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

By Selig S. Harrison | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 21
Guidelines for U.S. Policy

What are nuclear weapons good for? For the United States, they're actually a grave political handicap. It's kind of hard for us to say to North Korea, “You are terrible people, you are developing a nuclear weapon,” when the United States has thousands of them.

—General Charles Horner, former commander of the U.S. Space Command and commander of U.S. Air Forces in the Gulf War, July 15, 1995

REGRETTABLY, General Horner is atypical, one of a small number of senior retired U.S. military officers who have questioned U.S. nuclear armscontrol and nonproliferation policies. 1 Despite its own reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States does not, in fact, find it awkward at all to tell North Korea not to develop them. With its self-image as the “only superpower,” entitled to exercise global strategic dominance, the United States has no moral qualms in attempting to impose its inequitable nonproliferation policies wherever possible.

Reviewing the successes and failures of U.S. nonproliferation policy, North Korea must clearly be judged a major success story. The 1994 nuclear freeze agreement between Pyongyang and Washington not only suspended the operation of North Korea's then existing plutonium production facilities but also stopped the construction of two new reactors with a much bigger nuclear weapons potential. India, at the other extreme, has been the most spectacular U.S. failure. What distinguishes these two cases? India is an emerging major power, conscious of its size and driven by its historically rooted confidence in a great national destiny. Little North Korea, by contrast, is preoccupied with its national survival, not its national destiny, and reacted opportunistically to U.S. nonproliferation pressures.

When the end of the cold war left it economically adrift, Pyongyang offered up its nuclear program as a bargaining chip in exchange for economic and political benefits. However, in doing so it did not lose sight of the inequity in U.S. nuclear policies and, in particular, of what it per-

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