Academic journal article Military Review

North Korea Policy: Changed Regime

Academic journal article Military Review

North Korea Policy: Changed Regime

Article excerpt

The denuclearization of North Korea has been a failed policy objective of the United States and South Korea for twenty-five years. Missteps, hubris, and sophistry clutter past approaches to forestall a nuclear-armed North Korea, but they need not portend today's policy path. Lost opportunities abound, but it is not too late to peacefully eliminate Pyongyang's burgeoning nuclear arsenal. North Korea's denuclearization will be a byproduct of a successful engagement policy, not its singular objective. The North Korea solution that is needed is a policy of changed regime, not regime change. A changed-regime policy will transform North Korea from within by resolute engagements from without and will require an all-weather security guarantee of the entire Korean peninsula, both North and South Korea. An effective changed-regime policy will embrace parallel pursuits that include security, relations normalization, cooperative prosperity, and alternative energy substitutions, while delimiting ardent ambitions to heal all ills at once.

Changed-Regime Policy

Washington, Pyongyang, and Seoul are the only three relevant parties to a future agreement. Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, and other aspirants will be beneficiaries, and may be benefactors, of a future agreement, but they will detract and dilute prospective processes with parochial positions. The objective of a changed-regime policy is the establishment of conditions that successfully encourage Seoul and Pyongyang to pursue an agreement that permits both to coexist peaceably. Pyongyang's pursuit of national security is not unique. Security is the leading priority of all countries, and every other interest ranks a distant second in importance. Dr. Joseph Nye evoked perhaps the quintessential analogy when he wrote, "Security is like oxygen--you tend not to notice it until you begin to lose it, but once that occurs there is nothing else that you will think about" (1)

Security. National security fears stoke enmity between Washington, Seoul, and Pyongyang, and spoil prospects for productive negotiations. To begin a sustainable, far-reaching negotiation process, Pyongyang must agree to a provisional suspension of its programs for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles; Washington and Seoul must concurrently agree to a provisional suspension or scope (size, duration, purpose) of their semiannual combined military exercises--Key Resolve and Foal Eagle in the spring, and Ulchi Freedom Guardian in the fall. These initial steps should persuade relevant parties to return to the negotiation table. North Korea has three times reliably frozen its nuclear activities and missile launches. With genuine security inducements, a commitment to do so again is probable. Pyongyang equates a proven nuclear weapons arsenal with its national security and regime survival. Therefore, it is fanciful to believe that North Korea could be compelled to eliminate and irrevocably abandon its strategic armaments, absent a consistently stable security environment where it amicably coexists with the United States and South Korea. This endeavor is not only possible, it has been Pyongyang's pursuit and the basis of all four denuclearization agreements that have been penned. Like Seoul before it, Pyongyang can be persuaded to abandon its nuclear weapons program, but not while it perceives an existential threat.

Relations normalization. Normalizing political and economic relations has been centric, as it has been elusive, to previous agreements with North Korea. North Korea has long been rebuffed in attempts to normalize relations with South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Normalization begins with an immediate exchange of capital liaison offices to implement agreement protocols and cascades with a thickening of relations by lifting sanctions, extending trade, reuniting families, repatriating remains, opening tourism, and exchanging culture, education, and sports. If, however, Pyongyang is continually curbed from relations with the broader community of nations, extraordinary will be the task to effect North Korea's positive transformation. …

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