President Bush's quick stop in Korea was adroitly orchestrated to promote a much-needed reconciliation between the prospering South, still defended by U.S. forces, and the economically backward Communist North, a pariah regime dangerously close to building its own nuclear weapons.
First, he agreed to cancel "Team Spirit" joint exercises between U.S. and South Korean troops, thus responding to one of Pyongyang's preconditions for its expected agreement later this week to international inspection of its nuclear facilities. Then, in a rousing talk to American troops, the president said if anyone doubts the U.S. commitment to South Korea's security, they should remember two words: "Saddam Hussein."
Mr. Bush did not have to elaborate. Koreans on both sides knew he was referring to U.S. air attacks during the gulf war on Iraq's extensive nuclear installations. Washington has let North Korea know that if it accepts reliable monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and demonstrates compliance with its agreement to make the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, the United States will assist its entry into the international community and arrange financial help. If it balks, the implication is that it risks an internationally sanctioned elimination of its nuclear sites by force. In other words, Saddam Hussein's fate.