The Bush Administration and North Korea’s Nuclear Program


By Clark Sorensen

Jackson School of International Studies

University of Washington

Revised as of April 6, 2003

©Clark Sorensen.

This paper is available for personal reading. It may be quoted, but is not for distribution.




            People who follow the news have been aware over the past few months of the disturbing stories coming out of North Korea. Last December 22nd, the North Koreans expelled inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who had been, under the terms of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), keeping track of spent plutonium rods from the DPRK’s nuclear reactors that had been shut down since 1994. This January the 10th, the DPRK announced they were withdrawing “immediately” from the NPT.[1] In response, the IAEA board, meeting at their headquarters in Vienna, voted North Korea to be “in material breach” of the NPT on February 13th, and thereby referred the matter to the United Nations Security Council.[2] On the 27th of February, the North Koreans restarted for the first time since 1994 their 5 megawatt graphite moderated reactor at Ryǒngbyǒn[3]. The DPRK’s official explanation for the reactivation of the reactor was that they need it for the generation of power. Outside sources say that since the reactor uses almost as much power as it produces, the only reason to reactive it is to produce plutonium for reprocessing into nuclear weapons.


            On top of this has been a series of threats and counter threats by North Korea and the Bush administration. Shortly after the DPRK expelled IAEA inspectors, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld remarked pointedly that “the United States is perfectly capable of fighting on two theaters at once”—signaling to North Korea that they shouldn’t take advantage of the USA’s preoccupation with Iraq. CIA Director George Tenet sent a tremor of worry through the United States news media when he testified to the Senate Armed Forces Committee on February 12th of this year (the day before the IAEA meeting that found North Korea in material breech of the NPT) that North Korea has nuclear armed missiles capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States. (This “news” actually recycled the 1998 Rumsfeld report that was itself highly exaggerated) Within a few days of Tenet’s testimony the North Koreans announced the resumption of missile tests that had been on hold since 1998. Then on March 2nd four North Korea MIG fighters shadowed a US RC-13S Cobra Ball aircraft used to monitor missile launchings off the east coast of North Korea. The fighters had apparently tried to force the US intelligence plane to land. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded by sending B 52s to Guam.


            People sometimes ask me, “Why are the North Koreans doing these terrible things.” It is not easy to answer in one or two sentences. These issues have been simmering for a long time, and so they can be correctly understood only in historical context. The activities of North or South Korea, however, rarely make the news except when a crisis emerges. Thus, the little day-to-day events that precipitate the crises are rarely on people’s minds. Much of what the North Koreans do is a reaction to US actions or policies, but most of the actions and policies of the US that disturb North Korea are either not reported in the media, or are buried in policy documents that only wonks—in addition to the North Koreans—ever read. The result of these conditions is that much what the North Koreans do that in fact is rational and systematic from their point of view seems erratic and foolish to even a well-informed American.


            In addition to the problem that the US policies to which the North Koreans are reacting are seldom widely know outside the community of policy specialists, is the problem that the solution to North Korea issues can only be successful if it is in harmony with the wants and desires of North Korea’s most powerful neighbors—China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. As the US media seldom report extensively on how the Chinese, Russians, Japanese, and South Koreans understand the world­—and frequently even specialists lack insight in this area—ordinary citizens lack crucial information they need to assess whether proposed solutions to the North Korean nuclear issue are realistic or not. When it comes to expectations of what China should do to solve the North Korean issues, misconceptions of Chinese views of the world and their influence on North Korea are especially pervasive.


            Because of these considerations, it is most useful to deal with the North Korean nuclear issue in a circular manner. That is, I will first give a quick overview of current issues, then dip into the recent history of US-North Korean relations, and finally come back to the present to discuss the policy options available today in the context of political conditions in South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia. Before we get started on this,

however, I need to clear up a few issues of terminology.


Loose Talk about North Korea


            There has been a lot of loose and scary talk about North Korea in the US media. The loose talk revolves around such terms as “nuclear threat”, “nuclear blackmail”, “appeasement”, and “illegality”. Use of these terms is loose because they do not accurately characterize what the North Koreans are doing, and it is pernicious because they frame North Korean issues in ways that make a diplomatic solution of them well-neigh impossible. Yet the use of these terms to characterize North Korea actions is rarely challenged in the mainstream media.


The possibility of North Korea having nuclear capacity is often called a “nuclear threat”, as if North Korea somehow had the desire to hit the United States or South Korea with nuclear weapons. While such a strike would be a theoretical possibility if the North had nuclear weapons, and is thus of course a bit scary, it is important to remember that the North Koreans have never made an explicit nuclear threat against the US or any other country.[4] Former North Korean President Kim Il Sung, in fact, told Carter when the he visited P’yǒngyang in 1994 that it would be suicidal for a small and poor county like North Korea to ever delude itself into thinking that it could develop a nuclear arsenal sufficient to threaten the United States. The United States, on the other hand, has frequently made nuclear threats to North Korea. These threats are not widely known outside policy circles, so the idea that North Korea truly feels fearful of US attack seems incredible and irrational to most Americans. Yet even as recently as last September the possibility of preemptive strikes specifically mentioning only Iraq and North Korea was published as part of the Bush administrations National Security Strategy. Since the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, and Iraq has already been attacked, it is only prudent for the North Koreans to take these threats seriously regardless of measured statements that may be issued by other parts of the Bush administration. A fair assessment of the North Koreans’ motivation, then, would have to concede that they have significant security concerns vis-à-vis the US, and the “threat” goes as much from the US to North Korea as visa versa.


North Korea expelling IAEA inspectors and starting up its nuclear reactors is also routinely called ‘nuclear blackmail’ in the US as if North Korea’s nuclear program is designed only to make the US grant concessions. It’s true that North Korea feels that, as a sovereign nation, it has a theoretical right to have a nuclear program equal to that of even great powers, if it so wishes.[5] It is also true that they are not willing to give up this right “for nothing”. One should also not forget, however, that North Korea has memories of being heavily bombed by United Nations (mostly US) forces during the Korean War, and since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and abrogation of the USSR’s mutual defense treaty with the DPRK, North Korea has faced an increasingly serious security threat from the United States. The DPRK is no longer protected by the nuclear umbrella of the Soviet Union. Some inside North Korean seem to think this security threat can be ‘solved’ if North Korea has its own nuclear weapons. Although the North Koreans probably could be induced to give up their nuclear program in exchange for security guarantees and other goodies, they will not give it up for promises that the United States may later on refuse to fulfill. If North Korea’s actions were simply “nuclear blackmail” they would have to have no rational basis in North Korean security concerns. But this condition is not truly met.


Another of the words that are loosely thrown around is the term “illegal”, as when people argue that any kind of North Korean nuclear program is prohibited by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and thus North Korea’s actions are “illegal” and deserve nothing but punishment. Although there are some grounds (that are weak in my opinion) for using this terminology, use of the concept of “illegality” in international relations can easily lead to erroneous conclusions because of a misunderstanding of the differences between international and domestic law. Assessments of the “illegality” of North Korean actions often, too, are based on a selective reading of international agreements. As experts like Gilpin have observed, the international system is in essence one of anarchy, since all independent nations are sovereign and (supposedly) equal. Nations express their sovereignty by having a supreme legislative authority (a king, dictator, party, or legislature) that enacts the laws of the nation, courts that adjudicate the law, and police that enforce the law. Within a nation, if someone defies national sovereignty by breaking one of its laws, the nation’s court system can punish that person, and there are proper authorities to carry out that punishment. International law, however, is the law between sovereign nations. It is created through treaties that have been voluntarily entered into, and conventions whose legitimacy have widely been accepted. There is, however, no supreme authority that can legislate norms that are binding on all nations[6], there is no universally recognized world court system that can adjudicate norms, and there is no universal armed force that can enforce decisions against countries. Institutions like the United Nations and The World Court have been set up to take care of some these functions, but they are only partially effective. Consequently, nations enter into treaties and observe United Nations resolutions when it meets their purposes, and the more powerful nations also abrogate treaties and ignore United Nations resolutions when that meets their purpose. Nobody, of course, punishes the powerful nations when they do this. Whether nations “get away” with abrogating treaties and ignoring the United Nations is purely a matter of power and politics, and has little to do with consistent, enforceable legal principle. When the United States abrogated the Missile Test Treaty, for example, the United States cited its right of self defense, and the other signatories of the treaty had to just swallow their unhappiness. Though one might want to say that a nation that violated a treaty to which it was party has acted illegally, since nations are sovereign and have the right to withdraw from treaties anyway, using the concept of illegality moves one into an ideal, unrealistic realm, rather than to the actual give and take of power politics that is what really structures international relations.


Finally, the term “appeasement” is frequently used to disparage diplomatic efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear program. Many commentators on the right have argued, for example, that North Korea is a bad country that does illegal things and therefore offering any kind of carrot to induce the North Koreans to stop doing these things would be “appeasement” encouraging more behavior—as if a sovereign nation should be treated like an errant child. As already mentioned above, the concept of illegality that lies behind this assessment is of limited applicability. Moreover, because the right of self defense is the most fundamental right of a sovereign nation, measures a country takes to implement that right can easily be argued to supercede almost any other obligation. Even if a supranational body like the United Nations deemed that North Korea shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, say, the North Koreans could cite their inalienable right to self defense as justification for such weapons, undermining the legitimacy of even UN claims of illegality. Nations acting in self-defense, in fact, are almost impossible to legitimately punish.[7] For this reason, negotiations between nations involve give and take, carrots and sticks. If all carrots are called “appeasement”, however, one is left without the ability to offer inducements (positive sanctions) in order to gain compliance. This makes diplomacy almost impossible. States could try to get other states to do what they want through threats. But when we had a system based on the use of threats in the 19th and early 20th centuries, wars were very frequent. The frequency of devastating wars, in fact, is what led to the development of the present international system with the United Nations serving as an international forum, and national sovereignty guaranteed. Going back to the earlier system not only would lead to numerous wars, but these wars would now be fought with weapons of almost unimaginable destructiveness. A system lacking positive sanctions does not seem to be one that would increase world security in the long run.


A fifth word that is sometimes used with regard to North Korea is the word crisis,  a term that the Bush administration avoids using about North Korea’s recent actions, but that others (especially Democrats) think is appropriate. The situation with North Korea is not a crisis in the sense that America or South Korea are in immediate danger, but it is a crisis in the sense that time is important. The longer one waits to deal with it, the more difficult it becomes to resolve. It is also, in my opinion, a “crisis” that could have been prevented through effective diplomacy. Effective diplomacy, however, has been in short supply in the Bush administration—and not just over North Korea. The North Korean issue has been put on the back burner, of course, because of an overwhelming preoccupation in the Bush administration with disarmament and now war with Iraq. But the Bush administration’s foreign policy has also lacked coherence because of inconsistencies between what has been said about major issues by hawks on the National Security Council like Donald Rumsfeld, and diplomats in the State Department. Thus on the same day that Colin Powell has said that the US would seek a diplomatic solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis, Donald Rumsfeld has said that “of course the US could fight a war on two fronts at the same time”, implying that a military option is on the table.


In the Bush administration the National Security Council—made up of the President, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Pentagon, and a few others—rather than the State Department seems to be dominant in foreign policy formulation. This has meant that foreign policy has often been set by the National Security Council before the State Department has had a chance to consult with allies and foreign countries. When time comes for consultation, the policy is already set and Secretary Powell has had limited room to maneuver. Diplomats have been left with few options but threats or bribes to get other nations to go along with US foreign policy. Because the policy hawks in the National Security Council do not regularly consult with foreign leaders, and in fact routinely dismiss the concerns of those who disagree with them, they often had unrealistic expectations about the kind of cooperation the Bush administration can expect on US foreign policy initiatives. Time and again in the days leading up to the Iraq War the administration has been surprised by the refusal of allies—even so close a military ally as Turkey—to participate in the Iraq War. Many of the policy hawks in the Bush administration have equally unrealistic expectations about the kind of cooperation they can expect from China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia on the North Korean nuclear issue.


A Quick Overview of Current Issues


Having discussed a few ways the North Korean issue has commonly, but erroneously in my opinion, been discussed in recent years in the US I would like to give a quick overview of my conclusions about North Korea before delving into the details of recent US-North Korean relations, and the policy options available to the United States in light of the political conditions in the neighbors of North Korea—South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia—whose cooperation will be necessary to obtain a satisfactory solution to North Korean issues. This overview consists of both good news and bad news.


Good News


(1)   North Korea does not in my opinion desire to attack the United States with weapons of mass destruction, or with terrorism, and under present circumstances will not invade South Korea, either.


The reason I say this is not that I think the North Koreans have suddenly become doves, or gone soft. It is because North Korea is not today militarily strong enough to defeat either the United States or South Korea, and the North Korean leaders know very well that they could never survive a full scale war. Since they are aware that a full-scale war will lead to the destruction of their regime, they will avoid launching a major attack that would give the United States a pretext for bombing, or invading, unless they are convinced that the United States is about to destroy it by military or economic means, anyway. Notice that this assessment of North Korean military capacity is based on an assumption that both the United States and South Korea will continue with a robust deterrence policy. It is not based on trust. The North Korean regime has not given up the dream of ruling the entire Korean peninsula, and the only reason they will not try to do this by military means is that know they now are militarily too weak to succeed over determined South Korean and United States defense measures. Even militarily weak as they are they can still continue to try subversion, of course, though in my opinion South Korea’s democracy is strong enough and legitimate enough that the chances of subversion succeeding today are low.


(2) Though their actions seem provocative, the main motivation of the North Korean leadership is the security and survival of their regime.


The legacy of the guerilla legends that Kim Il Sung used to obtain and maintain his power—and that his sone Kim Jong Il continues to use—means that North Koreans think of security primarily in terms of a strong indigenous military, rather than, say, embedding themselves in mutually beneficial international relations. Observers of North Korea have sometimes remarked that North Korea seems like a mountain guerilla encampment writ large. Even if basis of North Korean security thinking is a strong indigenous military, however, North Korean leaders are aware that a small country cannot generate an economic surplus sufficient to support firepower comparable to that of the major powers. During the Cold War the North Koreans were able to rely on the nuclear umbrella of the Soviet Union and China. Living now without the credible nuclear umbrella of the Soviet Union makes some North Korean leaders think that only indigenous nuclear weapons can deter a superpower like the United States. Because the security threat to North Korea comes primarily from the United States, however, the North Koreans have proved willing to give up nuclear weapons if they can achieve security from US attack by other means. They will ask for compensation for giving up what they consider their sovereign right to have a nuclear program, however.


(3)   North Korea when compared with South Korea today is militarily much weaker than at any time in its history.


The economic difficulties that North Korea has faced over that past 10 years, and their loss of economic and military support from the Soviet Union, have led to great degradation of their military capacity at a time when South Korea—with the assistance of the United States—has greatly improved the training, equipment, and sophistication of its armed forces. Offensive war—that is, a full-scale invasion of South Korea—is now very difficult for them. North Korea does have important defensive resources, the capacity to shell US forces and the South Korea capital from north of the DMZ, and the capacity to shoot missiles at South Korea and Japan. If the North Koreans chose to use chemical or biological warheads in their artillery or missiles, they could rain unimaginable destruction on South Korea and even Japan. The reason they lack the ability to sustain an invasion, however, is that they lack sufficient reserves of fuel, lack spare parts for their mechanized equipment (which is inferior to that of South Korea and the United States, anyway), have skimped on training because of lack of spare parts and fuel[8], and they probably have manpower whose health has been degraded by persistent food shortages over a long period of time. Note too, that unlike during the Korean War when the core officers of the North Korean military were battle-hardened veterans of the Chinese revolution, no North Korean officers today are battle-experienced. This is unlike South Korea, whose top officers today often had experience during the Vietnam War.


(4)   North Korea’s present nuclear capacity, if any, is as yet too rudimentary to serve as an offensive threat even in worst case analyses, and it is far from certain when, or even if, they will gain significant nuclear capacity in the future.


The CIA has estimated that North Korea already has one or two nuclear devices. Actually, the only thing we know for sure is that North Korea in the early nineties extracted enough plutonium from their spent nuclear fuel rods to make one or two nuclear devices if they reprocessed the material and completed the design of a bomb. This much was confirmed by AIEA analysis of the spend fuel rods. We do not know where, or if, that plutonium was reprocessed to weapons grade, although reprocessing itself is not difficult to do. Most American scientists think that obtaining plutonium is the most difficult step in nuclear production, so that anybody who has the plutonium should be able to figure out how to make a bomb. It is prudent, therefore, to assume that the North Koreans have one or two nuclear bombs. Some Russian scientists, however, think the North Koreans do not have the technical capacity to complete the design of a nuclear bomb, and since North Korea’s nuclear technology comes largely from Russia, this is an opinion worth considering. Even if North Korea has two bombs, however, they have never tested them, so they must have uncertainties about whether they will work. Moreover, two bombs are useless as an offensive threat. If they test one, they would have only one left over, and using that one would leave them completely vulnerable to nuclear counterattack. If regime survival is what they are most concerned about two nuclear weapons have only symbolic value.


(5)   North Korea has significant missile capacity, but they do not have a missile capable of reaching the US with a nuclear warhead, despite reports to the contrary.


North Korea has many short-range scud missiles capable of reaching South Korea, ships off the North Korean coast, and other target close by. They have a missile called the Nodong that is capable of going 600-800 miles—far enough to hit most of Japan, Okinawa, and Taibei, but not Guam—and they have deployed about 100 of them, reportedly aimed at Japan. The three-stage missile design required to reach a target as far away as the US has only been tested once in 1998, and that test failed. Whether that missile would have been capable of reaching the United States even if it had been successful is a matter of conjecture:

·        If the missiles can carry enough fuel

·        If the engines have a high level of efficiency in burning the fuel

·        If the rocket structure itself, and its payload are light enough

·        If they can make a nuclear device small enough to put on a long-range missile

It is doubtful that North Korea’s technology and their present economic capacity will allow them to develop and deploy enough of these kinds of missiles to create a credible nuclear threat for the United States. Until their recent missile tests in response to United States concerns, in fact, the North Koreans had done no missile tests since 1998. The recent tests have been of short range missiles. The hype about a North Korean missile threat in the US is mostly, in fact, just type in order to justify the deployment of an intercontinental missile defense system.


(6)   Both North Korea and the United States have said that they want to solve the issues between them through diplomacy, and the US and North Korea have successfully negotiated in the past.


(7)   Finally, It is even possible (but not likely in my opinion) that the North Koreans do not actually intend to produce nuclear weapons, and are simply pulling the US’s chain in order to get concessions. In any case, because the North Koreans want nuclear weapons, if they do, primarily for defensive purposes the main danger from the production of plutonium in North Korea really is one of proliferation—the fear that they may sell it—rather than of nuclear threats from North Korea per se.


Bad News


(1)   There has been only one high level contact between North Korea and the United States since the beginning of the Bush administration, and that contact between Undersecretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs James Kelly and the North Koreans last October is the one the precipitated the present crisis.


For diplomacy between North Korea and the United States to be successful, personal contacts and trust have to be developed between US diplomats and their North Korean counterparts. Otherwise neither side will be able to accurately read the meaning and intentions of the other side. The process of creating such trust requires regular contacts and consultations, and takes time to develop. This process has not begun.


(2)   Both the United States and North Korea have preconditions for talks that the other side finds unacceptable.


North Korea wants security guarantees from the United States (in fact they want a non-aggression treaty) and direct one-on-one talks with the United States, while the Bush administration has said it will talk directly with North Korea only after North Korea agrees to dismantle (not just freeze) all their nuclear facilities. The United States is willing to talk (not negotiate) with North Korea only in the context of a multilateral forum, and President Bush has made it known that he also rejects the notion of bilateral talks within a multilateral forum.[9] North Korea has so far rejected any format but direct bilateral talks with the United States. This is, no doubt, due to fears of being ganged up on, but also has to do with the North Korean’s assessment that it is the United States that has the real power to make or break any agreement about the Korean peninsula. In the meantime, the United States has become preoccupied with Iraq. While the US has not put the North Korean nuclear issue entirely to the side (Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Korean Foreign Minister Yun Yǒng-gwan to discuss a “road map” for solving the issue on the 28th of March), one cannot expect any major new initiatives until the Iraq issue comes to some kind of conclusion.


(3)   The Bush administration has been sending mixed messages on foreign policy—particularly on North Korea, but also on other issues—so that comments made by Secretary of State Colin Powell have often been undermined by contradictory comments made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.


The result of these mixed messages is that nobody is confident that they know what US policy really is.[10] North Korea, having no high level diplomatic contacts with the United States that can be used to convey official US policy, tends to believe the worst, assumes hostilities are a likely possibility, and is fearful of making a deal with a country they no longer trust. Even the United States’ allies, such as South Korea, are not sure what US policy really is. South Koreans fear that Washington will decide on a “surgical strike” that will inadvertently lead to war on the Korean peninsula with dire consequences for both Koreas. In fact, because of persistent rumors about “surgical strikes” the South Koreans asked the United States to “clarify” its position just before the March 28th meeting between Foreign Secretary Yun and Secretary of State Powell.


(4)   Although the Bush administration clearly wants to wait until after the Iraq war to deal with the North Korea issue, the longer we wait for effective diplomacy to begin, the more difficult the problem becomes to solve.


To our knowledge, North Korea has not yet begun reprocessing plutonium, but if they begin to do so they will have enough plutonium to create 5-6 bombs in about six months, and will be able to produce enough enriched plutonium to create 10-15 bombs per year. Once this process begins, freezing the nuclear reactors (as was done in the past) will no longer provide the protection it did. Negotiations will have to go much father than they did in the past. Yet even the 1994 negotiations that led to the Agreed Framework were very arduous and difficult, and the US was not able to get all the concessions it wanted—particularly about plutonium that might have been reprocessed in the past. North Korea, for its part, has made clear that it wants to solve this process through negotiations with the US, and they would like to do this before the end of the Iraq war. In order to get the attention of the United States they have staged a series of provocations, such as the apparent attempt to ground a US intelligence plane off the coast of North Korea on March 2nd. This tit for tat of provocation and response could easily spiral out of control before negotiations even begin.


(5)   The consequences of failed diplomacy are serious and may, in fact, lead to war.


Refusal of the United States to compromise, at least to an extent, on opening negotiations with North Korea will, as it has in the past, in my opinion, lead to stalemate, with the result that North Korea may quickly become a nuclear state. As mentioned above, North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons is more serious as a proliferation problem than as a nuclear threat per se. That is, the danger is more that North Korea with its dire economic problems may sell enriched plutonium to nefarious parties, than that North Korea will attack other countries with nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the possibility of North Korea itself becoming a nuclear power is also a grave concern. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush are both said to have remarked in the first week of March that military options were on the table, at a time when no effective diplomacy on this issue was being accomplished. George Will on ABC This Week on March 2nd, in fact, quoted George Bush as saying that if diplomacy fails, war is the only alternative. But if war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, the consequences will be catastrophic even if the United States “wins” the war. Don Obermeyer in his book, “The Two Koreas” quoted Pentagon estimates that the casualties of a three month war on the Korean Peninsula would be 50,000 US military casualties, 100,000 South Korean military casualties, untold North Korean casualties, and perhaps more than a million civilian casualties. We do no know how China, Japan, or Russia (or even South Korea, for that matter) will react to such a possibility. China still has a mutual defense treaty with North Korea, after all. Moreover, we cannot eliminate the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons on both side, or of missile attack on Japan. For these reasons, threatening war on the Korean peninsula, in my opinion, shows reckless disregard for the lives of US troops and those of important US allies.[11]


The Recent History of US-North Korean Relations


      Because the news media in the United States rarely cover North Korean issues, a lot of people here have been caught off guard by the sudden appearance of the nuclear issue. Actually, however, this appearance is not sudden. The issue of North Korea and nuclear weapons has been simmering off again and on again since the 1980s. There is a history of the US and North Korea dealing with this issue that goes through the Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations—both Republicans and Democrats.  This means there is a rather extensive record of what has worked, and what has not worked in dealing with North Korea. The present crisis developed last fall (2002) with the break down of something called the Agreed Framework that was negotiated between North Korea and the Clinton administration in 1994. This agreed framework headed off North Korea’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and froze North Korea’s nuclear reactors. The core of the agreement was that the US would help replace North Korea’s graphite moderated reactors that produce lots of easily reprocessed plutonium with Light Water Reactors whose spent fuel is much less amenable to processing into weapons grade material. The US would provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and in exchange the DPRK would freeze its old reactors, stay in the NPT, and let the spent fuel be monitored by the IAEA.


      The Agreed Framework was signed by Robert Galluci for the US and Kang Sǒk-chu for the DPRK on October 21st, 1994. There is much misunderstanding about this agreement, so it important to go over the terms in detail. These are given below:


(1)   Both sides will cooperate to replace the DPRK’s graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities with light-water reactors.

o       The US will organize an international consortium to do this.

o       US will supply 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil annually to replace the energy of the closed graphite-moderated reactors until the LWR’s are completed.

o       As soon as the agreement goes into effect North Korea will freeze the DPRK’s graphite moderated reactors. They will be dismantled when the LWRs are completed.

o       The US and DPRK will cooperate to make sure that the spent fuel rods from North Korea’s graphite moderated reactors are properly stored during construction of the LWR’s, and will dispose of them when the LWR’s are completed without them being reprocessed in North Korea


(2)   The two sides will move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.

o       Barriers to trade and investment will be removed.

o       Each side will open a liaison office in the other’s capital.

o       As progress is made on other issues the two countries will upgrade relations to Ambassadorial level.


(3)   Both sides will work together for peace and security on a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

o       The US will provide formal assurances to the DPRK against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the US.

o       The DPRK will consistently make steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

o       The DPRK will engage in north-south dialogue.


(4)   Both sides will work together to strengthen the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

o       The DPRK will continue to remain in the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)).

o       Upon conclusion of the supply contract for the provision of the LWR, ad hoc and routine inspections will resume under the DPRK’s agreement with the IAEA with respect to facilities not subject to the freeze.

o       When progress is sufficient in the LWR the DPRK will come in full compliance with its safeguards agreement with the IAEA.


Notice that in Paragraph 3, there is a provision that the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula signed by North and South Korea on January 20th, 1992 be incorporated into the agreed framework. The provisions of this agreement are given below:


Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean PeninsulaJanuary 20th, 1992


1)      South and North Korea shall not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons

2)      South and North Korea shall use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes

3)      South and North Korea shall not possess nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities

4)      In order to verify the denuclearization of the Korea peninsula, South and North Korea shall conduct inspections of particular subjects chosen by the other side and agreed between the two sides. In accordance with the procedures and methods to be determined by the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission

5)      In order to implement this joint declaration, South and North Korea shall establish and operate a South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission within one month of the effectuation of this joint declaration

6)      The joint declaration shall enter into force from the date the South and the North exchange the appropriate instruments following the completion of their respective procedures for bringing it into effect.


It is important to note here, that the incorporation of the North/South joint denuclearization agreement commits the North to “consistently take steps” which include avoiding all reprocessing of nuclear material.


I’m not here going to go into detail on the tortured history of how the Agreed Framework came about. Let me just note that there were five years from 1988 to 1993—all of the George H. W. Bush administration, and the first two years of the Clinton administration—during which there was stalemate over the issue of North Korea’s nuclear program, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and what inspection regime the IAEA should have in North Korea. This period was quite similar to the period we have entered from October of last year with relations between North Korea and the United States spiraling out of the control to the point that the United States was seriously considering military options in the summer of 1994.[12] This stalemate was only broken by President Carter’s visit with Kim Il Sung in 1994 bringing a proposal of Light Water Reactors in exchange for a nuclear freeze that eventually led to the negotiation of the Agreed Framework later that year.


Although the Agreed Framework has been reviled by some hyper-conservative elements in the United States, it is important to recognize its achievements as well as its limitations. Under achievements, we can list the following:

  • All North Korea’s graphite moderated reactors were shut down, so no more spent fuel rods with plutonium ripe for reprocessing were being produced.
  • North Korea’s existing spent fuel rods were properly stored and monitored 24 hours a day by the IAEA (both by cameras and personnel).
  • The Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was organized to construct LWRs in North Korea. South Korea and Japan agreed to finance the construction of the LWRs. South Korean technologyg’s sunshine policy and visit to P’yǒngyang in 2000, but this was only possible because of the prior existence of the Agreed Framework.[13] was used so that South Korean technicians were sent to North Korea along with those of other countries, and significant progress was made on the construction.
  • US spent about $30 million a year to provide heavy fuel oil to North Korea during the period of constructions of the LWRs.
  • North South trade and contact slowly began to increase from almost nothing to several hundred million annually, while travel between North and South—almost absent before—became a regular feature of North/South relations.[14]


Important parts of the agreement, however, were never carried out by one or both sides.


  • Early progress toward diplomatic relations stalled, and even liaison offices in the two nation’s capitals—much less full embassies—were never set up.
  • Construction of the LWR’s fell way behind schedule. This delay was caused by difficult negotiations with the North Koreans about site and the participation of South Korean technicians, delays in financing, and problems of the site itself, which is in a remote area with little infrastructure.
  • Few steps were made to concretely implement the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  • The United States was often late in supplying fuel oil to North Korea.


In addition, the original agreement had weaknesses that made both sides less willing to fulfill the agreement than would have been optimal.


  • Complete accounting of all plutonium in North Korea was delayed until construction of the LWRs was well along.
  • The spent fuel rods put under IAEA inspection had to be left in North Korea as a guarantee that the LWRs would be completed.
  • The Agreed Framework, while envisioning an eventual accounting of all North Korea nuclear sites, left for the future an agreement on inspection of non-declared nuclear sites.


These weaknesses largely reflected the distrust that exists between North Korea and the United States. North Korea did not trust the United States to adhere to the Agreed Framework process, and so they refused to allow the removal of the spent fuel rods and the inspection of non-declared sites—those goals that the US most wanted—until the LWR’s would be nearly completed. This allowed critics of the Agreed Framework in the United States to belittle the achievements of the agreement.


US-North Korea Diplomacy after the Agreed Framework


During its last six years, though they made little progress on establishing diplomatic relations between the DPRK and the US, the Clinton administration continued high level contacts with North Korea. These contacts allowed the Clinton administration to address problems with the Agreed Framework as they came up. In 1999, for example, Admiral William Perry was able to visit P’yǒngyang and obtain a special inspection of an underground facility at Kŭmch’angni that US intelligence suspected of being a site for reprocessing nuclear material. This visit was obtained in exchange for a small special shipment of humanitarian aid that the US would probably have provided for North Korea anyway. North Korea, in response to Clinton administration concerns about intercontinental ballistic missile tests, began a self-imposed moratorium on such tests in 1998 while the US and North Korea negotiated on the issue.  In 2000, Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited P’yǒngyang in the context of negotiating a deal on missile testing and exports that was reported to involve a presidential visit to North Korea, though this deal was not completed before the end of the Clinton administration.


From the advent of the Bush administration in 2001, however, high level contacts between North Korea and the US were stopped. When President Kim Dae Jung visited the White House early in 2001 to ask Bush to support his policy of reconciliation and contact with North Korea, Bush rebuffed him, saying Kim Jong Il could not be trusted. Although there were occasions when officials of the Bush administration and North Korea met adventitiously at international forums, these superficial meetings did not lead to any substantial results. The US did until 2002, however, abide by the terms of the Agreed Framework, and did continue to ship heavy fuel oil to North Korea. North Korea, for its part, seemed to be hold to its end of the bargain as well.


Things began to deteriorate rapidly in the second year of the Bush administration following 9/11. In his 2002 State of the Union speech in January, President Bush fingered North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, as an “axis of evil” country, and this caused a storm of controversy. The speechwriter, who left government shortly after, has since claimed that North Korea was added to Iraq and Iran primarily to make sure that three countries were included in the axis, and to make sure that at least one of the countries was not Muslim. While this imagery played well in the US where people were still traumatized by 9/11, it had a number of deleterious consequences. It linked administration policy on North Korea and Iraq—two countries that have, in fact, no alliance and little in common—in unnecessary ways that hampered the administration in the timing and content of its policies in both countries. It greatly increased North Korea’s concerns about security vis-à-vis the US, undermining the main reason North Korea was adhering to the Agreed Framework, and came perilously close to violating Paragraph 3 of the Agreed Framework in which the US pledged not to make nuclear threats against North Korea.[15] Some intelligence reports, in fact, hint that that North Korean nuclear activities increased after this speech. Finally, it greatly angered the South Koreans.


Why should Bush’s remarks about North Korea have angered South Koreans, when South Korea has traditionally viewed North Korea as a security threat? One reason is that South Koreans do not see North Korea as an entirely separate nation from South Korea. Rather North and South Korea tend to view each other as a single nation (minjok) with two different governments, rather than entirely different countries. Criticism of North Korea in some circumstances is taken as criticism of the entire Korean nation, and can lead to resentment. A second reason South Koreans were angered is that the axis of evil speech suddenly and without warning undermined President Kim Dae Jung’s reconciliation policy with North Korea that the Bush administration had told South Korea they supported. Many South Koreans, in fact, had interpreted George Bush’s treatment of Kim Dae Jung during his White House visit as condescending and insulting[16], and the axis of evil speech just added fuel to this fire.


Following the axis of evil speech, hints of a more aggressive Bush policy toward North Korea emerged. In March the Nuclear Posture Review, a classified document, was reported by The Los Angeles Times to advocate preemptive nuclear strikes against even non-nuclear states. It was said this policy would be incorporated into the National Security Strategy report due to be published in the fall. China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Russia, and Syria were specifically mentioned as possible candidates in the Los Angeles Times report.[17] John Bolton, US Undersecretary of Arms Control, was said to want the US to withdraw from the NPT, but to have been overruled by Secretary of State Colin Powell. Since the US had already withdrawn from the ABM Treaty over the objections of Russia, this report seemed plausible. Administration members began to publicly worry about the threat of hardened deep bunker targets impervious to conventional strikes that might be used for chemical and biological weapons production, and to speculate publicly about developing nuclear weapons capable of striking such targets. Specific mention of battle scenarios practiced by US troops, with North Korea as the putative target of nuclear strikes were mentioned in an article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,[18] and about that time in September the promised National Security Strategy of the United States of America report was released.


The National Security Strategy focused on eliminating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction using a “crime and punishment” framework that emphasizes the use of negative sanctions and military force, and barely mentions positive sanctions (i.e. incentives) at all. It advocates unilateral action and use of preemption, for “while the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country”[19] Preemptive action on rogue states is a prominent feature of the review, and the only countries mentioned by name in this section of the report are Iraq and North Korea.[20]


In spite of these new threats of the United States to North Korea, North Korea at this time was still trying to open negotiations with the United States and Japan. On September 3rd they expressed the hope that the Agreed Framework would be continued. Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichir­­ō, visiting P’yǒngyang in mid-September, came to an agreement on establishment of foreign relations that involved the admission of DPRK kidnapping of 11 Japanese nationals, and Japanese promises of $8-10 billion in aid. Kim Jong Il took this occasion to ask Prime Minister Koizumi to convey to the United States the DPRK’s voluntary indefinite moratorium on missile testing and their willingness to negotiate with the United States on this issue. North Korea successfully and peacefully participated later in the month in the Asian Games held in South Korea.


It was in this atmosphere of increasing tension with the United States, apparent North Korean willingness to negotiate with the US, and progress in normalization of relations with Japan and South Korea that the first high level contact between North Korea and the United States was held. Undersecretary of State for East Asian Affairs, James Kelly, visited P’yǒngyang in early October, 2002. The Bush administration reportedly agreed to this meeting partly to gain the support of Japan and South Korea for administration policy on Iraq. John Bolton, Undersecretary for Arms Control, had already stated in Seoul in August, that the KEDO reactors could not be completed by 2005 without ‘special inspections’ of suspected North Korean nuclear sites. While the Agreed Framework did stipulate that ‘ad hoc’ inspections of non-declared sites would take place before the completion of the LWRs, Bolton’s use of the term ‘special inspections’—a term that has earned the consistent ire of North Korea since 1992—was a red flag to the DPRK, and Bolton’s statement was criticized by North Korea. In the meantime, Kelly made it known beforehand that he wanted to talk with the North Koreans about weapons of mass destruction, development and export of missiles, conventional arms, human rights issues, and the humanitarian situation in North Korea. It would have taken a miracle for one meeting to yield progress on all these issues, but the North Koreans initially seemed willing to negotiate on all of them. James Kelly met with North Korean Foreign Minister Kang Sǒk-chu on October 4th. Reports following the meeting seemed to indicate that it did not go well. James Kelly mentioned “serious difficulties” on his way home to Washington, while North Korea publicly complained about the “US attitude of hostility”. Nothing more became public about the meeting until ten days later—five days after the October 10th Congressional authorization for the use of military force against Iraq. A report was leaked through Reuters News Agency on the 15th, and then followed up by an official State Department press release on the 16th. According to these reports the US “had recently acquired information that indicates that North Korea has a program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons in violation of the Agreed Framework and other agreements. North Korean officials acknowledge that they have such a program. The North Koreans attempted to blame the United States, and said that they considered the Agreed Framework nullified.” The timing of this statement after the vote for the use of force against Iraq enraged a number of Congressional Democrats.


The North Koreans reacted angrily to this ten days later on October 25th in a statement released through Chosǒn Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper published in Japan. They claimed, among other things, that Kelly had accused them of having an enriched uranium program without evidence, that US nuclear threats against North Korea violated both the Agreed Framework and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and claimed with special bitterness that the US had not only said there would be no dialogue between it and the DPRK, but also that DPRK-Japanese relations and North-South relations “will enter into a state of collapse.” They have consistently claimed, moreover, that they, as a sovereign state, have the right to have nuclear weapons if they need them for self-defense.


In spite of all the invective the North Koreans have never specifically mentioned whether they had “admitted” to Kelly of having an enriched uranium program, or whether the said they said at that time that they regarded the Agreed Framework as “nullified.” There in fact has been a certain amount of skepticism of Kelly’s account of what the North Koreans said, especially in South Korea (though this skepticism has not been extensively reported on in the United States, and most people remain unaware of it). On October 21st even before the North Korean’s official response the State Department commique, for example, South Korean Minister of Reunification Chǒng Se-hyǒn visited North Korea and, after talking with North Korean officials, claimed that the “beginning and end of the story” had been left out. He took particular exception to the notion that the North Koreans had said they viewed the Agreed Framework as “nullified.” It wasn’t until January 19th, 2003, that they published an interview with O Sǒng Chol, DPRK Foreign Ministry Director, in which he claimed that Kelly had actually had no proof of his accusations, and that the North Koreans had flatly denied the existence of a highly enriched uranium program. On the second day of the Kelly visit, when the admission supposedly came, O was quoted as saying, “You say about the so-called ‘nuclear development’ in our country. But it is the DPRK that has always been actually threatened by US nuclear weapons. If you continue to assume a high-handed attitude toward us in the days to come, we are entitled to possess not only nukes, although we are not in possession of such a weapon at this point, but also any type of weapon more powerful than that in order to defend ourselves. This is a natural demand for an independent sovereign state. We have no reason to talk with you any longer if you make such a brigandish demand of us.” At this point, unless somebody publishes transcripts of the exact conversation, it seems, it will be impossible for those of us who weren’t there to know for sure what was said.


In addition to the problem of doubts about the exact content of the remarks made by North Korea, we also do not know the quality of intelligence that Kelly brought with him to the P’yǒngyang meeting. It makes a difference in assessment the quality and reliability of the intelligence whether it is based on a defector’s report, satellite surveillance, detecting certain isotopes in the air, or something else. A defector’s report, for example, might not be accurate, because defectors hoping for good treatment often claim to know more than they actually do. Sampling of certain isotopes in the air, on the other hand, would be almost certain proof of reprocessing. As we have seen above, the North Koreans claim that Kelly’s evidence was unspecific, and unpersuasive. This alone wouldn’t put the intelligence in question. The Bush administration has made the intelligence available to Japan, China, and Russia, as well as South Korea, however, and none of these countries seems to have changed their policy as a result of this. Prime Minister Koizumi is said to have already been briefed on it when his visited North Korea in September, yet progress on Japanese-North Korean relations continued until it was derailed in October by US pressure and the controversy in Japan about abducted Japanese citizens. Russia also seems not to have found the intelligence particularly impressive. These are only straws in the wind, of course, but until the Bush administration sees fit to make the source of intelligence public, they are all we have to go with.


Diplomatic Repercussions of Kelly’s Meeting with Kang Sǒk-chu


            The first reactions of the United State, North Korea, and North Korea’s neighbors to the revelations of the Kelly visit were measured. X Hubbard, US Ambassador to South Korea called for a peaceful resolution of the problem on October 22nd. The United States, South Korea, and Japan, meeting with each other at the APEC summit on October 26th called for the denuclearization of North Korea by peaceful means. North Korea, for its part, asked for a nonaggression pact with the United States, recognition of its sovereignty, and no economic interference by the United States (i.e. no economic sanctions). Shortly thereafter, however, the US adopted a harder line, claiming that North Korea had violated the Agreed Framework, and thus could not be trusted in negotiations. The US put strong pressure on Japan to break off negotiations for normalization of relations with North Korea—something made easy for Koizumi by the controversy about Japanese citizens abducted to North Korea—and Japan DPRK normalization talks broke down in Kuala Lumpur on October 29th. Japan and South Korea nevertheless met and issued a communiqué on November 11th calling for the Agreed Framework to be maintained. By November 14th, however, under heavy American pressure, they agreed to allow KEDO to halt all shipments of heavy fuel oil to North Korea until “concrete and credible actions to dismantle completely its highly enriched uranium program.” This decision ended the last tangible benefit that North Korea obtained through the Agreed Framework, and was, in effect, the last nail in the Agreed Framework’s coffin.


            Setting aside doubts about whether the DPRK actually has a highly enriched uranium program, would this program be in “violation” of the Agreed Framework? In discussing this question it is important to note, first, that the Agreed Framework was not a treaty. A treaty would have had to have been ratified by the US Senate, and would have been binding under international law. It was, rather, a process that outlined, step-by-step, how North Korea and the United States could move from nuclear confrontation to a non-nuclear North Korea in exchange for benefits from the United States. Although a complete accounting of all plutonium, removal of the spent fuel rods, and ad hoc inspections of non-declared nuclear sites did not take place immediately under the Agreed Framework, the Agreed Framework did try to set up a process by which all of these things would eventually happen as the Light Water Reactors came closer to completion. Complete compliance with the NPT, the IAEA inspection regime, and the North-South Joint Denuclearization Agreement, thus, would have come only at the end of the Agreed Framework process. How to get from A to B was left deliberately vague, and required continuous negotiation as the construction of the LWRs progressed.


Second, one should note that the only thing unequivocally demanded of the North Koreans was their “freezing” their existing nuclear reactors, and this did take place. Reprocessing of any kind is prohibited by the North-South Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but so far as the Agreed Framework is concerned North Korea was only required in Clause 3 to “consistently take steps” to implement this Declaration. While maintaining a separate reprocessing program while freezing only acknowledged nuclear reactors clearly goes against the spirit of the Agreed Framework, according to the letter of the agreement North Korea does seem to have enough wiggle room to maintain, as it does, that the Agreed Framework requires unequivocally only the freezing of these reactors.


The Agreed Framework, moreover, explicitly acknowledged the possibility of “non-declared” nuclear sites that would in the future become subject to “ad hoc” inspection. In the fall of 2002, the LWRs were coming far enough along so that serious negotiations about how to complete the accounting and inspection process needed to be begin. Reprocessing uranium through centrifuges as has been alleged for North Korea is a slow process requiring huge amounts of power. Had the Bush administration chosen to do so, they would have had time to negotiate a deal about the highly enriched uranium program in conjunction with negotiations about complete accounting of plutonium and ad hoc inspections while the operation of the plutonium-producing graphite moderated reactors were still frozen. Indeed, they could also have negotiated, as did the Clinton administration, on missile development. Because of the Bush administration’s commitment to a “crime and punishment” view of diplomacy, and a conviction that all inducements are “appeasement”, however, this window of opportunity when negotiations to further the Agreed Framework process might have been successful was precisely the period the Bush administration refused to have high level diplomatic contacts with North Korea or to “negotiate” with them. Thus, the Agreed Framework finally expired with the Bush administration’s cutting off of heavy oil shipments to North Korea.


This was an avoidable outcome, but the Bush administration could legitimately have wanted a fresh start on North Korean issues. They did not seem, however, to have a viable policy with which to replace the Agreed Framework. The North Korean reaction to the death of the Agreed Framework had already been predicted by knowledgeable experts: the North Koreans expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrew from the NPT, “unfroze” and refueled the nuclear reactor that produces plutonium and that had been shut down since 1994. This reactor can now produce enough plutonium for 4-5 bombs a year. Nobody knows what is happening to the spent fuel rods that had been under 24-hour IAEA inspection. The “radiochemical factory” next to the Yǒngbyǒn reactor that can be used for reprocessing has not been reopened, yet. However, we have no guarantee that reprocessing is not taking place in one of North Korea’s numerous underground defense factories. Since North Korea is well aware of its vulnerability to US air strikes, it is unlikely, in my opinion, that serious attempts to make nuclear devices will be done in a facility vulnerable to air strikes and satellite and other surveillance. So the end of the Agreed Framework has meant an unleashing of North Korea’s nuclear program.


Complications with South Korea


One of the most severe weaknesses of the Bush administration’s foreign policy has been an inability to correctly assess the impact of their policies on other countries where people have different sources of information and different attitudes than the policy makers in the National Security Council. The administration badly miscalculated the reaction of North Korea to the collapse of the Agreed Framework, and also badly miscalculated the effect this would have on South Korean politics. Last October when the Agreed Framework collapsed, influential voices in the Bush administration were clearly hoping to bring North Korea to heel through pressure and sanctions. In fact, the Bush administration may have conceived of the stopping of fuel oil deliveries that led to the final collapse of the Agreed Framework as a sanction that would pressure North Korea desperate for fuel into better compliance. As I have argued above, however, the stopping of fuel oil deliveries ended the last benefit the North Koreans received for freezing their nuclear program, and because the North Koreans no longer saw any reason to continue with the nuclear freeze, rather than become more compliant, they reacted by restarting their nuclear reactor. When the North Koreans withdrew from the NPT on January 10th, in fact, they explicitly linked this withdrawal to “US hostile policy.”


The Bush administration’s policy in South Korea also backfired. Last fall South Korea was in the midst of a presidential campaign leading to an election on December 20th. The sitting president, Kim Dae Jung, had maintained a “sunshine policy” toward North Korea. The main tenets of that policy were that South Korea would not seek to absorb or overthrow the northern regime, and the South would actively promote reconciliation and cooperation with the North, allowing private investment and travel, as well as government to government contacts. The Bush administration formally supported this sunshine policy that, with his visit to P’yǒngyang in 2000, won President Kim the Nobel Peace Prize. But the theme of reconciliation with North Korea was clearly not very compatible with the Bush administration’s designation of North Korea as an “axis of evil” rogue state subject to preemptive strike. In October and early November of 2002, however, there was a good deal of criticism of President Kim, and the most conservative of the three major presidential candidates, Yi Hoe-ch’ang, was well ahead in the polls. His party, the Grand National Party (Han Nara Tang) favored strong security cooperation with the United States, and a stronger stance toward North Korea. Of the two other candidates, Chǒng Mong-jun, was a Hyundae heir and organizer of the successful World Cup finals in Korea that year, and the other was a relatively unknown, Rho Moo Hyun, who was running under the banner of the Millennium Democratic Party, the party of Kim Dae Jung. In the fall of 2002, the Bush administration initiated little activity on the North Korea issue, and seemed to be waiting for the election of Yi Hoe-ch’ang, who would be more amenable to a hard line sanctions policy than Kim Dae Jung had been.


However, in mid-November and Bush administration policy on North Korea, which with the ‘axis of evil’ speech had already ignited controversy at the beginning of the year in South Korea, once again became an important issue in South Korea. And suddenly, the Korean presidential race became upended. As a result of the first presidential television debate in Korean history, Chǒng Mong-jun withdrew from the presidential race in favor of Rho Moo Hyun. Rho began using the dangers of the hawkish Bush foreign policy on the Korean peninsula as an election issue with positive results, and he soon pulled ahead in the polls. Earlier in the year two middle school girls had been run over by American tanks on a training exercise near Ŭijǒngbu. This became a cause célèbre for the Korean left when the driver and lookout for the tank were acquitted of negligence in a military court martial that excluded Korean participation. President Bush did not meet demands that he issue a personal apology on behalf of the United States, so the issue festered all fall. Every evening candlelight vigils outside the US Embassy were held to demand revision of the Status of Forces Agreement under which the US soldiers had not be subject to South Korean jurisdiction, but Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put cold water on any possibility of this coming about, and continued to make hawkish statements about North Korea. Throughout the fall anti-American sentiment began to grow and feed into the Rho Moo Hyun campaign. The upshot was that on December 20th, rather than finding a conservative president sympathetic to Bush administration policy in power, the Bush administration found Rho Moo Hyun, a strong supporter of reconciliation with North Korea, and an opponent of sanctions, put in power by an electorate opposed to Bush policy.


Much as in the case of Germany, where opposition to Bush policy on Iraq put Prime Minister Schroeder back in power in an election that he was expected to lose, opposition to Bush administration policy on North Korea led to the election of the candidate who opposed Bush policy. The electorate in two democratic allies of the United States weighed in on Bush administration foreign policy, and when they spoke, they elected representatives who pledged to oppose the administration’s ability to execute that policy.


            Although Japan, having no independent foreign policy of its own, has been compliant in supporting Bush administration policy, the Bush administration has also found it very difficult to convince either China or Russia to support their policy on North Korea. Although neither of these states surrounding North Korea want a nuclear North Korea, and thus both agree with the Bush administration on this dimension of the problem, neither of them support sanctions or a hawkish policy from Washington. Russia abstained on the IAEA vote to send the North Korea nuclear issue to the UN Security Council. China rebuked North Korea by voting to send the issue to the Security Council, they have not gone beyond that. South Korea, China, and Russia—even Australia—have all publicly urged the United States to negotiate bilaterally with North Korea, and both Beijing and Seoul did so publicly when Secretary of State Powell swung through East Asia to build support for US policy of multilateral negotiations. Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea have all tried to mediate between North Korea and the United States—even Fidel Castro has offered to mediate, though the US has rejected these offers. President Kim, in one of the last acts of his administration, on the other hand, sent special envoy Im Tong-wǒn to visit North Korea in late February bringing the possibility of a “Marshall Plan” for North Korean development in exchange for bilateral progress on the North Korean nuclear issue—clearly hoping to turn a DPRK-US issue into a DPRK-ROK issue—but effort was rejected this time by the North Korean side.


North Korea has said it will only negotiate with the US on the nuclear issue, but bilateral negotiations are the one thing the Bush administration is determined to avoid. When Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 4th (Richard Lugar, Republican Indiana, Chair) that bilateral contacts between the US and North Korea could take place within a multilateral context, President Bush is widely reported to have been furious, and to have forbidden him to mention this possibility again.[21] Yet the consequences of failed diplomacy are serious. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in early March announced the movement of two dozen bombers to Guam to “prevent North Korea from being aggressive during an Iraq War,” but this sent tremors through the government in Seoul, who asked for assurances that the United States was not preparing a strike against North Korea without informing them. George Will on ABC This Week on March 9th quoted President Bush as saying that he thinks diplomacy will work on North Korea, but if it doesn’t war is the only alternative.


Are There Any Policy Options Left?


            At times Bush administration spokesmen have suggested that the US may just have to put up with a nuclear North Korea. While this is one policy option, it seems strange policy to tolerate a nuclear North Korea solely for the pleasure of saying one hasn’t negotiated with an “axis of evil” state. Other possibilities have been floated from time to time.


Surgical Strike?


            Mention by Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush in early March that “all possibilities are on the table” has raised the suspicion that the United States may plan a “surgical strike” on North Korea that will take out North Korea’s nuclear facilities without much collateral damage. (I leave aside the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear strike, since this could not be done in North Korea without contaminating South Korea, China, and Russia—something surely even Bush administration hawks would not seriously contemplate). This possibility strikes some superficial analysts as an attractive option, but on reflection it is not only an ineffective policy, but also one that might well lead to catastrophic consequences.


            The North Koreans were bombed heavily during the Korean War, and have known since that time that they are totally vulnerable to US air attack. Although they had the luxury in the past of relying on the Soviet Union’s nuclear umbrella, for fifty years they also have taken measures to put as many strategic facilities underground as possible. The P’yǒngyang subway is build 100 meters below the surface for strategic reasons, but there are entire factories, too, that have been built underground. It is possible to knock out North Korea’s nuclear reactor and the neighboring radiochemical laboratory that might be used for reprocessing. Now that the reactors has been started, however, this will cause nuclear contamination that, depending upon the time of year, will drift into China and Russia (and eventually Europe), or South Korea, Japan (and eventually the United States). Beyond this, however, is the fact that the US, with little on-the ground intelligence capacity in North Korea is unlikely to know precisely where all the enriched uranium and other materials are located. If the North Koreans are serious about reprocessing their plutonium and acquiring nuclear weapons, they are not so stupid as to do it in plain sight of US satellites and other surveillance aircraft. (That is, not unless they want the US to see what they are doing as a provocation.) They will do it in hidden, underground laboratories. Under these conditions, thus, a “surgical strike” will be ineffective. It will only get some, and maybe not even the most important, of North Korea’s nuclear material.


            More important than the ineffectiveness of a “surgical strike” is the potential that such a strike will lead to retaliation by North Korea, and thus to a general war on the Korean peninsula with a huge loss of life. Some hawks have speculated that North Korea would not respond to a surgical strike because they would be defeated in any general war on the Korean peninsula.[22] But a surgical strike could easily lead to war by stages. Some 37,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea, most of them stationed north of Seoul within artillery range of North Korea. North Korea’s leaders pride themselves on their toughness. The North Korean Foreign Ministry, in a news conference on October 25th, for example confirmed that Kang Sǒk-chu had told Kelly “Nobody can handle the man who is willing to die.” (죽음을 각호한 자는 당할자가 없다)[23]. They are unlikely to fail to respond militarily. But even if they make a “measured response” to a surgical strike—say by shelling US troops along the DMZ, possibly with chemical or biological weapons—the effect would be the same as a general attack. The US would have to retaliate, and general war on the Korean peninsula would develop by stages.


            Estimates of the casualties of a general war on the Korean peninsula have already been given: in the tens of thousands for the US military, in the hundreds of thousands for the Korean military, and in the millions for civilians. The capital of South Korea, Seoul, a city of 10 million people, is just 40 miles south of the DMZ and within artillery range of North Korea. In the past the North Koreans have threatened to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire”, and if they did the civilian casualties could easily run into the tens of thousands within a matter of hours. North Korean artillery would eventually be silenced, but not quickly or easily. Much of the North Korean artillery along the DMZ is in hardened underground silos that would take time to find and take out. Fully eliminating the threat might well require an invasion by land forces.[24] One cannot assume, moreover, that war would be confined to the Korean peninsula. North Korea has about a 100 Nodong missiles that are capable of reaching US bases in Japan, and it is possible that the North Koreans might use them in a retaliatory strike. China still has a mutual defense treaty with North Korea, moreover, and it is certain that they will react very negatively to a US military strike so close to their own border.


            Because of the potential for huge military and civilian loss of life in South Korea (not to mention the North), saber rattling on the part of the United States creates great anxiety there, and is one of the principle causes of the recent growth of anti-Americanism in a country that historically has been one of the United States strongest and most loyal allies. As mentioned above, Rho Moo Hyun was elected president last December with a last minute surge of support from young people concerned about US bullying and the possibility of war on the Korean peninsula. He has said war is “unthinkable” and has publicly warned the US to “not go too far”[25]. The South Korean government has repeatedly sought assurances from the United States that it will not engage in military action without first consulting the South.


            Donald Rumsfeld has recently suggested, moreover, that the US troops deployed near the DMZ be redeployed south of Seoul where they would be less vulnerable to North Korean attack. South Korea is militarily stronger than it has been in the past, and there may be good military logic behind such a suggestion. In the context of general US saber rattling on the North Korea issue, and tension between the US and South Korea on North Korea policy, however, the timing of that suggestion could not be worse. William Safire, in a column of March 10, 2003 in the New York Times expressed a logic about this proposal that makes South Korea extremely fearful.[26]


“. . . If we were forced to bomb the facilities producing nuclear weapons for sale to terrorists, one third of the U. S. troops [in Korea] within range of 11,000 Communist artillery pieces would be the first casualties of a North Korean attack. With so many Americans as the North’s human shields, Pyongyang’s blackmailers are emboldened—the opposite of deterred.


South Korea’s leaders have gained popularity by vilifying Americans stationed along the demilitarized zone and demanding the U.S., accede to the North’s demands. Seoul’s press and public wanted to jail U. S. soldiers who get in traffic accidents.[27]


Recently, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed an interest in redeplying endangered Americans southward, or to other bases. At the same time, he ordered 20 long-range bombers to our base in Guam.”


Chortling at the distress of South Koreans with this policy, he continued to argue that with US troops out of harms way the US would be free to bomb North Korea, while South Korea can fend for itself. In other words, start a war on the Korean peninsula and let the South Koreans do the fighting, since they have been so ungrateful as to disagree with Bush administration policy on North Korea. And, of course, the Korean military and civilian casualties will still be as high as in the estimates above. Only the American casualties will be reduced. William Safire’s column, of course, expresses his personal opinion, not the policy of the Bush administration. Nevertheless, he is an influential opinion-maker who expresses ideas that are widely shared in conservative policy circles.




            Even though there are a number of hawks in the US who are willing to contemplate military force on the Korean peninsula, a good number of even conservative foreign policy pundits recognize that there are no good military options on the Korean peninsula. But what about sanctions? Couldn’t North Korea be brought to heel—maybe even to the point of collapse—through economic sanctions? A number of conservative commentators, in fact, have been predicting for years that North Korea is on the verge of collapse. Their predictions have none proven correct, but many of these critics believe that sanctions might be enough to bring about the collapse of the North Korean regime.


            Economic sanctions, however, have not proved in the past to be a powerful tool. US economic sanctions have never led to regime change—even in the case of Cuba where sanctions have lasted forty-five years. Even effective sanctions, moreover, would not be fast-acting enough to keep the North Korean regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. Since the United States already has virtually no trade with North Korea, unilateral sanctions on the part of the U.S. will have no effect.[28] Effective sanctions, thus, would require the cooperation of all of North Korea’s border countries—China, Russia, and South Korea—and Japan, as well. China in particular, having the longest boarder with North Korea, and presently North Korea’s largest trading partner would have to cooperate with sanctions for them to be effective. None of the countries bordering North Korea, however, favor the use of sanctions.


South Korea, looking forward at some future date to a united Korea, does not wish to see North Korea made more destitute than it already is. The South Koreans, moreover, have estimated the cost of German style reunification is beyond what their economy can bear, and might lead to South Korean collapse as well. If North Korea were to collapse South Korea, a country of 47 million, would have the burden of 20 million destitute people. There may be pressures for large-scale movement of refugees into the south. There is no guarantee, moreover, that a collapsing North Korea might not fall into civil war or anarchy. For these reasons, the South Koreans fear the collapse of North Korea even more than they fear a nuclear North Korea, since most South Koreans do not believe the North would use nuclear weapons on the South. The Rho administration’s policy of “peace and prosperity” is, in fact, a continuation of Kim Dae Jung’s sunshine policy. Under this policy the South Koreans would like to prod and encourage the North Korean regime to evolve in the manner of China into a more prosperous and less threatening state. A North Korean transformation has been slow in coming, but encouraging signs have emerged in the past year. Last summer the North began scrapping their provisioning system and moving toward a money economy, with the agricultural markets allowed to sell goods in addition to produce and handicrafts. (Cooperative farms and factories have long been allowed to sell at market prices from direct outlets after they have met their quotas). Economic contacts between the North and South have grown greatly. The reconnection of road and rail lines between North and South is well underway. Land-based tourism from South Korea to the Diamond Mountains has become a reality, and plans are proceeding for the North to create two special economic zones on the Chinese model—one at Sinŭiju on the Chinese border[29], and one at Kaesǒng just north of the DMZ. The South Koreans see encouraging the North Korean reform process as a sounder long-range strategy than applying sanctions.


The Chinese government has publicly opposed sanctions as causing more problems than they solve, and as a veto-bearing member of the UN Security Council China is in a position to block any vote for sanctions in the United Nations. China opposes either North or South Korea obtaining nuclear weapons, but like South Korea China also does not want to see North Korea’s economy get any worse, or for it to collapse. China highly values North Korea as a buffer state that prevents the US troops stationed in South Korea from moving right up to the Chinese border. China has, thus, been willing to provide the North Korean regime enough aid to keep it going. Still, it has a problem of North Korean refugees coming across the border. (Some estimates put the number of North Koreans living in China at six figures). Sanctions that harmed the North Korean economy would cost the Chinese economy, and increase the burden of North Korean refugees fleeing into sensitive border regions. The Chinese, right now, want to concentrate above all on economic growth, and for that reason they are opposed to any policy that would destabilize the Korean peninsula.


Russia, another veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has concerns similar to those of China about stability and refugee movements. In addition, Russia very much wants North Korea to open its rail and road links with South Korea so that South Korean goods can be shipped to Europe on the Trans-Siberian railway. Japan, while more amenable to US leadership on this issue than the other countries, fears that as the largest economy in the region they will be stuck with paying the lion’s share of the cost of rebuilding a collapsed North Korea, and for that reason does not favor sanctions.


Thus, even though sanctions might give the Bush administration hawks the satisfaction of feeling they have “punished” North Korea, they are unlikely to be even slightly effective because the Bush administration will not be able to get enough co-operation from neighboring countries to make them work. And they probably would be ineffective even if neighboring countries did cooperate.


Let China Do It?


            China has said that it doesn’t want North Korea to develop nuclear weapons, and they did vote with the IAEA majority that North Korea is out of compliance with the NPT. It is likely that China’s reasoning about North Korea going nuclear is more closely related to worries that Japan will go nuclear in response rather than worries about North Korea’s weapons per se. Japan, in fact, has already reacted to North Korea’s missile program by sending up a satellite to monitor North Korea missile tests. China is North Korea’s only ally, and as North Korea’s most important trading partner provides enough fuel aid to prevent the complete collapse of the North Korean economy. A number of policy analysts in the United States are convinced for these reasons that China has very powerful influence in North Korea, and could get the North to give up its nuclear program if it chose to use that power.


            There are a number of reasons, however, why these expectations are unrealistic. North Korea prides itself on its independence and ability to go its own way. Since 1956, when Kim Il Sung finally was able to purge the pro-Soviet faction in the North Korean leadership, in fact, North Korea has rarely hesitated to do what it thinks is in its national interest regardless of the opinions of even its benefactors. When Kim Il Sung was still alive, he had close personal relations with many of the Chinese Communist party leaders, but Kim Jong Il and those around him no longer have that kind of relation with the Chinese. The Chinese have been urging the North Koreans for almost a decade to take reforms similar to those China itself has taken, yet with very limited results. It has even been rumored that Kim Jong Il won’t take calls from the Chinese leadership if he thinks they are going to ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do. Chinese influence on North Korea, in fact, is much more limited than most people think. Because of this limited influence, the Chinese are very wary of taking responsibility for North Korea behavior.[30] And, as mentioned above, because of their fears of a North Korea collapse, they do not want to put any more economic pressure on North Korea.


            In any case, the expectation that China will enforce United States foreign policy displays willful ignorance of the contribution of US foreign policy to the current impasse, and ignorance, also, of many of China’s main foreign policy concerns. It was largely the Bush administration’s decision to not negotiate with North Korea, after all, that led to the breakdown of the Agreed Framework and the subsequent North Korean revival of their nuclear reactors.[31] The Chinese have no particular responsibility for that breakdown, but because they are unhappy with North Korean actions, they have made efforts to mediate and to bring the US and the North Koreans together. (There have, for example, been meetings between mid-level US and North Korean diplomats in Beijing.) The Chinese favor negotiation with North Korea, and they will support either bilateral or multilateral formats. However, they are opposed to the US obtaining its goals through the use of force. In their 2000 Defense White Paper, for example, the Chinese came out for “fair, rational, comprehensive and balanced arms control and disarmament” that “should be to reinforce, not weaken or undermine, the security of all countries.” Treaties should, they said, be concluded through a broadly representative multilateral negotiations mechanism.” Significantly, though, countering big-power hegemony (mainly of the US) is also a central tenet of Chinese foreign policy. In the same white paper, thus, the Chinese noted that, “efforts should be made to prevent a few countries directing the target of disarmament at a broad spectrum of developing countries in order to deprive them of their legitimate right and means for self-defense, at the same time taking advantage of their own military technology and superior economic strength to seek absolute security and military superiority.”[32] More recent editions of China’s Defense White Paper do not include this statement on hegemony, but make clear that China remains concerned about US military threats around the world. It seems likely, then, that China will continue to support US-North Korean negotiations, but will continue to oppose the use of sanctions or military force. China will facilitate US-North Korean dialogue to the extent they can, but they are unable, and unwilling, to force the North Koreans to bow to the United States demands without negotiations.


A One-Dimensional Policy


            Unless negotiations begin on this issue there are only two likely outcomes: North Korea becomes a nuclear state, or the US and North Korea go to war. A third possibility that North Korea will not seek to produce nuclear weapons is less likely in my opinion. Although there is no hope at this point for a revival of the Agreed Framework, there is a possibility that multilateral negotiations might be accepted by North Korea and that they would succeed. Such negotiations, however, would have to be based on a broader premise than “North Korea dismantling its nuclear facilities”—perhaps negotiating a peace treaty to end the Korean War, for example. (The Korean War was ended with an armistice, but not a peace treaty.) However, for any negotiation to succeed, the Bush administration will have to show more flexibility than they have up until now.


            The basic problem with the Bush administration’s policy on North Korea—and the reason the Bush administration policy articulates poorly with the policy of other countries around North Korea—is that it is one-dimensional. The Bush administration has labeled North Korea a rogue state, and for that reason wants only to isolate it. Many on the right have argued erroneously for years that North Korea will soon collapse, so they believe any engagement with North Korea prolongs a bad regime. No relations at all with North Korea, then, would suit the Bush administration just fine. Because of North Korea’s possible possession of weapons of mass destruction, however, the Bush administration is being forced to deal with North Korean issues.


North Korea, however, can’t ignore the US. In order to revive their economy the North Koreans need better access to fuel and markets. They need to be able to attract capital. Access to markets and capital, however, is blocked because the US has labeled North Korea a terrorist state, making the North Koreans ineligible for loans from the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank, and preventing them from exporting to the US, the largest economy in the world. The US has also blocked North Korea’s normalization of relations with Japan (though the controversy in Japan about Japanese abducted by the North Koreans also prevented the establishment of relations with North Korea). This isolation, while it blocks North Korean development, does not shake the hold of the North Korean government on their population, however. Isolation, in fact, facilitates the North Korean rulers hold on the population because it makes it easier for them to control access to outside information—information that would inform the population of the failures of North Korean regime. North Korea will not collapse because of isolation from the US, but the Bush administration’s one-dimensional policy actually encourages North Korea to what the US least wants. The North Koreans know that the only way to get the US attention is to threaten to produce weapons of mass destruction.


            All the countries around North Korea, moreover, have multi-dimensional concerns about North Korea that have been mentioned above: worries about border security, disorder and refugee problems; concern about how North Korea will be rebuilt if it collapses; desires for contact, trade, and development. Any solution to the North Korean nuclear problem will have to involve US cooperation with South Korea, China, and Russia. Such cooperation can only be achieved, however, if the Bush administration policy makers make themselves aware of the multiple ways the countries of Northeast Asia relate to North Korea, and develops its own multi-dimensional policy.


            For South Korea, for example, the Bush administration should never forget that while North Korea is a security problem for South Korea, it is never just a security problem. North Koreans are also kin. Perhaps 10% of the South Korean population has close relatives living in North Korea whose welfare they worry about, and whom they don’t want to see killed. South Koreans also view North Korea as a severed part of a single nation that they eventually want to reunify. They don’t want North Korea to be destroyed, or to become so impoverished that it will be impossible to bring it up to South Korean living standards within a couple of decades after reunification. South Koreans also see economic opportunities in North Korea. For most of the world the difficulties of dealing with the North Korean system make investment unattractive, but for South Koreans who already speak the same language as the North Koreans, North Korea beckons as a cheap source of skilled labor and raw materials. For these reasons, the tension between Bush administration policy and Rho Moo Hyun administration policy are not simply questions of who won the last presidential race in South Korea, but derive from the inherent incompatibility of one-dimensional policy with multi-dimensional policy. China, Russia, and Japan, as has been mentioned above, also have multi-dimensional policy concerns. Only if the Bush administration also moves toward a multi-dimensional policy that broadens concerns beyond security and isolation to include diplomatic and economic concerns is there hope for a multilateral negotiated solution.

[1] The NPT formally allows withdrawals from the treaty on three months notice. Nobody has ever made use of this provision of the treaty, however. The DPRK threatened to withdraw in 1994, but then “suspended” their withdrawal upon initiating negotiations with the USA. The successful conclusion of the Agreed Framework (see below) included a provision that the DPRK remain in the NPT and submit to IAEA inspections.

[2] In the IAEA vote, Russia abstained, but China voted yes, signaling their strong displeasure with the actions of the DPRK.

[3]This site is also known by it’s South Korean spelling of YǒngbThis site is also known by it’s South Korean spelling of Yǒngbyǒn, or as Nyǒngbyǒn according to the North Korean pronunciation.

[4] North Korean negotiators did threaten to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” in 1994 before the conclusion of the Agreed Framework. It should be noted that this remark, as threatening as it was, probably referred to conventional artillery, and, in any case, was not directed against the United States, per se.

[5] I call this right “theoretical” because it is inconceivable that the North Korean will any time soon have the economic capacity to create a nuclear program comparable to that of the great powers, and the North Koreans explicitly recognize this.

[6] The United Nations General Assembly, and Security Council, come closest to achieving this authority. But the United Nations lacks a court system, and means of coercion typical of national systems. Some nations routinely ignore United Nations resolutions, while the World Court has been explicitly rejected by the United States.

[7] Note that UN Resolutions calling for the disarmament of Iraq were based on the illegality of Iraq’s using these weapons in invasions of Iran and Kuwait rather than for self-defense. On the other hand, Israel’s refusal to joint the NPT has been tolerated because of the assumption that Israel’s probable possession of nuclear weapons is for purposes of self-defense, only.

[8] Their fighter pilots, for example, are said to be able to train only 13 hours a year!

[9] When Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage suggested to Congress that bilateral negotiations might take place within a multilateral setting, President Bush made it publicly known that he was angry about it. (See Nicholas Kristoff’s column of February 28, 2003 in the New York Times).

[10] Although it is possible, theoretically, that Rumsfeld and Powell are playing of deliberate game of “good cop, bad cop” to intimidate and encourage the North Koreans to come to the bargaining table. However, the North Koreans are not going to make a deal unless they know exactly what that deal is, and their self conception as a strong, autonomous country makes them less likely than many other countries to “cave” to threats.

[11] It may be that the unforeseen difficulties of the war in Iraq will temper the remarks of those who have been thoughtless talking about the use of force on the Korean peninsula, however.

[12] The casualty estimates of a war in Korea come from scenarios worked on at this time.

[13] Since most of South Korea’s nuclear technology originates in the US, this can be viewed as a modified form of US technology.

[14] Much of the improvement of North-South relations was due to President Kim Dae Jung’s sunshine policy and visit to P’yǒngyang in 2000, but this was only possible because of the prior existence of the Agreed Framework.

[15] In fact, given the leaks about the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review that North Korea could be targeting for preemptive nuclear strike, one could argue that the Bush administration did violate the Agreed Framework in early 2002.

[16] Koreans less sympathetic to President Kim Dae Jung’s “sunshine policy”, on the other hand, blamed Kim for being too anxious too meet President Bush without adequate preparation.

[17] Paul Richter, “US Works Up Plan for Using Nuclear Arms,” Los Angeles Times March 9, 2002, page A1.

[18] Hans Kristensen, “Preemptive Posturing, “ Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Vol. 58, No. 5 (Sept/Oct 2002).

[19] National Security Review of the United States of America, page 6.

[20] Ibid pp 14-15.

[21] See, for example, Nicholas Kristoff’s New York Times column of March 10, 2003.

[22] Nicholas Kristoff, “Secret, Scary Plans” New York Times February 8, 2003.

[23] Chosŏn Ilbo 2002.10.25.2002

[24] See, for example, Andrew Demaria, “North Korea: The Cost of Conflict.” Tuesday, January 21st, 2003.

[25] Interview with Robert Thomson and Richard Lloyd Parry, March 5, 2003, The Times.

[26] “The Asian Front” New York Times, March 10, 2003

[27] These allegations of Safire about South Korea are approximations at best. South Korea has advocated US bilateral negotiation with North Korea on the nuclear issue, but this is hardly equivalent to “demanding the U. S. accede to the North’s demands”. The “traffic accident” Safire refers to is the tank than ran over two South Korean middle school girls, the driver and lookout of which were acquitted of negligence in a military court martial. The South Korean press, of course, was not unanimous in their reaction to the incident.

[28] The Wall Street Journal reported on April 4, 2003 that the Bush administration is preparing unilateral sanctions against North Korea to punish them for missile exports. They are said to be aware that, since the United States has little trade with North Korea anyway, the sanctions will only have symbolic value.

[29] The special economic zone along the Chinese border ran into snags when the North Koreans appointed the Chinese Yang Bin to run the zone, only to find that China objected to his appointment, and arrested him.

[30] In fact, China’s wariness of taking responsibility for Korea’s foreign relations dates back even to the 19th century when Korea was still a tributary state. China feared having to pay indemnities if Korea fought with Western powers trying to open it up.

[31] I am not arguing here that North Korea’s behavior is the fault of the US, but only that clumsy US diplomacy in reacting to intelligence about an enriched uranium program let a manageable situation spiral out of control.

[32] China’s National Defense in 2000. Information Office of the State Council, People’s Republic of China, October 16, 2000.