Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement

By Selig S. Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
Tripwire

While they have many reasons for wanting this missile program, their primary reason is security, is deterrence. Whom would they be deterring? They would be deterring the United States. We do not think of ourselves as a threat to North Korea, but I fully believe that they consider us a threat to them.

—Former secretary of defense William Perry, interviewed on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Public Broadcasting System, September 17, 1999

OF ALL THE pronouncements made by Perry following his mission to Pyongyang on behalf of President Clinton, this was the most far-reaching in its implications, underlining as it did the integral connection between the U.S. military presence in Korea and North Korean missile ambitions. Yet despite this unambiguous recognition of North Korean motivations, Perry ignored North Korean security concerns in his policy recommendations to the White House. Focusing solely on U.S. security priorities, he said that Washington should condition the normalization of relations on two key North Korean concessions. First, Pyongyang should agree to limit the range of its missiles to 380 kilometers (180 miles). Second, it should give up its nuclear weapons option once and for all, going beyond the suspension of its nuclear program negotiated with Washington in 1994.

The underlying assumption of the Perry approach—that economic incentives and political recognition would be sufficient to bring about an accommodation with Pyongyang—has proved to be questionable. In bargaining for economic help, North Korea has offered to negotiate restraints on its missile program similar to the 1994 nuclear freeze. But giving up its missile option altogether is another matter. The militarydominated regime in Pyongyang may be ready to discontinue the development, production, and deployment of all missiles with a range over 180 miles, but how far it will go in this direction will depend, first, on whether hostile relations with the United States are ended through the normalization of relations and a peace treaty terminating the Korean War,

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