America's Failed North Korea Nuclear Policy: A New Approach
Moore, Gregory J., Asian Perspective
America's North Korea nuclear policy has been a failure. Instead of achieving its goal of preventing North Korea from possessing and proliferating nuclear weapons, it has had the opposite effect. This failure was a result of the George W. Bush administration's blanket rejection of the previous administration's approach to North Korea, the tendency to ignore the advice of experts, neoconservative influence on foreign policy, and divisions within the administration resulting in an inconsistent approach. This article suggests a bold new approach in which the United States offers North Korea full diplomatic recognition and a formal end to the Korean War as first steps toward the goals established in the 2007 Six Party Talks on North Korea, i.e., that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons and nuclear-weapons programs, and cease its proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Taking these moves as a starting point rather than a reward for compliance will deepen North Korea's commitment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation by removing its gravest external security threat-the United States.
Key words: U.S. foreign policy in East Asia, North Korea, nuclear weapons, multilateral security - East Asia
The Failure of U.S. Policy
There can be no denying that America's North Korea nuclear policy since 2000 has been a failure. U.S. policy goals regarding North Korea's nuclear programs have focused primarily on deterring North Korea from developing nuclear weapons, and preventing North Korea from proliferating technology, knowhow, or materials related to its nuclear program to other states. Yet since 2000, North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), ejected international inspectors from its plutonium processing facilities and removed monitoring devices, and declared itself a nuclear-weapons club member by testing with marginal success a rudimentary nuclear device. It has shown itself not only willing to proliferate nuclear technology and materials, as well as the missile hardware and technology to potentially deliver them, but to have already done so to Iran, Pakistan, and Syria.1 In short, the administrations of both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have failed to deter North Korea from developing and testing nuclear weapons, and have failed to keep North Korea from proliferating nuclear weapons technology and materials to states of concern to the United States.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Christopher Hill's recent attempts via bilateral meetings within the Six Party Talks (6PT) to draw North Korea into a bilateral agreement with the United States have been admirable. Moreover, U.S. flexibility, shown in the 2007 agreement that has been reached with North Korea, and the October 2008 removal of North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, are goodfaith efforts on Washington's part, and are certainly moves in the right direction. Unfortunately, they are still too little, too late.
As has been the case with U.S. policy toward Cuba, the United States has preferred to isolate North Korea rather than pursue the path followed with China in the 1970s, i.e., recognizing and engaging constructively with it. Despite its imperfections today, China and Chinese foreign-policy behavior have changed remarkably since the change in U.S. policy toward it. This is not true of Cuba, however, nor is it true of North Korea, which begs the question, why doesn't the United States try something truly novel in its dealings with North Korea? In this sense, today's U.S. policy makers have much to learn from Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who exhibited fortitude and creativity in forging a radically new policy toward China in the early 1970s during the height of the Vietnam War and the cold war.
This article will first provide a brief overview of U.S. policy toward the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) regarding the recent nuclear standoff and the 6PT. Second, it will broach a discussion of the problems within the Bush administration that led to policy failure. Finally, the study will conclude with a discussion of a new approach for U.S. North Korea policy. The new approach embraces two ideas: the need for a permanent multilateral security mechanism in Northeast Asia, and the need for a preventive U.S. action vis-à-vis North Korea. Such action should not involve military force but rather normalization of relations with the DPRK. North Korea should perceive normalization, moreover, not as a reward for finally accepting American demands, but as the starting point of a new bilateral relationship and a means to the end of North Korean denuclearization.
U.S. North Korea Nuclear Policy and the Six Party Talks
The Lead-up to Agreement in 2007
The first North Korean nuclear crisis erupted in 1993 when North Korea stopped cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Pyongyang had only recently signed the NPT, which the IAEA enforces. North Korea's action prompted the IAEA to refer North Korea to the UN Security Council. After more than a year of ups and downs and grave tensions, the United States and North Korea worked out a compromise in October 1994 called the Agreed Framework. It was agreed that the DPRK would disable its nuclear reactors and that the South Koreans (primarily) would provide a number of light water reactors for North Korea's energy needs-both steps making nuclear proliferation more difficult. The United States would also provide fuel oil to help meet North Korea's energy needs until the new light water reactors were operational.
The 1994 Agreed Framework nearly collapsed in the later years of the Clinton administration and its fate was sealed with the election of George W. Bush in 2000. Rather than accept Clinton's policy on North Korea, the Bush administration did a complete policy review in 2001 to determine its own options regarding North Korea. When South Korean President Kim Dae Jung visited Washington in March 2001, President Bush disappointed and embarrassed him, stating that he had serious doubts about North Korea's leader and the workability of any deals with his regime. Bush thus effectively dismissed Kim's "sunshine policy" toward the North. The Bush administration had decided North Korea was not a reliable partner and froze talks with it, putting President Kim in an awkward position, for his policy was ultimately unworkable without Washington's support.
With September 11 and the onset of the U.S. "war on terror," U.S. attention focused away from the Korean peninsula and U.S.- DPRK relations deteriorated once again. Consequently, Kim Jong Il turned to his nuclear-weapons program to serve the threefold purpose of getting the Americans' attention, giving him a bargaining chip with the Americans, and potentially providing him with a powerful deterrent and security enhancer regarding any potential U.S. aggression. This last purpose became even more important to him in the face of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, when Kim reportedly went into hiding for a period of time, fearing an attack with the same bunker-busting munitions the United States was using to ferret out Saddam Hussein.
The tension between Pyongyang and Washington came to a head even before the Iraq war, when in the fall of 2002 a North Korean diplomat supposedly told U.S. diplomat James Kelly in Beijing that North Korea was pursuing a uranium enrichment program.2 This was the first time that Pyongyang had openly confirmed what many American observers had concluded for some time. While Chinese observers were at the time skeptical of Pyongyang's claim (they became believers only after North Korea's 2006 nuclear test), the Chinese were worried enough about the deterioration of U.S.-DPRK ties that they came forward with an initiative to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue. This initiative became known as the 6PT, which China hosted, and which included China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Japan, and Russia. While under the Bush administration the United States had generally taken a rather unilateral approach to foreign-policy matters, it insisted on a multilateral approach regarding North Korea. The reason for this was that U.S. policy makers did not trust North Korea and had concluded that the only way to make Pyongyang accountable was in a multilateral context.
The 6PT have been a limited success. The Chinese hosted round one of the talks in Beijing in August 2003. While this round did not achieve much in terms of resolving the crisis, the important precedent of bringing the six parties together in one place was valuable in and of itself. A second round was held in Beijing in February 2004, a third in June 2004, and after little progress a fourth was held in stages in July, August, and September 2005. During this fourth round an apparent breakthrough was achieved in that North Korea promised to end its nuclear weapons programs in exchange for a U.S. pledge of nonaggression, U.S. and South Korean assistance in meeting the North's energy needs in lieu of its nuclear reactors, U.S. and Japanese pledges to move toward normalization of relations with the DPRK, and formal U.S. and South Korean declarations that they had no nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula (the United States had removed U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from South Korean soil in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush).
The talks stalled that fall, however, because North Korea added a new stipulation stating that unless it was first given a light water reactor it would not begin disabling its nuclear facilities, and because of North Korean unhappiness with U.S. actions (and Chinese cooperation) against the Banco Delta Asia, a bank in Macau, China that held North Korean funds. The United States argued that the funds were acquired by illegal North Korean activities, including money-laundering and counterfeiting. The 6PT were at an impasse throughout 2006, during which time the North conducted a series of live-fire missile tests and the test of a nuclear device, bringing tensions between North Korea and the United States to a new high.
If negotiations had ended at this point in the saga, the 6PT would have to have been judged a failure. Yet the talks continued in 2007 and in the final phase of the fifth round of 6PT an agreement was reached. The details were worked out in a series of sixth-round meetings later in 2007, giving North Korea a million tons of fuel oil and the return of its Banco Delta Asia funds in exchange for the closure of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and a commitment to the eventual full disclosure of all its nuclear activities. The North not only closed and disassembled the Yongbyon facility, but destroyed its cooling tower in late June 2008. In October 2008, after a series of fits and starts, the United States took North Korea off its list of supporters of state-sponsored terrorism, removing an important obstacle to improved relations from the DPRK perspective. From this negotiating history it is clear that only when the United States meets North Korea face to face have the talks made progress.
The Failure of U.S. Policy
Despite the appearance of some measure of success in the outcome of this process thus far, there are several reasons U.S. policy toward North Korea since 2000 must be judged a failure. First, of course, is that the United States did not prevent North Korea from acquiring and testing a nuclear weapon, despite its deterrent strategies, its diplomatic efforts, its ultimatums, and U.S.-sponsored UN Security Council resolutions against it. In October 2006 North Korea joined the small club of nuclear nations with a low-yield underground nuclear test that was confirmed by Western, Chinese and other sources.
Second, the United States has not prevented North Korea from transferring its nuclear technology to Iran, Pakistan, and Syria in recent years. In some cases it did so even as it was participating in multilateral talks to disarm, and despite its vows neither to develop nor transfer nuclear-weapons technology.3
All of this has been well-documented, though it is not, perhaps, widely known. For example, according to American and Israeli sources, in September 2007 Israeli intelligence tracked a North Korean ship laden with nuclear material to a port in Syria, and then followed the cargo as it was delivered to a site in northeastern Syria. Israeli commandos snuck into Syria and took soil samples which they say proved the cargo was nuclear. Israel then bombed the site a few days later, destroying the building there and the cargo in question.4 The site had already been under close surveillance by American and Israeli observers, and being built there was a facility that had the "structural DNA" of North Korea's Yongbyon facility. Moreover, North Korean workers had been spotted at the site. According to the reporting of Seymour Hersh, a senior Syrian military officer confirmed the military nature of the site, and this officer as well as a Syrian government official confirmed the presence of North Korean construction workers at the site.5 Since the destruction of the site, Syrian officials have bulldozed it, erected a new structure on it, and refused to allow international inspectors to visit, all of which intelligence analysts say Syria would do to erase the site's nuclear footprint if in fact the site had been nuclear.
North Korea is also on record as having sold uranium hexafluoride, a compound that can be enriched to produce weaponsgrade uranium, to Pakistan. Pakistan then sold it to Libya, though it is not known if North Korea knew of the final destination of the product.6 The Pakistan connection went both ways for Pyongyang, as intelligence now reveals that then-Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had agreed to supply North Korea with the knowhow to develop highly enriched uranium when she visited North Korea in 1993.7
North Korea has also been a proliferator of record to Iran, both in missile and nuclear technology. Reliable sources reveal that Iran had helped finance North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for nuclear technology, equipment, and cooperation on enriching uranium.8 Iran and North Korea have also been cooperating on the joint development of nuclear warheads that could be married to North Korean No-dong missiles that North Korea and Iran were also jointly developing.9 While President Bush has emphasized that "we are committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people,"10 all of these North Korean activities took place on his watch, and have the makings of the post-9/11 nightmare scenario U.S. policy makers have been striving to avoid. They are evidence of nothing less than a grave American policy failure.
Sources of the U.S. Policy Failure on North Korea
There are a number of reasons for the failure of U.S. policy toward North Korea under the Bush administration. The first was its initial ABC (Anything But Clinton) approach to foreign policy, documented by frustrated sources in the State Department during the first two years of the Bush administration.11 Continuation of the Clinton-era Agreed Framework principles was a non-starter for the new Bush team. Second was what might be called the neoconservative takeover of American foreign policy, documented by many sources.12 Of particular note here are the hawkish and influential roles of Dick Cheney as vice president, Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz as deputy defense secretary, and Richard Perle as chairman of the Defense Policy Advisory Board. All of these men exercised important influence over the U.S. policy process and shared a view of the world that one might call, colorfully, "democratic peace theory's shotgun wedding with offensive Realism on steroids." These individuals were too often successful in pushing the more rational, calculated views of firstterm Secretary of State Colin Powell to the side.
Third was the Bush administration's tendency not to trust experts in their various fields of expertise. For example, in 2002- 2003, once the decision had been made to invade Iraq, experts on Iraq were boxed out of Iraq decision making.13 Instead, the Bush team tended to rely upon inexperienced but loyal "foot soldiers" of the administration for too many key posts and as consultants on too many important issues.
Lastly, one of the hallmarks of the Bush administration's approach to North Korea was a serious division within it on how to deal with North Korea. During the first four years of the administration there was a general divergence in views between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the neoconservatives in the administration. On North Korea there was perhaps an even deeper split, personified in the divergence of views held by the special envoy for talks with North Korea, Charles L. (Jack) Pritchard, and the hawkish Bob Joseph, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control at the time.14 In the second four years of the Bush administration, the divergence in policy opinions on the DPRK was personified by the State Department's lead DPRK negotiator, Christopher Hill, and Bush's ambassador to the UN, arms-control specialist John Bolton, who maintains to this day that the bilateral meetings, the overall 2007 agreement with North Korea, and the removal of the DPRK from the list of state sponsors of terrorism were a mistake and a giveaway.
The divisions within the administration on how to deal with North Korea certainly played some role in explaining why Washington seemed engaged at some points and disengaged at others. Most generally, as has historically been the case with policy toward China and Cuba, there is a division in Washington over whether the carrot or the stick, engagement or containment, is the right approach. Given the lack of presidential leadership on the issue, the distractions posed by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and these divisions in Washington's North Korea and arms-control policy circles, U.S. DPRK policy has seemed at times nuanced and accommodating and at other times harsh and inflexible.
Moreover, there are diverging goals within the policy community on North Korea. As Pritchard notes, this has often translated into confusing and counterproductive policy.
The inexperience of most administration officials in dealing with North Korea and the discrepancy between the administration's stated goal of negotiating a peaceful resolution and its desire to see the regime collapse have been significant contributors to policy failure.15
Among those administration officials who believe engaging North Korea and pursuing bilateral dialogue are a waste of time, there are many who believe regime change in Pyongyang is the only hope for resolution of the nuclear dispute and peace on the Korean peninsula. Those who believe engaging North Korea and meeting North Koreans bilaterally is worthwhile, of course, believe there is hope of negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict short of regime change. This conflict within the Bush administration has made it very difficult for Washington to articulate a logical and consistent policy toward North Korea.
A New Approach for the United States on North Korea
North Korea has for some time presented the United States with a true quandary. Allowing North Korea to continue to develop its nuclear-weapons capabilities is not an option for Washington given the possibility Kim Jong Il might sell such weapons or technologies to terrorists or those connected to them, not to mention the possibility that the regime could use them itself, or threaten to use them for purposes of blackmail. Yet at the same time it is not feasible to take out North Korea's nuclear capabilities with military strikes (even if the U.S. military could be certain where they all are) because of the likelihood that Seoul, a city of 14 million just thirty miles from the North Korean border, would be reduced to rubble by conventional North Korean artillery and missiles. Reducing Seoul to "a sea of fire" is of course exactly what Pyongyang has threatened to do under such circumstances.
Sanctions are not an attractive option either. First, they have not been effective because of "leaks" and because North Korea has simply "tightened its belt." Second, even if North Korea's neighbors could be persuaded to plug the "leaks," North Korea has declared that sanctions are the equivalent of a declaration of war and will respond accordingly, which again is a grave threat to Seoul. In other words, continuing with the status quo simply gives Kim Jong Il more time to develop his weapons, and resorting to the military option is at present virtually unthinkable given the threat to Seoul. Because of the paucity of U.S. options, I propose a new approach for American policy toward North Korea.
Two New Policy Options
There are two options that would address American interests in North Korea. First is the institutionalization of the 6PT into a regional security framework or organization that would serve the purpose of holding North Korea accountable to regional powers. China has been leading the way in strengthening the 6PT as a forum to promote dialogue and avert disaster on the Korean peninsula. This forum has been a useful way to address America's concerns with North Korea. The facts that these six parties include the world's most powerful nation (the United States), the world's three most powerful nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, and China), the world's three most powerful economies (the United States, China, and Japan), and of course the parties to the world's most potentially explosive unresolved civil war, underline the importance of such an institution and the importance of continued discussion among these six parties even if the immediate crisis of North Korean nuclearization is resolved. The Bush administration has been correct to argue that ultimately North Korea needs to be held accountable in a broader multilateral framework such as the 6PT, and the 6PT have been instrumental in facilitating the face-to-face talks North Korea and America needed to finally seal a deal in 2007.
The call for institutionalization of the 6PT is not new. Many in China,16 the United States,17 and elsewhere,18 have called for the 6PT to be extended beyond the present crisis, institutionalizing them into a nascent regional security framework. Given tensions between China and Japan, the two Koreas and Japan, China and the United States over Taiwan, and unresolved territorial disputes between Japan and Russia, the importance of creating such a regional security framework or organization goes far beyond the crisis on the Korea peninsula. The 6PT, or something like them, must remain a factor in Northeast Asian regional security, even after the North Korean issues are resolved.
The second policy recommendation may be viewed as radical by neoconservatives and others in Washington, but is in fact a far more effective "preventive" move than those neoconservatives have themselves advocated in recent years. In addition to all of the details of the agreements worked out in 2007 by way of the 6PT, so as to pave the way for a real breakthrough in the North Korea nuclear dilemma, the United States should offer North Korea full diplomatic recognition, including the opening of a U.S. embassy in Pyongyang and eventually the opening of a North Korean embassy in Washington. As a part of this move, the United States should also offer to turn the 1953 Korean War armistice into a full-fledged peace agreement, formally ending the Korean War. These moves should be done without preconditions. At the same time, they do not require a retreat from any of the other agreements the United States and its partners have in place presently regarding North Korea's disabling of its nuclear facilities, full disclosure of all nuclear activities, or ending its nuclear-proliferation activities.
This new approach should be seen as a confidence-building measure-another step toward resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue, an eventual North Korean surrender of its nuclear weapons programs, and the restoration of a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. What is new here is that rather than make the normalization of U.S.-DPRK relations and the establishment of diplomatic missions in each other's countries a prize to be won when the nuclear issue is resolved; the proposal is that the United States should make the first move, as a means to resolving the nuclear dilemma.
While many in Washington may protest such a policy, it is not actually as radical as it at first sounds. First, America's closest ally, Britain, has already opened an embassy in Pyongyang. The United Kingdom established diplomatic relations with North Korea in late 2000 after progress in relations between the ROK and the DPRK, and opened an embassy in Pyongyang in mid- 2001. North Korea reciprocated, opening its own embassy in London in late 2002. From its mission in Pyongyang the British operate jointly-funded humanitarian projects in North Korea, including those in Pyongsong, South Pyongan Province, and Wonsan. In addition, the British provide three English teachers at universities in Pyongyang and offer human-rights and Englishlanguage training to North Korean officials in Britain.19 Second, the United States had already talked about opening a liaison office in Pyongyang and eventually opening full diplomatic relations with North Korea as a part of the 1994 Agreed Framework. In the 2007 agreement, full normalization of relations was stated as part of the end game for U.S.-DPRK bilateral relations.
Before announcing this new approach the United States would need to consult closely with its South Korean ally. South Korea's agreement will not be as easy to achieve under the hawkish Lee Myung-bak regime as it would have been under the previous Kim Dae Jung or Roh Moo Hyun administrations. But South Korean public opinion has been turning against Lee, and as long as America's South Korean allies are assured that opening a U.S. embassy in Pyongyang and establishing a peace treaty with North Korea does not entail any weakening of the U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea, or rejection of having North Korea lay down its nuclear weapons and end its proliferation activities, Seoul might be persuaded. After all, this U.S. position was what the previous two South Korean presidents had hoped for from Washington, but could not bring about, and it did enjoy some level of popular support in South Korea.
The United States will also need to consult closely with Japan to avoid a replay of the 1971 Nixon Shock, when the Japanese learned about the U.S. opening toward China via international news coverage. Moreover, in addressing Japan's primary concerns- i.e., the North Korean missile threat and the resolution of the abduction issue-the United States will have to reassure the Japanese that Washington will not retreat from its commitment to defend Japan or hold North Korea accountable. Moreover, U.S. policy makers will probably need to invest some extra political capital in getting the abduction issue addressed, perhaps offering to host dialogues between North Korean and Japanese authorities on the matter once the U.S. embassy in Pyongyang is in place. Washington should stress to Tokyo that recognition of Pyongyang is not a concession or a compromise, but a confidence-building measure, a means to the end of finally resolving the issues that have plagued DPRK-U.S. and DPRK-Japan relations.
For several reasons, the United States would have little to lose in taking this new approach. If North Korea responded favorably to the new U.S. overtures, two general streams of events might follow. If the peace treaty were signed, the U.S. embassy opened in Pyongyang, and all sides continued to meet their commitments, it would be expected that these new developments would lead to an environment in which Kim Jong Il might feel secure enough to lay down his nuclear weapons and terminate the nuclear-weapons programs. However, if North Korea accepted the new U.S. approach and, as was the case with the 1994 Agreed Framework, the agreement began to unravel, the United States would still be better off than it is now. Just as in the days of the cold-war standoff with the Soviet Union, the United States would have a listening post inside North Korea with its embassy. Needless to say, this is something the United States does not have presently. This U.S. action would also be viewed favorably in Beijing, Seoul, and Moscow, giving it more diplomatic capital with China, South Korea, and Russia, which is important in the wake of the unpopular Iraq war. This could be particularly strategic if it became clear that sanctions or other actions were needed toward North Korea at some point in the future.
If, however, North Korea were to refuse such an American approach, the United States would find itself with several advantages as well. First, if North Korea refused the U.S. offer to establish normal diplomatic relations, open embassies in each other's capitals, and sign a formal peace treaty ending the Korean War, this would deny what North Korea itself has long said it desires- to be treated as a normal country by the United States. Therefore, the U.S. offer could put North Korea in a difficult position. The U.S. proposal would be difficult for North Korea to refuse, despite the tension and lack of trust between the two, because rejection would make North Korea look even more like the intransigent trouble maker many have made it out to be. The United States, on the other hand, would look like a better citizen in the international community, and would find it easier to garner support for a firmer stand on North Korea in the region and at the United Nations if necessary down the road. Again, this is important given the low level of support for U.S. foreign policy in the international community since the Iraq war.
Discussions with some of China's top strategic thinkers on North Korea in 2004, 2005, and 2008 indicate that such a U.S. approach would be welcomed by Beijing, which has increasingly come to see North Korea as a brotherly "pain in the neck."20 Beijing's patience with Pyongyang is running thin. If Pyongyang were to reject an American offer this gracious, Beijing might shift further toward the U.S. side on the matter, further isolating North Korea. A decision by Beijing to truly put the squeeze on North Korea is a difficult one given China's proximity to North Korea and the effect a collapsing North Korea could have on China's border regions. However, Beijing would have little choice but to take a firmer stand against North Korea if North Korea rejected such an American offer, and China does still have some leverage over North Korea.
In the end, the most favorable outcome of such a fresh approach to North Korea from the U.S. perspective would be a reduction of tensions on the Korean peninsula, a standing down of Kim Jong Il on the nuclear issue, a DPRK commitment to cease proliferation activities to Syria, Iran, and other buyers, a huge improvement in U.S.-North Korean relations, and a general relaxation of tensions in the region. This is in fact the most likely outcome. Kim Jong Il has few options left on his plate. He has stated continuously that his greatest concern is security and that the United States is the greatest threat to his security. This is the majority view of China's North Korea experts and the view of many other North Korean watchers as well, including Jack Pritchard, Siegfried Hecker, and others.21 A removal or major diminishing of the U.S. security threat Kim Jong Il's regime faces would give him the "face" and the political capital to do what the United States actually wants him to do.
One of the most important advantages this new confidencebuilding approach to U.S. North Korea policy could bring is the establishment of an elementary level of trust between Washington and Pyongyang. Trust has been lacking between the DPRK and the United States for the entirety of their relationship, and this lack of trust has been an enormous obstacle to the resolution of the recent nuclear dilemma. Arguably, lack of trust is even the source of the dilemma. Kim Jong Il fears the United States and has concluded that his only source of security is nuclear weapons. An American policy such as the one outlined here would be the first step in removing the source of Kim's fear. This could ultimately lead to a buildup of trust between the two parties, make it possible to end the North Korean nuclear dilemma, and possibly, in the long run, bring reunification to the Korean peninsula.
When Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger announced their rapprochement with communist China in 1971, it was considered a radical departure from previous U.S. policy. Let us not forget that in 1971 when Nixon and Kissinger began pursuing this strategy, the United States was mired in a war in Vietnam and the cold war was still in full swing. Carrying out a broad rapprochement with any member of the communist bloc was not even considered by most. While Lyndon Johnson was reported to have discussed such a move with China, it was only the strongly anticommunist Nixon who had the political capital to make such a move. As regards North Korea, President Clinton discussed an opening to North Korea in the late 1990s but was unable to carry it out because of a combination of North Korean intransigence and moves in Congress by Republicans that undermined the 1994 Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea. Because George Bush and the Republican Party controlled Congress until 2006 and President Bush had the conservative credentials to preclude any attempts to label him as being soft on tyranny (having overthrown Saddam), he was in a position to take a radically different approach to North Korea just as Nixon did with China. Yet he did not.
It is too soon to know if the Barack Obama administration will take a new approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear dilemma. Yet what has been proposed here is an option the Obama administration should seriously consider. After all, the U.S. approach to China played an important role in paving the way for China to embark on the reforms that it undertook only a few years later after Mao Zedong's death in 1976, allowing the much more pragmatic Deng Xiaoping to rise and lead China out of its totalitarian past.
The alternative, of course, is that Washington might continue to model its North Korea policy on its Cuba policy-relying on isolation, non-recognition, hostility, and containment-in essence, a continuation of the status quo. In North Korea's case, however, this is no longer an option given the proliferation threat North Korea poses. This article has concluded that the old U.S. approach to North Korea has not worked. North Korea is a true proliferation threat and is now a member of the world's club of nuclear nations. The Obama administration should, therefore, consider applying the Nixon-Kissinger approach to North Korea, for it is America's best option today. It worked in China's case. It will work in North Korea's case as well.
1. See Dafna Linzer, "U.S. Misled Allies about Nuclear Export: North Korea Sent Material to Pakistan, not Libya," Washington Post, March 20, 2005; Seymour M. Hersh, "A Strike in the Dark," The New Yorker, February 11, 2008, p. 58; and Christina Y. Lin, "The King from the East: DPRKSyria- Iran Nuclear Nexus and Strategic Implications for Israel and the ROK," Academic Papers Series, vol. 3, No. 7 (Korea Economic Institute, October, 2008).
2. James Kelly, "Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Programs," Statement to the Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senate (Washington, D.C., July 15, 2004).
3. Lin, "The King from the East," p. 2.
4. James Forsyth and Doublas Davis, "We Came so Close to World War Three that Day," Spectator (UK), October 3, 2007.
5. Hersh, "A Strike in the Dark."
6. See Linzer, "U.S. Misled Allies about Nuclear Export."
7. Lin, "The King from the East," p. 2, citing Glenn Kessler, "Bhutto Dealt Nuclear Secrets to N. Korea, Book Says," Washington Post, June 1, 2008.
8. Economist Foreign Report, "An Israeli Lesson for North Korea?" April 22, 1993, p. 2; as cited by Lin, "The King from the East.
9. Lin ("The King from the East") cites the following sources for this information: Douglas Frantz, "Iran Closes in on Ability to Build a Nuclear Bomb," Los Angeles Times, August 4, 2003; "Military Source: DPRK, Iran Planning Joint Development of Nuclear Warheads," Sankei Shimbun (Tokyo), August 6, 2003; "Iranian Nuke Experts Visited N. Korea This Year," Kyodo World Service (June 10, 2003).
10. George W. Bush, "The President's National Security Strategy" (March 16, 2006), www.state.gov/documents/organization/63319.pdf.
11. Interviews, Washington, 2002.
12. For examples, see James Mann, Rise of the Vulcans: the History of Bush's War Cabinet (New York: Penguin, 2004); Bob Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003).
13. These comments are based upon various reports, but the Iraq example comes explicitly from the author's attendance at a 2004 panel on the Iraq war at the American Political Science Association's annual meeting in Chicago with a number of participants who were among America's best-known Iraq experts and Iraq consultants in the run-up to the war. One after another, they recounted how they had been invited to policy brainstorming sessions chaired by Bush administration officials in 2002. Once their misgivings about the war became apparent, they were effectively excluded from future such meetings.
14. Pritchard documents these divisions well in Charles L. Pritchard, Failed Diplomacy: The Tragic Story of How North Korea Got the Bomb (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2007).
15. Ibid., p. 161.
16. See China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, "The Security Mechanism of Northeast Asia: Reality and Prospect," Xiandai guoji guanxi (Contemporary International Relations), No. 8 (2002); D. Li, "The Relations in Northeast Asia: Conflict and Cooperation," Institute of World Economics and Politics (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2006), at www.iwep.org. cn/english/index-2.htm; and Chu Shulong, "Beyond Crisis Management: Prospects for a Northeast Asian Security Architecture," Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, Canada (2008), at www.cscap.ca/ Chu%20Executive%20Summary.pdf.
17. For example, Pritchard (Failed Diplomacy), U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Department of State's Christopher Hill, and even President-elect Barack Obama have all argued for such a framework.
18. From Australia, see Peter Van Ness, "The North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four-Plus-Two-An Idea Whose Time has Come," in Mel Gurtov and Peter Van Ness, eds., Confronting the Bush Doctrine: Critical Views from the Asia-Pacific (New York: Routledge, 2005). From South Korea, see Keunsik Kim, "The Prospects for Institutionalizing the Six Party Talks," Policy Forum Online, Nautilus Institute, July 12, 2007, at www.nautilus.org/ fora/security/07051Kim.html.
19. UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office listing for Korea, DPRK (accessed November 23, 2008 via www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-the-fco/countryprofiles/ asia-oceania/north-korea?profile=all).
20. Gregory J. Moore, "How North Korea Threatens China's Interests: Understanding Chinese 'Duplicity' on the North Korean Nuclear Issue," International Relations of the Asia-Pacific (January, 2008).
21. See Pritchard, Failed Diplomacy, pp. 58-59 and Siegfried Hecker, "Report on North Korean Nuclear Program," Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University (November 15, 2006), at http://cisac. stanford.edu/publications/report_on_north_korean_nuclear_program/.
Bush, George W. "The President's National Security Strategy," March 16, 2006. Online at www.state.gov/documents/ organization/63319.pdf.
China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. "The Security Mechanism of Northeast Asia: Reality and Prospect," Xiandai guoji guanxi (Contemporary International Relations), No. 8 (Beijing, 2002).
Chu Shulong. "Beyond Crisis Management: Prospects for a Northeast Asian Security Architecture," Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific, Canada (2008). Online at www.cscap.ca/Chu%20Executive%20Summary.pdf.
Forsyth, James and Douglas Davis. "We Came so Close to World War Three that Day," Spectator (UK), October 3, 2007.
Hecker, Siegfried. "Report on North Korean Nuclear Program." Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University (November 15. 2006). Online at http://cisac. stanford.edu/publications/report_on_north_korean_nuclear _program/.
Hersh, Seymour M. "A Strike in the Dark," The New Yorker, February 11, 2008.
Kelly, James. "Dealing with North Korea's Nuclear Programs," Statement to the Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senate (Washington, D.C., July 15, 2004).
Kim, Keun-sik. "The Prospects for Institutionalizing the Six Party Talks," Policy Forum Online, Nautilus Institute (July 12, 2007). Online at www.nautilus.org/fora/security/07051 Kim.html.
Li, D. "The Relations in Northeast Asia: Conflict and Cooperation," Institute of World Economics and Politics (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2006). Online at www.iwep. org.cn/english/index-2.htm.
Lin, Christina Y. "The King from the East: DPRK-Syria-Iran Nuclear Nexus and Strategic Implications for Israel and the ROK," Academic Papers Series, vol. 3, No. 7 (Korea Economic Institute, October, 2008).
Mann, James. Rise of the Vulcans: the History of Bush's War Cabinet. New York: Penguin, 2004.
Moore, Gregory J. "How North Korea Threatens China's Interests: Understanding Chinese 'Duplicity' on the North Korean Nuclear Issue," International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, January 2008.
Pritchard, Charles L. Failed Diplomacy: The Tragic Story of How North Korea Got the Bomb. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2007.
Van Ness, Peter. "The North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four-Plus- Two-An Idea Whose Time has Come," in Mel Gurtov and P. Van Ness, eds., Confronting the Bush Doctrine: Critical Views from the Asia-Pacific. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Woodward, Bob. Bush at War. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Gregory J. Moore is Assistant Professor of Political Science and East Asian Studies at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Florida. His research and teaching responsibilities include Chinese and East Asian politics and international relations, and international relations theory and methods. His work has appeared as articles or essays in International Relations of the Asia-Pacific, Journal of Asian Studies, and the Journal of Contemporary China, among others. He is currently working on a book on Sino-American relations. (E-mail: email@example.com)…
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Publication information: Article title: America's Failed North Korea Nuclear Policy: A New Approach. Contributors: Moore, Gregory J. - Author. Journal title: Asian Perspective. Volume: 32. Issue: 4 Publication date: October 1, 2008. Page number: 9+. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.