Continuation of Cold United States-North Korea Relations
Tae-Seop, Bahng, SERI Quarterly
North North Korea-United States relations, nuclear issue, proliferation, PSI, smart power, strategic management, Six-party Talks
(ProQuest: ... denotes "strike-through" in the original text omitted.)
United States - North Korea relations have progressed little since the beginning of the Barack Obama administration. No improvements have been made on the North Korean nuclear issue, and no high-level talks between the two governments have taken place. Immediately after taking office, Obama called for a nuclear-free world and affirmed this aspiration at the April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, but North Korea's nuclear ambitions was not addressed at the summit. Relations between the two countries can be considered more so in the doldrums now than they were during the previous administration when special envoy Christopher Hill was dispatched to Pyongyang during George W. Bush's second term in office.
In 2009, many Korean experts expressed greater concerns over United States' relations with South Korea than with North Korea. They worried about a possible conflict between the progressive US administration and the conservative Lee Myung-Bak administration over North Korean policies and the prospects of North Korea subsequently seizing the opportunity to demand dialogue with Washington while excluding Seoul. In fact, it looked as if the Obama administration would not refuse the possibility of direct talks, something which North Korea has repeatedly demanded, especially in respect to the nuclear issue. Under these circumstances, the Lee government's negotiating position looked likely to erode.
However, with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision to include South Korea as a part of her first official trip abroad, the Obama administration made it clear that the United States regarded its alliance with South Korea as an important part of its smart power. Her visit eased concerns that South Korea might be excluded from direct talks, as she clearly stated that the United States would move forward in concert with South Korea when dealing with the North Korean nuclear issue. Following a skirmish near the Northern Limit Line in the West Sea prior to her visit, Clinton also reaffirmed United States' commitment to the US - ROK bilateral security alliance, particularly against North Korean and other foreign threats.
The US - South Korea relations have strengthened while US - North Korea relations have deteriorated. This paper will 1) explore the causes behind the worsening relations between the United States and North Korea during the first half of the Obama administration; and 2) elaborate on how relations may unfold in the future.
TWO MAIN FACTORS BEHIND DETERIORATION
Via its second nuclear test, North Korea attempted to restart negotiations with the United States from square one. However, the provocative move only worsened US - North Korea relations and served as a catalyst to deepen South Korean ties with the United States. Disappointed by North Korea's unilateral action, the Obama administration pushed for internationally coordinated sanctions via the United Nations (UN) instead of entering into talks such as six party talks with North Korea. The United States took the lead in implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which banned North Korea of all weapons trade. In June 2009, the North Korean cargo ship Rang Nam - under suspicion of transporting weapons materials - was forcefully turned back to a North Korean harbor from the East China Sea. The following December, Thai authorities seized a Georgian plane carrying 35 tons of North Korean weapons. North Korean revenues from arms exports reportedly declined 80 percent in a year due to the UN sanctions.2 At the same time, the United States began to view the Lee government's "grand bargain" more positively and strengthened collaboration regarding North Korea policy. In addition, South Korea joined the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI),4 previously hesitated by the Roh Moo-Hyun government, as a way to reinforce US - South Korea coordination on North Korea sanctions. …