(Asst. Secretary of State for East Asia Christopher Hill)
Tuesday night, The Washington Note confirmed that the Bush administration will "ask Congress" to de-list North Korea from America's "terrorist watch list." This request will be made on Thursday -- if there are no last minute, unexpected interventions.
Rumors have been kicking around that this might be happening, but no administration officials would confirm until yesterday that this was finally decided.
During the day Tuesday, I spoke with officials from the State Department, the CIA, the Department of Defense, President Bush's staff, and the Office of the vice president -- and several sources from these departments confirmed that the administration was moving forward on formally asking Congress to remove North Korea from the controversial watch list -- which is seen as a key confidence building step by North Korea and China in moving towards North Korea's eventual return to the nuclear non-proliferation club.
Sources also tell TWN that while the Bush administration will take this step Thursday, Vice President Cheney's office was a dissenting voice in the administration's internal discussions.
While North Korea's behavior continues to be erratic and often troubling, the Bush administration's decision will be considered a major victory for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and others -- but the real winner is Department of State Asst. Secretary for East Asia Affairs Christopher Hill -- who has been under almost constant assault from John Bolton and others opposed to deal-making with North Korea.
More on the implications later.
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note