(CNSNews.com) - North Korea's decision to conduct a nuclear test explosion stems from the "failure" of the Bush administration to develop a comprehensive diplomatic strategy toward the Korean peninsula, a Quaker (pacifist) group says.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation says it has worked for more than 60 years "to end the scourge of nuclear weapons," and on Monday, it condemned North Korea's apparent attempt to explode a nuclear device.
The group also criticized President Bush for choosing to "pursue a policy of confrontation with North Korea that began with President Bush's use of the phrase 'axis of evil' in his first address to Congress."
The Quaker group also faults the Bush administration for refusing to engage in "direct, bilateral negotiations" with North Korea - something that North Korea is demanding -- and for trying to impose new sanctions on the communist regime.
"Now the entire world has to deal with the consequences of this reckless policy," the Friends Committee said in a news release.
Talk, not action
The Friends Committee said the United States should not respond to North Korea's nuclear advances by making new threats. The group says North Korea does not pose an imminent nuclear threat to South Korea, Japan, the United States or any other country.
On Tuesday, however, North Korea threatened to lob a nuclear-tipped missile at the United States if the U.S. doesn't ease the pressure on the communist regime. Such talk may be bluster, but it's threatening nevertheless.
The Friend's Committee says diplomacy is the only answer to North Korean provocation: "The U.S. should work with the international community...to develop peaceful, diplomatic initiatives to overcome the consequences of the failure of coercive diplomacy. One key component of this new strategy should be direct, bilateral talks."
In other words, give North Korea what it wants -- an end to sanctions and face-to-face talks with the United States.
As former U.S. Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.) noted seven years ago, North Korea apparently learned the benefits of "brinksmanship" in its dealings with the Clinton administration, which sent millions of dollars in foreign aid flowing to Pyongyang.
"Our nation will send over $270 million in aid to North Korea this year alone," Gilman said in October 1999. "We have sent almost $750 million to North Korea since 1995. Despite this influx of aid, North Korea remains a significant threat to our nation's interests."
At the time, Gilman complained that the Clinton administration "has conditioned North Korea to believe that brinkmanship brings benefits. I am concerned that our policies towards North Korea have failed and our aid is sustaining a brutal regime," he said. (See earlier story)
On Monday, the Friends Committee says it's unclear how North Korea might react to a new diplomatic initiative -- but it's clear that "escalating confrontation" (i.e., sanctions) will prod the nation to keep pursuing nuclear weapons.
The Bush administration has pursed diplomacy with North Korea for four years, through "six-party talks" involving North Korea and the U.S. as well as Japan, China, Russia and South Korea. The U.S. says those nations have a large stake in the outcome of the talks.
But North Korea has refused to return to the negotiations for the past year.
On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton noted that "the president's critics used to say [Bush] didn't do enough multi-lateral diplomacy, yet we've been doing multi-lateral diplomacy with respect to North Korea and the six-party talks.
"I think what that shows is the critics are engaged, not in foreign policy analysis, but political analysis," Bolton said.
'What the world needs now...'
The Friends Committee on Monday also criticized the Bush administration for failing to support international non-proliferation initiatives. The group is urging Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and recommit the U.S. to stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
President Clinton signed the treaty in 1996, but the Senate voted against ratification three years later after critics argued that it could undermine America's ability to maintain its nuclear superiority.
"No country should be allowed to use North Korea's explosion of one nuclear device as an excuse to resume nuclear testing," the Friends Committee said.
"What the world needs now is a strong, decisive focus on the goal of nuclear non-proliferation," it added.
The Friends Committee on National Legislation describes itself as the oldest registered religious (Quaker) lobby in Washington.
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