The North Korean nuclear crisis is causing a political showdown in the United States between Sen. John McCain and his potential rival in the race for the White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill Clinton.
McCain is pinning the blame for North Korea's recent claims of nuclear testing on former President Clinton. He is also attacking the New York senator for her stance on North Korea.
On Tuesday, McCain accused former President Clinton of failing to act in the 1990s to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.
"I was responding to attacks made on the Bush record," McCain said to Diane Sawyer today on "Good Morning America."
"I'd be glad to have a time-out here. I'd be eager to, at least during this very difficult period, while we try to marshal the world trying to reign in North Korea's nuclear ambitions."
Still, McCain maintained that the Clinton administration had enabled North Korea to apparently develop nuclear weapons.
"Having said that, during the Clinton administration years, here we concluded an unenforceable and untransparent agreement, which allowed [North Korea] to keep plutonium rods in a reactor … in order to make them nuclear material," McCain said. "[His negotiations] would put them on the path to develop nuclear weapons. … And we did nothing but more talk."
At a news conference Tuesday, McCain called Clinton's dealings with North Korea a failure.
"I would remind Sen. [Hillary] Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure," McCain said after a campaign appearance for Republican Senate candidate Mike Bouchard.
"The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They've diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military," he said.
Hillary: No Time for Politics
Hillary Rodham Clinton's spokesman dismissed McCain's criticism.
"Now is not the time to play politics of the most dangerous kind with our policy on North Korea," said her spokesman, Philippe Reines, in a statement.
"History is clear that nothing the Bush administration has done has stopped the North Koreans from openly testing a nuclear weapon and presenting a new danger to the region of the world."
McCain told "Good Morning America" that the United States should take North Korea's threats seriously.
"It gets more and more dangerous as time goes by because they have these short-range missile capabilities," he said.
McCain called the alleged tests North Korea's "chance to be on the world stage and blackmail the West and literally every country in the world into propping up … a failed state."
"And it's exacerbated by the problem that this 'dear leader' is not totally rational," he said.
It is possible that North Korea could attempt to use nuclear missiles, McCain said.
"There is no doubt they're attempting to develop those missiles. Whether they will and when is questionable, but they're certainly making the effort," he said. "They have been able to develop closer-range missiles; some of which they have exported to other countries."
Talks Not Always Effective
Despite the Clinton administration's discussions with North Korea, McCain said that talking didn't always lead to progress.
"We were talking to Adolph Hitler right up until the moment he annexed Czechoslovakia," McCain said. "I think that, unless there is some positive response on the part of the people you're talking to, it is not a very useful exercise."
Still, McCain said that diplomacy should be the first choice.
"Of course, as we treat any aggressor is to first try to go through the United Nations and end these disputes by peaceful means, but we should not underestimate" the threat, he said.