Given the lack of progress on the Six-Party Talks, the wisdom of continuing with them has been questioned. Throughout the 2004 Presidential election, Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry (D-MA) called for bilateral US-North Korea talks to be held in addition to the Six-Party Talks. President Bush, however, said that the Six-Party talks were the only way forward, insisting that "it's not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il. He wants to unravel the six-party talks, or the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear message." More broadly, the Bush administration is reported to have been engaged in an internal argument over "whether to negotiate with the country or to try to plot its collapse." (Sanger, David E. "Few Good Choices in North Korean Standoff." The New York Times 6 July 2006: A1).
The debate over what US policy toward North Korea should be was called into greater urgency when, on July 4, 2006, North Korea fired multiple short- or medium-range ballistic missiles that were said to have landed short of Japan and one long-range missile, the Taepodong-2, that failed and collapsed into the ocean less than a minute after launch. For weeks before the launch, US satellite intelligence showed the Taepodong-2 missile on its launch pad. Fuel trucks were seen approaching the missile, which prompted Administration officials and policymakers to weigh the responses. Some felt that the fueling of the missile was simply a cry for attention, since "whenever [he] concluded that he was not getting attention…[he] has staged a crisis" (Sanger, David E. "Few Good Choices in North Korean Standoff." The New York Times 6 July 2006: A10). On the other hand, William Perry and Ashton Carter, former Defense Secretary and Assistant Defense Secretary under President Clinton respectively, wrote a widely-cited and often-criticized opinion column in the June 22, 2006 Washington Post in which they called for a tactical strike to destroy the Taepodong-2 missile while it sat on its launch pad. North Korea used its state-run media to vow to respond to any such preemptive attack "with a relentless annihilating strike and a nuclear war with a mighty nuclear deterrent."
In the end, the US adopted a much more multilateral response. Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and the head of the US delegation to the Six-Party Talks, traveled to East Asia to meet with his Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and South Korean counterparts. Though North Korea had invited Hill for direct talks, the US refused, sticking to the Bush policy that "it is much more effective to have more than one nation dealing with North Korea." (Cooper, Helene and Warren Hoge. "US Seeks Strong Measures To Warn the North Koreans." New York Times 6 July 2003: A10). Mr. Hill did, however, say that he can have a bilateral meeting with the North Koreans on the sidelines of further informal Six-Party Talks.
Additionally, the day after the missile launches, the UN Security Council denounced the firings and began consultations on a draft resolution. Reluctance on the parts of China and Russia to sign onto any sort of resolution delayed and ultimately watered-down the action that was taken. In fact, it was not until July 15, ten days later, that the Security Council unanimously issued Resolution 1695. Resolution 1695 imposes limited sanctions on North Korea and demands that its ballistic missile program be abandoned. The sanctions include a ban on the sale and purchase of material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction to or from North Korea. According to the record of that Security Council meeting (S/PV.5490), Ambassador Pak Gil Yon, the North Korean representative, rejected the resolution as "unjustifiable and gangster-like." He claimed that the moratorium on missile testing was only valid as long as bilateral US-North Korean dialogues were under way; since these broke down once President Bush took office, the moratorium was no longer binding. Before leaving the chamber, in breach of traditional protocol since the meeting continued, he closed his remarks by saying that his country "will have no option but to take stronger physical actions in other forms should any other country dare to take issue with the exercises and put pressure on it."
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