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Clinton's Meaningless North Korea Rescue

Experts on Sunday talk shows say Clinton's mission is ultimately irrelevant for U.S. foreign policy.

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Sunday talk shows following up on Bill Clinton's North Korean rescue were desperate to wring out some great foreign policy implications, but a blitz of appearances from administration officials put a damper on it. As we covered on the day of the release, Bill Clinton's North Korea visit was initially received with jubilation for the freed hostages and concern about its long-term implications.

National Security Adviser James Jones, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice all put in some face time, and each firmly rejected the larger impact of the visit. They were unified in saying it was an isolated--albeit happy--mission to reunite American journalists with their families, and nothing more.

On "Meet the Press," General James Jones called Bill Clinton's private mission a "great reunion." But he did not think--as Henry Kissinger argued--that it was a propaganda coup for Kim Jong Il.

GREGORY: Any positive signs in the talk?
JONES: We'll have to see.
GREGORY: Did this President just hand Kim Jong Il a propaganda victory?"
JONES: I don't think so. Maybe in Kim Jong Il's mind and he'll play it out in North Korea any way he wants.

Jones affirmed that message on "Fox News Sunday," stating pointedly that the trip had no ulterior motive:

"There was no official message sent via the former president and there were no promises, other than to make sure that the two young girls were reunited with their families," he said.

Hillary Clinton talked to Fareed Zakaria on CNN's "GPS":

[The trip] was not anything Bill was interested in, seeking, or even contemplating...It is a private humanitarian mission. It is not in any way an official government mission....It absolutely not rewarding [the North Koreans].

Susan Rice, ambassador to the U.N., spoke on CNN's "State of the Union":

It in no way changes our policy or approach to North Korea.

Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, did the administration line one-better:

"Nothing changes in terms of North Korea," said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. "It's still the most opaque country in the world, it's got a dozen nuclear weapons, it's a threat to the region, Bill Clinton can't change that Barack Obama can't change that."

Haass argued that China was the only country that may have an impact on the isolated North Korean leadership.

"Until the Chinese can use their leverage over North Korea, we are going to be living with a North Korean threat," Haass said.

"So what Bill Clinton did, however nice it is and good it is the other day, it's not a criticism, but it doesn't change any of the fundamentals."
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