The White House belittled former President Clinton's policy of direct engagement with North Korea on Monday, saying efforts to shower North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "with flowers and chocolates" failed.
White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that Bill Richardson, who served as United Nations ambassador and Energy Secretary under Clinton, "went with flowers and chocolates, and he went with light-water nuclear reactors ... and a basketball signed by Michael Jordan and many other inducements for the 'dear leader' to try to agree not to develop nuclear weapons, and it failed."
Snow added, "We've learned from that mistake."
Jay Carson, a spokesman for the former president, responded, "This is a serious issue for global security, and it's unfortunate that the Bush administration's TV spinmaster is manufacturing excuses for North Korea's transgressions instead of looking at the last six years of inaction and the abandonment of diplomacy."
Members of President Bush's Republican administration, which succeeded Clinton's, have repeatedly rejected the suggestion that formal discussions might be undertaken with Pyongyang outside of six-nation talks meant to rid the North of its nuclear weapons program. Bush officials insist on speaking with the North at a negotiating forum that includes the Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia. Those talks have been stalled since November.
Snow did say the Clinton tactic of trying to "talk reason to the government of Pyongyang" was "at least a good faith effort on the part of some very smart people."