The Deterioration of the Inter-Korean Relationship
Since President Lee Myung-bak took office, virtually all official channels of inter-Korean dialogue have been shut down, and it seems that the strained relations between Seoul and Pyongyang are likely to continue for an indefinite period of time. If confrontation replaces dialogue, it would further ratchet up the tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Only a few days after the Seoul government welcomed Washington's de-listing of North Korea as a terrorist sponsor, Pyongyang issued a renewed warning that it may cut off all ties with the South, unless Seoul withdraws its "hostile policy" toward the North. The warning appeared in an article published by Rodong Shingmun, the DPRK's Workers' Party organ, on October 16. The article was full of slander and threats against the Lee administration.
The latest warning came two weeks after a working level inter-Korean military meeting at Panmunjom, in which the North protested balloon drops of propaganda leaflets by a civic group of the South. The North also threatened that if the leaflet dissemination did not halt, it might deny South Korean civilians' access to the Gaesung Industrial Complex and the Mt. Geumgang resort.
During the days of progressive government in Seoul, there were no leaflet operations targeting the other side of the DMZ, and both sides suspended loud speaker broadcasts designed to demoralize their opponents over the fence. On a higher level, the two Korean authorities agreed to end mutual slander as a necessary step for rapprochement.
According to South Korean press, the leaflets informed North Koreans among other things of the stories regarding the North Korean leader's troubled health and a doomsday forecast of the Kim Jong-il regime. The North Koreans have always vehemently reacted to any criticism or negative statement of Kim Jong-il. I learned that "no negative mention of the great general" was one of the preliminary preconditions for the first inter-Korean summit.
The Rodong Shinmun's article said: "Tarnishing our supreme dignity is tantamount to an outright challenge to our system and a declaration of war." Although this part was not mentioned in the KCNA's shortened English version, "our supreme dignity" referred to Kim Jong-il himself.
There have been plenty of sources of displeasure to North Korea. Recent talk in the South of Kim Jong-il's ill health and of a "sudden collapse" of his system, on top of the Lee administration's tougher policy on the North, is believed to have been the direct cause of Pyongyang's decision to shun the South and deal only with the United States. The Seoul government's reported consideration of full participation in the U.S. led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and building a missile defense shield against the North, as well as allowing the talk of a joint U.S.-ROK contingency plan to cope with "a sudden change" in the North upgrading Concept Plan 5029 to Operational Plan 5029 were all touching the nerve of the DPRK leadership.
To Seoul's dismay, Pyongyang's harsh rhetoric comes at a time when the DPRK's relations with the United States seem to be moving forward - by the DPRK's resumption of nuclear disablement and the likelihood of holding another round of the six-party talks, as well as the growing prospect of Barack Obama becoming the U.S. President, who said he would meet with Kim Jong-il.
The Ministry of Unification immediately tried to play down the significance of Rodong Shinmun's provocative threat based on the plausible assumption that the party organ does not necessarily represent the official position of the DPRK government and the North Korean leadership. It is true that the Rodong Shinmun's priority is to keep the people in unity for loyalty to their leader and system, and it also serves as a tool to try out some policy ideas yet to be approved by the leadership.
But it should be heeded that the same paper had published its first harsh attack on the South in April this year, accusing the Lee administration of pursuing a "confrontation policy from traitorous anti-DPRK sycophancy."
From all available indications, it is clear that the North does not want to talk to the South, unless the conservative South Korean government accepts the two summit agreements of June 15, 2000 and October 4, 2007. The Rodong article alleged that "the negation" of the two agreements "means denying the ideology and system in the DPRK and seeking confrontation."
In retrospect, the South should have been more careful in its own rhetoric if it wanted to address the issues of concern through dialogue. After President Lee was elected, the North Koreans had tried to work with his new conservative government, by seeking a meeting with Lee's people to discuss continued inter-Korean cooperation. They even offered to send a senior DPRK representative to attend President Lee's inauguration ceremony. The North Korean offers were rejected.
Instead, Lee sent his envoys to Washington, Tokyo, Beijing and Russia to provide them with a preview of what his foreign policy would be like. He sent nobody to Pyongyang. Lee made it no secret that he would be tougher on the North than his two predecessors.
There are a number of instances that Seoul could have avoided if it wanted to prevent the precipitation of decline in its relations with Pyongyang. The first sign of trouble began with the unification minister's statement in March that the new government would not expand the Gaeseong Industrial Complex at the absence of progress in denuclearization, which led to the immediate expulsion of South Korean officials from the complex.
On the same day, President Lee said his government would not engage the North against the will of the South Korean people, sending a message to Pyongyang that the people in the South did not want him to continue an engagement policy.
The ROK JCS chairman's March statement that the South Korean military should first locate the sites of North Korean nuclear weapons and "strike them before the enemy uses them," caused the North Korean military's demand for apology from Seoul the next day, implicitly threatening to suspend inter-Korean dialogue and contacts.
Neither joint U.S.-ROK pressure on the North Korean human rights issue nor Seoul's attempt to force an investigation of the incident of a South Korean woman shot to death at Mt. Geumgang through international pressure at the ASEAN Regional Form in July and Lee's meeting with Bush in August - was helpful to resumption of inter-Korean dialogue.
Since President Lee took office, Pyongyang has been getting mixed signals from Seoul between engagement and confrontation, as it did from the Bush administration during its first six years - between negotiation and regime change. Lee has said more than once that he would be interested in meeting with Kim Jong-il for "genuine dialogue."
Even during his visit to Washington last April, Lee told The Washington Post that he would propose an exchange of liaison offices between Seoul and Pyongyang as a permanent dialogue channel. On the same visit he told CNN that he wants to cooperate with Kim Jong-il - who Lee said could make a big decision -- for "real peace and prosperity." Pyongyang dismissed Lee's proposal.
A day earlier he told a Korean American youth group in New York that there would be no talks with the North because it was waging a campaign of insults and bellicose statements against the South.
At the joint press availability with President Bush at Camp David, President Lee returned to his hard line stance on the nuclear issue, but said that he would still be willing to meet with the North Korean leader if such a meeting would "yield substantial and real results." This might have been interpreted by Pyongyang as another way of saying that there is no real need for another summit.
Lee and Bush in the US in April 2008
In July, Lee told the National Assembly that with his priority on denuclearization, he would take "the road of coexistence and co-prosperity" that will benefit both the North and the South. At the beginning of the joint annual U.S.-ROK military exercise in August he said, "unification may come all of sudden," an allusion to a sudden opportunity for absorption.
Then, during Bush's visit to Seoul in August, Lee said that denuclearization should move in parallel with substantive cooperation between the two Koreas. Seoul still sticks to the policy of "denuclearization and opening 3000," - which has long been rejected by the North. But the North should heed the shifting of that policy from "denuclearization first" to flexible response to progress in denuclearization.
Nobody can predict the timing or the likelihood of a demise of North Korea. That's why it is important to resume dialogue and avoid a costly consequence - political, economic and military - from confrontation.
Tong Kim is Research Professor with the Ilmin Institute of International Relations at Korea University and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He retired from the U.S. Department of State as the senior Korean language interpreter in June 2005 after 27 years of service, during which he interpreted for four American presidents ? Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and W. Bush. He also interpreted for Secretary of State AlbrightĄ¯s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in 2000.
This article appeared at the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Network Policy Forum Online on November 4, 2008. It is posted at Japan Focus on November 5, 2008.
Review of United States Policy Toward North Korea:
Findings and Recommendations Unclassified Report
by Dr. William J. Perry, U.S. North Korea Policy Coordinator and
Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State
Washington, DC, October 12, 1999
A North Korea policy review team, led by Dr. William J. Perry and working with an
interagency group headed by the Counselor of the Department of State Ambassador Wendy
R. Sherman, was tasked in November 1998 by President Clinton and his national security
advisors to conduct an extensive review of U.S. policy toward the DPRK. This review of
U.S. policy lasted approximately eight months, and was supported by a number of senior
officials from the U.S. government and by Dr. Ashton B. Carter of Harvard University. The
policy review team was also very fortunate to have received regular and extensive guidance
from the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Advisor and
senior policy advisors.
Throughout the review the team consulted with experts, both in and out of the U.S.
government. Dr. Perry made a special point to travel to the Capitol to give regular status
reports to Members of Congress on the progress of this review, and he benefited from
comments received from Members on concepts being developed by the North Korea policy
review team. The team also exchanged views with officials from many countries with
interests in Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula, including our allies, the ROK and
Japan. The team also met with prominent members of the humanitarian aid community and
received a wealth of written material, solicited and unsolicited. Members of the policy review
team met with many other individuals and organizations as well. In addition, the team
traveled to North Korea this past May, led by Dr. Perry as President Clinton's Special
Envoy, to obtain a first-hand understanding of the views of the DPRK Government.
The findings and recommendations of the North Korea Policy Review set forth below reflect
the consensus that emerged from the team's countless hours of work and study.
The Need for a Fundamental Review of U.S. Policy
The policy review team determined that a fundamental review of U.S. policy was indeed
needed, since much has changed in the security situation on the Korean Peninsula since the
Most important -- and the focus of this North Korea policy review -- are developments in
the DPRK's nuclear and long-range missile activities.
The Agreed Framework of 1994 succeeded in verifiably freezing North Korean plutonium
production at Yongbyon -- it stopped plutonium production at that facility so that North
Korea currently has at most a small amount of fissile material it may have secreted away
from operations prior to 1994; without the Agreed Framework, North Korea could have
produced enough additional plutonium by now for a significant number of nuclear weapons.
Yet, despite the critical achievement of a verified freeze on plutonium production at
Yongbyon under the Agreed Framework, the policy review team has serious concerns about
possible continuing nuclear weapons-related work in the DPRK. Some of these concerns have
been addressed through our access and visit to Kumchang-ni.
The years since 1994 have also witnessed development, testing, deployment, and export by
the DPRK of ballistic missiles of increasing range, including those potentially capable of
reaching the territory of the United States.
There have been other significant changes as well. Since the negotiations over the Agreed
Framework began in the summer of 1994, formal leadership of the DPRK has passed from
President Kim Il Sung to his son, General Kim Jong Il, and General Kim has gradually
assumed supreme authority in title as well as fact. North Korea is thus governed by a
different leadership from that with which we embarked on the Agreed Framework. During
this same period, the DPRK economy has deteriorated significantly, with industrial and food
production sinking to a fraction of their 1994 levels. The result is a humanitarian tragedy
which, while not the focus of the review, both compels the sympathy of the American people
and doubtless affects some of the actions of the North Korean regime.
An unrelated change has come to the government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) with the
Presidency of Kim Dae Jung. President Kim has embarked upon a policy of engagement with
the North. As a leader of great international authority, as our ally, and as the host to 37,000
American troops, the views and insights of President Kim are central to accomplishing U.S.
security objectives on the Korean Peninsula. No U.S. policy can succeed unless it is
coordinated with the ROK's policy. Today's ROK policy of engagement creates conditions
and opportunities for U.S. policy very different from those in 1994.
Another close U.S. ally in the region, Japan, has become more concerned about North Korea
in recent years. This concern was heightened by the launch, in August 1998, of a Taepo
Dong missile over Japanese territory. Although the Diet has passed funding for the Light
Water Reactor project being undertaken by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development
Organization (KEDO) pursuant to the Agreed Framework, and the government wants to
preserve the Agreed Framework, a second missile launch is likely to have a serious impact
on domestic political support for the Agreed Framework and have wider ramifications within
Japan about its security policy.
Finally, while the U.S. relationship with China sometimes reflects different perspectives on
security policy in the region, the policy review team learned through extensive dialogue
between the U.S. and the PRC, including President Clinton's meetings with President Jiang
Zemin, that China understands many of the U.S. concerns about the deleterious effects that
North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile activities could have for regional and global
All these factors combine to create a profoundly different landscape than existed in 1994.
The review team concurred strongly with President Clinton's judgment that these changed
circumstances required a comprehensive review such as the one that the President and his
team of national security advisors asked the team to conduct. The policy review team also
recognized the concerns of Members of Congress that a clear path be charted for dealing
with North Korea, and that there be closer cooperation between the executive and legislative
branches on this issue of great importance to our security. The review team shared these
concerns and has tried hard to be responsive to them.
Assessment of the Security Situation on the Korean Peninsula
In the course of the review, the policy team conferred with U.S. military leaders and allies,
and concluded that, as in 1994, U.S. forces and alliances in the region are strong and ready.
Indeed, since 1994, the U.S. has strengthened both its own forces and its plans and
procedures for combining forces with allies. We are confident that allied forces could and
would successfully defend ROK territory. We believe the DPRK's military leaders know this
and thus are deterred from launching an attack.
However, in sharp contrast to the Desert Storm campaign in Kuwait and Iraq, war on the
Korean Peninsula would take place in densely populated areas. Considering the million-man
DPRK army arrayed near the DMZ, the intensity of combat in another war on the Peninsula
would be unparalleled in U.S. experience since the Korean War of 1950-53. It is likely that
hundreds of thousands of persons -- U.S., ROK, and DPRK -- military and civilian --
would perish, and millions of refugees would be created. While the U.S. and ROK of course
have no intention of provoking war, there are those in the DPRK who believe the opposite is
true. But even they must know that the prospect of such a destructive war is a powerful
deterrent to precipitous U.S. or allied action.
Under present circumstances, therefore, deterrence of war on the Korean Peninsula is stable
on both sides, in military terms. While always subject to miscalculation by the isolated North
Korean government, there is no military calculus that would suggest to the North Koreans
anything but catastrophe from armed conflict. This relative stability, if it is not disturbed,
can provide the time and conditions for all sides to pursue a permanent peace on the
Peninsula, ending at last the Korean War and perhaps ultimately leading to the peaceful
reunification of the Korean people. This is the lasting goal of U.S. policy.
However, acquisition by the DPRK of nuclear weapons or long-range missiles, and especially
the combination of the two (a nuclear weapons device mounted on a long-range missile),
could undermine this relative stability. Such weapons in the hands of the DPRK military
might weaken deterrence as well as increase the damage if deterrence failed. Their effect
would, therefore, be to undermine the conditions for pursuing a relaxation of tensions,
improved relations, and lasting peace. Acquisition of such weapons by North Korea could
also spark an arms race in the region and would surely do grave damage to the global
nonproliferation regimes covering nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. A continuation of
the DPRK's pattern of selling its missiles for hard currency could also spread destabilizing
effects to other regions, such as the Middle East.
The review team, therefore, concluded that the urgent focus of U.S. policy toward the DPRK
must be to end its nuclear weapons and long-range missile-related activities. This focus
does not signal a narrow preoccupation with nonproliferation over other dimensions of the
problem of security on the Korean Peninsula, but rather reflects the fact that control of
weapons of mass destruction is essential to the pursuit of a wider form of security so badly
needed in that region.
As the United States faces the task of ending these weapons activities, any U.S. policy
toward North Korea must be formulated within three constraining facts:
First, while logic would suggest that the DPRK's evident problems would ultimately lead its
regime to change, there is no evidence that change is imminent. United States policy must,
therefore, deal with the North Korean government as it is, not as we might wish it to be.
Second, the risk of a destructive war to the 37,000 American service personnel in Korea and
the many more that would reinforce them, to the inhabitants of the Korean Peninsula both
South and North, and to U.S. allies and friends in the region dictate that the United States
pursue its objectives with prudence and patience.
Third, while the Agreed Framework has critics in the United States, the ROK, and Japan --
and indeed in the DPRK -- the framework has verifiably frozen plutonium production at
Yongbyon. It also served as the basis for successful discussions we had with the North
earlier this year on an underground site at Kumchang-ni -- one that the U.S. feared might
have been designed as a substitute plutonium production facility. Unfreezing Yongbyon
remains the North's quickest and surest path to nuclear weapons. U.S. security objectives
may therefore require the U.S. to supplement the Agreed Framework, but we must not
undermine or supplant it.
Perspectives of Countries in the Region
The policy review team consulted extensively with people outside of the Administration to
better understand the perspectives of countries in the region. These perspectives are
Republic of Korea.
The ROK's interests are not identical to those of the U.S., but they overlap in significant
ways. While the ROK is not a global power like the United States and, therefore, is less
active in promoting nonproliferation worldwide, the ROK recognizes that nuclear weapons in
the DPRK would destabilize deterrence on the Peninsula. And while South Koreans have
long lived within range of North Korean SCUD ballistic missiles, they recognize that North
Korea's new, longer-range ballistic missiles present a new type of threat to the United
States and Japan. The ROK thus shares U.S. goals with respect to DPRK nuclear weapons
and ballistic missiles. The South also has concerns, such as the reunion of families separated
by the Korean War and implementation of the North-South Basic Agreement (including
reactivation of North-South Joint Committees). The U.S. strongly supports these concerns.
President Kim Dae Jung's North Korea policy, known as the "engagement" policy,
marked a fundamental shift toward the North. Under the Kim formulation, the ROK has
forsworn any intent to undermine or absorb the North and has pursued increased official and
unofficial North-South contact. The ROK supports the Agreed Framework and the ROK's
role in KEDO, but the ROK National Assembly, like our Congress, is carefully scrutinizing
DPRK behavior as it considers funding for KEDO.
Like the ROK, Japan's interests are not identical to those of the U.S., but they overlap
strongly. The DPRK's August 1998 Taepo Dong missile launch over the Japanese islands
abruptly increased the already high priority Japan attaches to the North Korea issue. The
Japanese regard DPRK missile activities as a direct threat. In bilateral talks with Japan, the
DPRK representatives exacerbate historic animosities by repeatedly referring to Japan's
occupation of Korea earlier in this century. For these reasons, support for Japan's role in
KEDO is at risk in the Diet. The government's ability to sustain the Agreed Framework in
the face of further DPRK missile launches is not assured, even though a collapse of the
Agreed Framework could lead to nuclear warheads on DPRK missiles, dramatically increasing
the threat they pose. Japan also has deep-seated concerns, such as the fate of missing
persons suspected of being abducted by the DPRK. The U.S. strongly supports these
China has a strong interest in peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and is aware of
the implications of increased tension on the peninsula. China also realizes that DPRK ballistic
missiles are an important impetus to U.S. national missile defense and theater missile
defenses, neither of which is desired by China. Finally, China realizes that DPRK nuclear
weapons could provoke an arms race in the region and undermine the nonproliferation regime
which Beijing, as a nuclear power, has an interest in preserving. For all these reasons the
PRC concerns with North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs are in
many ways comparable to U.S. concerns. While China will not coordinate its policies with
the U.S., ROK, and Japan, it is in China's interest to use its own channels of communication
to discourage the DPRK from pursuing these programs.
Based on extensive consultation with the intelligence community and experts around the
world, a review of recent DPRK conduct, and our discussions with North Korean leaders, the
policy review team formed some views of this enigmatic country. But in many ways the
unknowns continue to outweigh the knowns. Therefore, we want to emphasize here that no
U.S. policy should be based solely on conjectures about the perceptions and future behavior
of the DPRK.
Wrapped in an overriding sense of vulnerability, the DPRK regime has promoted an intense
devotion to self-sufficiency, sovereignty, and self-defense as the touchstones for all rhetoric
and policy. The DPRK views efforts by outsiders to promote democratic and market reforms
in its country as an attempt to undermine the regime. It strongly controls foreign influence
and contact, even when they offer relief from the regime's severe economic problems. The
DPRK appears to value improved relations with US, especially including relief from the
extensive economic sanctions the U.S. has long imposed.
The policy review team made the following key findings, which have formed the basis for
1. DPRK acquisition of nuclear weapons and continued development, testing, deployment, and
export of long-range missiles would undermine the relative stability of deterrence on the
Korean Peninsula, a precondition for ending the Cold War and pursuing a lasting peace in
the longer run. These activities by the DPRK also have serious regional and global
consequences adverse to vital U.S. interests. The United States must, therefore, have as its
objective ending these activities.
2. The United States and its allies would swiftly and surely win a second war on the
Korean Peninsula, but the destruction of life and property would far surpass anything in
recent American experience. The U.S. must pursue its objectives with respect to nuclear
weapons and ballistic missiles in the DPRK without taking actions that would weaken
deterrence or increase the probability of DPRK miscalculation.
3. If stability can be preserved through the cooperative ending of DPRK nuclear weapons-
and long-range missile-related activities, the U.S. should be prepared to establish more
normal diplomatic relations with the DPRK and join in the ROK's policy of engagement and
4. Unfreezing Yongbyon is North Korea's quickest and surest path to acquisition of nuclear
weapons. The Agreed Framework, therefore, should be preserved and implemented by the
United States and its allies. With the Agreed Framework, the DPRK's ability to produce
plutonium at Yongbyon is verifiably frozen. Without the Agreed Framework, however, it is
estimated that the North could reprocess enough plutonium to produce a significant number
of nuclear weapons per year. The Agreed Framework's limitations, such as the fact that it
does not verifiably freeze all nuclear weapons-related activities and does not cover ballistic
missiles, are best addressed by supplementing rather than replacing the Agreed Framework.
5. No U.S. policy toward the DPRK will succeed if the ROK and Japan do not actively
support it and cooperate in its implementation. Securing such trilateral coordination should be
possible, since the interests of the three parties, while not identical, overlap in significant and
6. Considering the risks inherent in the situation and the isolation, suspicion, and negotiating
style of the DPRK, a successful U.S. policy will require steadiness and persistence even in
the face of provocations. The approach adopted now must be sustained into the future,
beyond the term of this Administration. It is, therefore, essential that the policy and its
ongoing implementation have the broadest possible support and the continuing involvement of
Alternative Policies Considered and Rejected
In the course of the review, the policy team received a great deal of valuable advice,
including a variety of proposals for alternative strategies with respect to the security
problems presented by the DPRK. The principal alternatives considered by the review team,
and the team's reasons for rejecting them in favor of the recommended approach, are set
A number of policy experts outside the Administration counseled continuation of the approach
the U.S. had taken to the DPRK over the past decade: strong deterrence through ready
forces and solid alliances and limited engagement with the DPRK beyond existing
negotiations on missiles, POW/MIA, and implementation of the nuclear-related provisions of
the Agreed Framework. These experts counseled that with the Agreed Framework being
verifiably implemented at Yongbyon, North Korea could be kept years away from obtaining
additional fissile material for nuclear weapons. Without nuclear weapons, the DPRK's missile
program could safely be addressed within the existing (albeit to date inconclusive) bilateral
missile talks. Thus, as this argument ran, core U.S. security objectives were being pursued
on a timetable appropriate to the development of the threat, and no change in U.S. policy
While there are advantages to continuing the status quo -- since to this point it has served
U.S. security interests -- the policy review team rejected the status quo. It was rejected not
because it has been unacceptable from the point of view of U.S. security interests, but rather
because the policy team feared it was not sustainable. Aside from a failure to address U.S.
concerns directly, it is easy to imagine circumstances that would bring the status quo rapidly
to a crisis. For example, a DPRK long-range missile launch, whether or not in the form of
an attempt to place a satellite in orbit, would have an impact on political support for the
Agreed Framework in the United States, Japan, and even in the ROK. In this circumstance,
the DPRK could suspend its own compliance with the Agreed Framework, unfreezing
Yongbyon and plunging the Peninsula into a nuclear crisis like that in 1994. Such a scenario
illustrates the instability of the status quo. Thus, the U.S. may not be able to maintain the
status quo, even if we wanted to.
Undermining the DPRK.
Others recommend a policy of undermining the DPRK, seeking to hasten the demise of the
regime of Kim Jong Il. The policy review team likewise studied this possibility carefully and,
in the end, rejected it for several reasons. Given the strict controls on its society imposed by
the North Korean regime and the apparent absence of any organized internal resistance to
the regime, such a strategy would at best require a long time to realize, even assuming it
could succeed. The timescale of this strategy is, therefore, inconsistent with the timescale on
which the DPRK could proceed with nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. In
addition, such a policy would risk destructive war and would not win the support of U.S.
allies in the region upon whom success in deterring such a war would depend. Finally, a
policy of pressure might harm the people of North Korea more than its government.
Reforming the DPRK.
Many other analysts suggest that the United States should promote the accelerated political
and economic reform of the DPRK along the lines of established international practice,
hastening the advent of democracy and market reform that will better the lot of the North's
people and provide the basis for the DPRK's integration into the international community in
a peaceful fashion. However much we might wish such an outcome, success of the policy
clearly would require DPRK cooperation. But, the policy team believed that the North Korean
regime would strongly resist such reform, viewing it as indistinguishable from a policy of
undermining. A policy of reforming, like a policy of undermining, would also take time --
more time than it would take the DPRK to proceed with its nuclear weapons and ballistic
In its current circumstance of industrial and agricultural decline, the DPRK has on occasion
indicated a willingness to "trade" addressing U.S. concerns about its nuclear
weapons activities and ballistic missile exports for hard currency. For example, the DPRK
offered to cease its missile exports if the U.S. agreed to compensate it for the foregone
earnings from missile exports. The policy review team firmly believed that such a policy of
trading material compensation for security would only encourage the DPRK to further
blackmail, and would encourage proliferators worldwide to engage in similar blackmail. Such
a strategy would not, and should not, be supported by the Congress, which controls the U.S.
government's purse strings.
A Comprehensive and Integrated Approach: A Two-Path Strategy
A better alternative, and the one the review has recommended, is a two-path strategy
focused on our priority concerns over the DPRK's nuclear weapons- and missile-related
activities. We have devised this strategy in close consultation with the governments of the
ROK and Japan, and it has their full support. Indeed, it is a joint strategy in which all three
of our countries play coordinated and mutually reinforcing roles in pursuit of the same
objectives. Both paths aim to protect our key security interests; the first path is clearly
preferable for the United States and its allies and, we firmly believe, for the DPRK.
The first path involves a new, comprehensive and integrated approach to our negotiations
with the DPRK. We would seek complete and verifiable assurances that the DPRK does not
have a nuclear weapons program. We would also seek the complete and verifiable cessation
of testing, production and deployment of missiles exceeding the parameters of the Missile
Technology Control Regime, and the complete cessation of export sales of such missiles and
the equipment and technology associated with them. By negotiating the complete cessation of
the DPRK's destabilizing nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs, this path would
lead to a stable security situation on the Korean Peninsula, creating the conditions for a
more durable and lasting peace in the long run and ending the Cold War in East Asia.
On this path the United States and its allies would, in a step-by-step and reciprocal fashion,
move to reduce pressures on the DPRK that it perceives as threatening. The reduction of
perceived threat would in turn give the DPRK regime the confidence that it could coexist
peacefully with us and its neighbors and pursue its own economic and social development.
If the DPRK moved to eliminate its nuclear and long-range missile threats, the United States
would normalize relations with the DPRK, relax sanctions that have long constrained trade
with the DPRK and take other positive steps that would provide opportunities for the DPRK.
If the DPRK were prepared to move down this path, the ROK and Japan have indicated that
they would also be prepared, in coordinated but parallel tracks, to improve relations with the
It is important that all sides make contributions to creating an environment conducive to
success in such far-ranging talks. The most important step by the DPRK is to give
assurances that it will refrain from further test firings of long-range missiles as we
undertake negotiations on the first path. In the context of the DPRK suspending such tests,
the review team recommended that the United States ease, in a reversible manner,
Presidentially-mandated trade embargo measures against the DPRK. The ROK and Japan
have also indicated a willingness to take positive steps in these circumstances.
When the review team, led by Dr. Perry as a Presidential Envoy, visited Pyongyang in May,
the team had discussions with DPRK officials and listened to their views. We also discussed
these initial steps that would create a favorable environment for conducting comprehensive
and integrated negotiations. Based on talks between with Ambassador Charles Kartman and
DPRK Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan in early September, the U.S. understood and
expected that the DPRK would suspend long-range missile testing -- to include both No
Dong and Taepo Dong missiles -- for as long as U.S.-DPRK discussions to improve
relations continued. The DPRK subsequently announced a unilateral suspension of such tests
while talks between the two countries continued. Accordingly, the Administration has taken
steps to ease sanctions. This fall a senior DPRK official will likely visit Washington to
reciprocate the Perry visit and continue discussions on improving relations. Both sides have
taken a bold and meaningful step along the first path. While it is only an initial step, and
both sides can easily reverse this first step, we are hopeful that it begins to take us down
the long but important path to reducing threat on the Korean Peninsula.
While the first path devised by the review holds great promise for U.S. security and for
stability in East Asia, and while the initial steps taken in recent weeks give us great hope,
the first path depends on the willingness of the DPRK to traverse it with us. The review
team is hopeful it will agree to do so, but on the basis of discussions to date we cannot be
sure the DPRK will. Prudence therefore dictated that we devise a second path, once again in
consultation with our allies and with their full support. On the second path, we would need
to act to contain the threat that we have been unable to eliminate through negotiation. By
incorporating two paths, the strategy devised in the review avoids any dependence on
conjectures regarding DPRK intentions or behavior and neither seeks, nor depends upon for
its success, a transformation of the DPRK's internal system.
If North Korea rejects the first path, it will not be possible for the United States to pursue a
new relationship with the DPRK. In that case, the United States and its allies would have to
take other steps to assure their security and contain the threat. The U.S. and allied steps
should seek to keep the Agreed Framework intact and avoid, if possible, direct conflict. But
they would also have to take firm but measured steps to persuade the DPRK that it should
return to the first path and avoid destabilizing the security situation in the region.
Our recommended strategy does not immediately address a number of issues outside the
scope of direct U.S.-DPRK negotiations, such as ROK family reunification, implementation of
the North-South Basic Agreement (including reactivation of North-South Joint Committees)
and Japanese kidnapping cases, as well as other key issues of concern, including drug
trafficking. However, the policy review team believed that all of these issues should be, and
would be, seriously addressed as relations between the DPRK and the U.S. improve.
Similarly, the review team believed the issue of chemical and biological weapons is best
addressed multilaterally. Many recommendations have also been made with respect to Korean
unification; but, ultimately, the question of unification is something for the Korean people to
decide. Finally, the policy review team strongly believed that the U.S. must not withdraw
any of its forces from Korea -- a withdrawal would not contribute to peace and stability,
but rather undermine the strong deterrence currently in place.
Advantages of the Proposed Strategy
The proposed strategy has the following advantages:
1. Has the full support of our allies. No U.S. policy can be successful if it does not enjoy
the support of our allies in the region. The overall approach builds upon the South's policy
of engagement with North Korea, as the ROK leadership suggested to Dr. Perry directly and
to the President. It also puts the U.S. effort to end the DPRK missile program on the same
footing with U.S. efforts to end its nuclear weapons program, as the Government of Japan
2. Draws on U.S. negotiating strengths. Pursuant to the recommended approach, the United
States will be offering the DPRK a comprehensive relaxation of political and economic
pressures which the DPRK perceives as threatening to it and which are applied, in its view,
principally by the United States. This approach complements the positive steps the ROK and
Japan are prepared to take. On the other hand, the United States will not offer the DPRK
tangible "rewards" for appropriate security behavior; doing so would both
transgress principles that the United States values and open us up to further blackmail.
3. Leaves stable deterrence of war unchanged. No changes are recommended in our strong
deterrent posture on the Korean Peninsula, and the U.S. should not put its force posture on
the negotiating table. Deterrence is strong in both directions on the Korean Peninsula today.
It is the North's nuclear weapons- and long-range missile-related activities that threaten
stability. Likewise, the approach recommended by the review will not constrain U.S. Theater
Missile Defense programs or the opportunities of the ROK and Japan to share in these
programs; indeed, we explicitly recommended that no such linkage should be made.
4. Builds on the Agreed Framework. The approach recommended seeks more than the
Agreed Framework provides. Specifically, under the recommended approach the U.S. will seek
a total and verifiable end to all nuclear weapons-related activities in the DPRK, and the U.S.
will be addressing the DPRK's long-range missile programs, which are not covered by the
Agreed Framework. In addition, the U.S. will seek to traverse the broader path to peaceful
relations foreseen by both the U.S. and the DPRK in the Agreed Framework, and
incorporated in its text.
5. Aligns U.S. and allied near-term objectives with respect to the DPRK's nuclear and
missile activities with our long-term objectives for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The recommended approach focuses on the near-term dangers to stability posed by the
DPRK's nuclear weapons- and missile-related activities, but it aims to create the conditions
for lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula in the longer run, as the U.S. seeks through the
Four Party Talks. As noted above, the recommended approach also seeks to realize the
long-term objectives of the Agreed Framework, which are to move beyond cooperation in the
nuclear field to broader, more normal U.S.-DPRK relations.
6. Does not depend on specific North Korean behavior or intent. The proposed strategy is
flexible and avoids any dependence on conjectures or assumptions regarding DPRK intentions
or behavior -- benign or provocative. Again, it neither seeks, nor depends upon, either such
intentions or a transformation of the DPRK's internal system for success. Appropriate
contingencies are built into the recommended framework.
Key Policy Recommendations
In the context of the recommendations above, the review team offered the following five key
1. Adopt a comprehensive and integrated approach to the DPRK's nuclear weapons- and
ballistic missile-related programs, as recommended by the review team and supported by our
allies in the region. Specifically, initiate negotiations with the DPRK based on the concept of
mutually reducing threat; if the DPRK is not receptive, we will need to take appropriate
measures to protect our security and those of our allies.
2. Create a strengthened mechanism within the U.S. Government for carrying out North
Korea policy. Operating under the direction of the Principals Committee and Deputies
Committee, a small, senior-level interagency North Korea working group should be
maintained, chaired by a senior official of ambassadorial rank, located in the Department of
State, to coordinate policy with respect to North Korea.
3. Continue the new mechanism established last March to ensure close coordination with the
ROK and Japan. The Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG) -- established
during this policy review and consisting of senior officials of the three governments -- is
charged with managing policy toward the DPRK. This group should meet regularly to
coordinate negotiating strategy and overall policy toward the DPRK and to prepare frequent
consultations on this issue between the President and the ROK President and Japanese Prime
Minister. The U.S. delegation should be headed by the senior official coordinating North
4. Take steps to create a sustainable, bipartisan, long-term outlook toward the problem of
North Korea. The President should explore with the majority and minority leaders of both
houses of Congress ways for the Hill, on a bipartisan basis, to consult on this and future
Administrations' policy toward the DPRK. Just as no policy toward the DPRK can succeed
unless it is a combined strategy of the United States and its allies, the policy review team
believes no strategy can be sustained over time without the input and support of Congress.
5. Approve a plan of action prepared for dealing with the contingency of DPRK provocations
in the near term, including the launch of a long-range missile. The policy review team notes
that its proposed responses to negative DPRK actions could have profound consequences for
the Peninsula, the U.S. and our allies. These responses should make it clear to the DPRK
that provocative actions carry a heavy penalty. Unless the DPRK's acts transgress provisions
of the Agreed Framework, however, U.S. and allied actions should not themselves undermine
the Agreed Framework. To do so would put the U.S. in the position of violating the Agreed
Framework, opening the path for the DPRK to unfreeze Yongbyon and return us to the
crisis of the summer of 1994.
The team's recommended approach is based on a realistic view of the DPRK, a hardheaded
understanding of military realities and a firm determination to protect U.S. interests and
those of our allies.
We should recognize that North Korea may send mixed signals concerning its response to
our recommended proposal for a comprehensive framework and that many aspects of its
behavior will remain reprehensible to us even if we embark on this negotiating process. We
therefore should prepare for provocative contingencies but stay the policy course with
measured actions pursuant to the overall framework recommended. The North needs to
understand that there are certain forms of provocative behavior that represent a direct threat
to the U.S. and its allies and that we will respond appropriately.
In this regard, it is with mixed feelings that we recognize certain provocative behavior of the
DPRK may force the U.S. to reevaluate current aid levels.
Finally, and to close this review, we need to point out that a confluence of events this past
year has opened what we strongly feel is a unique window of opportunity for the U.S. with
respect to North Korea. There is a clear and common understanding among Seoul, Tokyo,
and Washington on how to deal with Pyongyang. The PRC's strategic goals -- especially on
the issue of North Korean nuclear weapons and related missile delivery systems -- overlap
with those of the U.S. Pyongyang appears committed to the Agreed Framework and for the
time being is convinced of the value of improving relations with the U.S. However, there are
always pressures on these positive elements. Underlying tensions and suspicions have led to
intermittent armed clashes and incidents and affect the political environment. Efforts to
establish the diplomatic momentum necessary to withstand decades of hostility become
increasingly difficult and eventually stall. Nevertheless, the year 1999 may represent,
historically, one of our best opportunities to deal with key U.S. security concerns on the
Korean Peninsula for some time to come.