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

By Selig S. Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
New Opportunities for Arms Control

THE POSSIBILITY of negotiating verifiable conventional arms-control agreements with North Korea has never been seriously tested. In responding to a series of proposals from Pyongyang for defusing the military confrontation in Korea, South Korea and the United States have ignored the central element in these proposals: the redeployment and eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces. Seoul and Washington have argued that both the future of U.S. forces and North Korean proposals for parallel North-South force reductions can only be addressed after tensions have been reduced through more modest confidence-building measures. Pyongyang's response has been that confidence-building measures presuppose a climate of trust—a climate that will not exist until there is a formal end to the Korean War, accompanied by a normalization of relations with the United States, replacement of the Military Armistice Commission with a permanent peace structure, and the termination of the United Nations Command.

This stalemate appeared intractable until North Korea introduced a fundamental change into the bargaining equation with its acquisition of a nuclear weapons option and its progress in developing missiles capable of reaching the United States. Now it is clear that the United States can get North Korea to make definitive concessions relating to the termination of its missile and nuclear programs only in return for steps to end the Korean War and to modify or phase out the U.S. military presence. If the United States normalizes its relations with Pyongyang and shifts to the role of an honest broker between North and South, Pyongyang has signaled that it would not object to the continuance of a reduced U.S. military presence for a protracted transition period of a decade or longer.


NORTH KOREA AND CONVENTIONAL ARMS CONTROL

With a population less than half as large as that of the South, the North has nonetheless attempted to maintain armed forces comparable or superior in size and sophistication to those of the South. Pyongyang has consistently devoted much more of its gross national product to defense than

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