Bolton Talk On N. Korea Apparently Was Cleared

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton gave a provocative speech on July 31, 2003, on North Korea that has attracted significant attention during his confirmation battle to become U.N. ambassador.

Thomas Hubbard, a former ambassador to South Korea, said the speech displeased him. Then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage was "very mad" about the speech, a top aide to former secretary of state Colin L. Powell said. And the North Korean government denounced Bolton at the time for his remarks on leader Kim Jong Il.

Democrats have suggested that Bolton's staff did not get full clearance for the speech. But a State Department official provided copies yesterday of e-mails between the staff and other government agencies indicating that relevant officials had signed off on the speech a week before it was given.

The first e-mail, sent on the morning of July 23, went to the National Security Council, the Defense Department, the office of the vice president, and top officials in the State Department, including Armitage's office. It included a draft of the speech, then titled "The Kim Jong Il Dictatorship: A Legacy of Tyranny and Squandered Opportunities," and asked for comments by noon the next day. The title gave a hint of its unusual quality -- it personalized many of the complaints U.S. officials had made about the North Korean government, referring to Kim more than 40 times.

Over the next two days, a variety of relatively minor comments were received. The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs -- which oversees the ambassador in Seoul -- cleared the speech without a comment. Armitage's special assistant suggested toning down one line, though he acknowledged he may be quibbling.

"Good speech," he added.

-- Glenn Kessler

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