Toward a New Foreign Policy

By Feffer, John | Foreign Policy in Focus, May 14, 1999 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Feffer, John, Foreign Policy in Focus


Even as it simultaneously wages war in Iraq and Yugoslavia, the Clinton administration could attempt to bring peace to the Korean peninsula. To do so, it must take the dramatic first step of normalizing relations with North Korea. This would form the centerpiece of a comprehensive package addressing North Korea's economic and security concerns.

On the U.S. end, normalizing relations would begin with a substantial amount of humanitarian aid to address North Korean famine and agricultural problems. Though no one knows how many have died from hunger so far, nutritional surveys have shown a frightening degree of malnutrition among children. International agencies monitoring food distribution have determined that little if any of the aid has been diverted from those in need.

The United States must also begin lifting economic sanctions to honor a promise implicit in the Agreed Framework. For years, Washington refused to consider removing sanctions in deference to Seoul. Kim Dae Jung, however, now favors the lifting of sanctions. Sanctions, alone, do not isolate North Korea, but other countries (as well as banks and. companies) would more readily consider loans to and investments in North Korea were sanctions removed.

North Korea, too, has a part to play in this comprehensive package. It must agree to controls on the exporting and testing of its missiles. In the same way that the Agreed Framework drew a line between the production of nuclear energy and the building of nuclear weapons, a package deal must restrict North Korea's missile tests while permitting further development of satellite technology. As for missile exports, North Korea has already demonstrated that it is willing to bargain for cash. Most recently, North Korea offered to stop exports in exchange for $1 billion annually from the United States for three years. This is an opening bid that can clearly be negotiated, especially as there is evidence of a recent decline in North Korean missile exports.

For North Korea to feel safe giving up its missile development program, the U.S. must work with the other countries in the region to reduce militaries and strengthen confidence-building measures--including consultations among defense officials, notification of military maneuvers in the Sea of Japan, and the exchange of information about defense expenditures. The U.S. is by far the dominant military presence in the region with 100,000 troops and billions of dollars of sophisticated weaponry. Therefore it must take the first steps toward demilitarization, including canceling plans for a missile defense system. …

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