladly made a deal by now if it were not for the dastardly neo-cons seeking their destruction. Subsequent events (as well as a more careful analysis of their previous behavior) proves this line of reasoning laughably incorrect.

I would like to have seen a more carefully balanced analysis by such a well-known "expert" in this area.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Incompetence!, January 2, 2009
"Meltdown" tells how the U.S.' refusal to engage in serious diplomacy spurred North Korea to stage its nuclear breakout testing missiles and a nuclear bomb, followed by de-escalation after six years of needless brinkmanship led by the Bush administration. En route, President Bush also managed to personally insult the heads of North and South (also a Nobel Peace Prize winner) Korea, as well as his own chief negotiator and Secretary of State, undercut the logic of U.S. actions vs. Iraq (by largely ignoring N.K.), again rely on dubious intelligence for major decision-making, and display a general lack of common sense (eg. risking progress on nuclear issues to pursue a questionable impoundment of $25 million of N.K. funds.

This same cowboy diplomacy pattern ("we don't negotiate - capitulate, then we'll talk" was was followed vs. Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Iran - where it also failed, with disastrous results.

In between, the reader is left wondering why Secretary of State Powell tolerated the treatment he and his department received (several of his underlings involved with N.K. resigned), amazed at the V.P. Cheney and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's close involvement in the N.K. issue - instead of avoiding Iraq War II and managing it better, perplexed by Secretary Rice's ineptness, and disappointed by the disjointed and childish decision-making (eg. screaming matches; "We won't talk to them because they're bad") at high levels of government.

North Korea doesn't come out blameless in Chinoy's account either, though at least there is rationale for its actions.

Bottom Line: "Meltdown" provides a credible and detailed accounting of how we almost incited Korean War II, possibly even WWIII. Administration actions in this instance parallel those taken vs. Russia, Iraq, and Palestine.
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25 of 51 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Apologism for North Korea, August 9, 2008
By 
maskirovka (Herndon, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I bought a copy of this book because I study North Korea and there are lamentably few current books about the "Hermit Kingdom." But I felt dismayed just a few pages into it. Chinoy does not just bend over backwards to give the North Koreans every possible benefit of a doubt. No, he takes the art of logical contortions to new and symphonic heights to excuse and rationalize Pyongyang's behavior. Everything that North Korea does seems to have been provoked by the United States and whatever the sin may be it is somehow excusable. Here are some examples:

1. The North Korean HEU program (which Pyongyang ramped up in the late 1990s before Bush became president) was apparently the North Koreans' "reasonable" response to the "failures" by the United States to give North Korea it what it owed it under the Agreed Framework. Never mind the fact that the North Koreans kept that effort to develop an HEU program secret which sort of undermines the notion that they did it as a sort of protest against perceived unfair treatment by the US.

Also, Chinoy seems to think that the fact that the US has not named a specific site in North Korea as the location of the HEU program as somehow mitigating the fact that the North Koreans have one. Earth to Planet Chinoy! North Korea is full of huge underground facilities that could hide such a facility. Without access to the country, is Chinoy really surprised that the US can't seem to find the facility?

2. Another dreary old chestnut is that the Bush Administration "provoked" North Korea with the "axis of evil" statement and some of the other things that Bush has said about Kim Jong-Il. Granted, calling the man a "pygmy" is not helpful. But people need to read what the North Koreans call the United States. It make the occasional US outbursts pale in comparison.

3. The third thing that is the rankest sort of apologetics for Pyongyang is Chinoy's excuse for the North Koreans' sale of a nuclear reactor to Syria. Somehow, Chinoy believes that this was in response to the fact that tensions between the US and North Korea were high in 2003...Never mind the fact that the intelligence briefing that he cites (which people can listen to for themselves on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence's website) states that the deal over the reactor stretched back to the mid to late 1990s.

Equally incredible is the fact that Chinoy takes comfort in the fact that the intelligence briefing on the reactor didn't explain where the Syrians would get the uranium to fuel the reactor. Once again, Earth to Planet Chinoy! They would get it from the North Koreans!

It's just unbelievable that someone who is supposed to be an expert on North Korea retails something like this book as the true facts about North Korea. Chinoy wouldn't know what the true facts about North Korea if they walked up to him and punched him in the face.
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2 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars truth about north korea, and lies by america, February 21, 2010
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my video complements what meltdown tried to do -- dispel the lies america spread about North Korea.

meltdown is one of the rare books that gets the truth out on the warmongering diplomacy america is conducting around the world. in light of how obama has "changed" his "change" promise back to the bush/cheney policy, meltdown also foretell the meltdown of democracy, or deMobCrazy as a system by the mob, for the mob and of the mob.
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Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis
Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis by Mike Chinoy (Paperback - October 27, 2009)
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