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[Korea Północna] Bush's Approach to North Korea is Appropriate and Necessary
Marin Strmecki, Bush's Approach to North Korea is Appropriate and Necessary, The PacNet Newsletter 2002, The Center for Strategic and International Studies z 27 lutego 2002

President Bush has exercised needed corrective actions in U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula. The Bush administration's recent actions — particularly the "axis of evil" statement and focusing on North Korea's obstinacy toward inspections under the Agreed Framework - are useful first steps to develop a policy based on greater realism regarding the nature of our adversary in North Korea. I disagree with the statement in PacNet 7A ["U.S.-Korea Policy: Now What?" by Ralph A. Cossa] that including North Korea in the "axis" was "inaccurate, inappropriate, and potentially quite damaging." I believe it was accurate, entirely appropriate, and needed.<?

We have found ourselves in the most astonishing of positions as a result of the policies of the administrations of President Clinton and President Kim Dae-jung. We are helping to build nuclear plants in North Korea that would, if completed, give North Korea a greater capacity to produce weapons-grade material than it has right now. The fact that we were working to supply such plants to North Korea undermined our objections to Russia's program to provide similar nuclear plants to Iran. At the same time, we and our allies were subsidizing one of the most inhumane regimes in history, one that starved its own people even as it diverted our humanitarian aid to its military. In many cases, North Korea threats or actions against our interests resulted in payoffs or concessions from the U.S. and its allies. North Korea's illegal nuclear weapons program secured it the Agreed Framework, with its subsidized energy scheme. Its ballistic missile sales and tests won North Korea a major initiative by the Clinton administration to try to pay it off to stop such programs. We created an amazing incentive structure for North Korea to undermine our interests — and to be rewarded for it. It's time for a change. 

I also disagree with the statement that North Korea is in compliance with nonproliferation agreements. It is in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and it is not allowing the inspections required under the Agreed Framework. We can all argue about when the inspection are legally required. However, as PacNet 7A states, those inspections need to have already begun or need to begin immediately if they are to be completed without significantly delaying the construction schedule. On the principle that terms should not be defined in a way that frustrates the purpose of the agreement, the only reasonable interpretation of the key terms of the Agreed Framework is that North Korea should have allowed the inspections to begin already and is in breach of the understanding by failing to do so. The evidence that the Bush administration is getting more serious about insisting on starting the inspections in very encouraging.

In my opinion, we should take a broad view of when the inspections should be triggered. We should not complete the foundations of the structures without getting the inspections underway. Better yet, we should use North Korean obstinacy as a vehicle to get out of this misguided agreement altogether. We should give the North Korean regime a month to allow the inspections to begin. If it refuses, we should declare the DPRK to be in breach and should declare the Agreed Framework null and void. As Henry Sokolski and Victor Galinsky have written, the doctrine of anticipatory breach applies in this situation. If North Korea is pursuing a course of action — refusing to allow inspections — that guarantees that it will not be able to fulfill its obligations under the agreement, then the doctrine frees the other parties from the obligation to execute their promises under the agreement. Moreover, if we and our allies feel that we have to build energy capacity in North Korea, it should be done with smaller, non-nuclear power plants. 

Will North Korea proceed with a weapons program in response? It will not do so if it wants to avoid making South Korea, Japan, and the United States even closer military allies and if it wants continued recognition, energy aid, and any hope of receiving loans from international financial institutions. In any case, North Korea probably already has a covert weapons program. And under the Agreed Framework we lack any formal right to prevent North Korea from conducting such programs and will have even less ability to complain after the nuclear plants are build. Thus, we aren't giving up meaningful constraints — because the current approach doesn't have any. The point is that we have the power to get out from under the Agreed Framework's provision of nuclear power plants and that such an approach would not only not harm our fundamental interests but actually advance them.

I disagree with the view that we should simply "express concern" about the North Korean weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and set a better example ourselves. North Korea has offensive biological and chemical weapons programs, after all. We don't. We are implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention, and we unilaterally renounced offensive biological weapons programs even before the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). Also, the fact that we walked away from the BWC verification protocol does not undermine our record on these issues. The protocol would not have worked against determined and clever proliferators, while it would have almost certainly compromised U.S. programs to develop defenses against biological weapons and would have inspections procedures that are so inconsistent that they would surely implicate innocent parties more than the guilty. We are cutting our offensive nuclear weapons, while shifting to a balanced strategic architecture that includes defensive systems. I am comfortable with the "example" we are setting, and I believe there is nothing wrong with labeling as "evil" North Korea's leaders, who, after all, are cynically starving their own people and building WMD and the systems to deliver them for the purpose of threatening the United States and its allies. 

A main point in PacNet 7A is that the Bush administration should defer to the preferences of the South Korean government and South Korean public opinion on strategy toward North Korea. However, how far should Washington go in this regard? Since we are at risk of war in Korea, we have a stake in the policy that is comparable to South Korea's. There are 100,000 of our citizens in the line of fire (37,000 troops plus dependents). In addition, North Korea's medium- and long-range missiles are not targeted on South Korea, but rather on more distant U.S. forces or allies in the region or (through sales to countries like Iran) on U.S. forces in other regions. We should consult with the South Koreans, and we must do everything we can to ensure that we arrive at a commonly held assumptions and agree on policy. Perhaps more could have been done in this regard before the State of the Union address. However, we should not be apologetic or hesitant about describing the North Korean regime for what it is and for arguing for the needed recalibration in policy toward the North.

In my view, the needed recalibration is quite fundamental. Since the early 1990s, the policy has been one of engineering a "soft landing" or propping up the North Korean government. At that time, there was an assumption that North Korea was nearing a point of collapse and that the greatest threat was a disorderly collapse, which would include risks of a war launched as the regime's dying spasm. The South Koreans, in the context of the Asian financial crisis and in light of the expense of German reunification, feared the expense and dislocations associated with a scenario involving sudden collapse and reunification. As a result, the United States and its allies proceeded to establish policies to alleviate the suffering of the North Korean people — a truly noble objective — but also to put the North Korean regime on "life support" — a truly dubious objective. Some elements of the Sunshine Policy — though certainly not all — do contribute to keeping the regime on "life support." And it is these that need a long, hard second look. 

What should be the objective of policy toward North Korea? Certainly we must manage relations to avoid war, though the principal element of this policy is to deter North Korean aggression by maintaining the military capabilities to defeat a North Korean attack swiftly and certainly. Though no one wants a high level of political-military tension, the aggressive and belligerent nature of the North Korean regime guarantees that periods of tension will occur. While we must manage such tensions, we should focus on the goal of finding ways to bring the North Korean regime to an orderly end. No one has yet done the hard thinking about how to develop and implement such a strategy, but it certainly does not mean acting precipitously or recklessly in ways that risk war. It may involve simply letting the North Korean regime experience the consequences of its failed economic system.

To the extent that the Sunshine Policy under the current South Korean president is designed to keep North Korea on life support, the United States should argue to revise it. Just as Reagan had to resist policies of allies who were overeager to deal with the Soviets — e.g., resisting the gas pipeline deal — President Bush may occasionally have to do the same. It is to be hoped that this can be done with quiet diplomacy, but there is nothing wrong with speaking honestly about the nature of North Korea and its policies. 

Thus, the Bush administration appears to have the right mix of policies — in essence, engagement without illusions and guided by the goal of regime change in North Korea. The first step in such a policy should be to end any policies that in effect subsidize the North Korean regime. Those aspects of the Sunshine Policy that do not subsidize the regime — family reunions, people-to-people exchanges, etc. — should be maintained and even enhanced. When we provide humanitarian assistance, we have to insist that we control the distribution in order to ensure that it gets to the people and is not diverted to the military. We should not make loans through multilateral agencies to the regime, and private lenders should receive no subsidies or government risk insurance. Unsubsidized, market-driven investment in North Korea should be permitted, though we shouldn't expect much to take place and should monitor and respond to labor abuses similar to those that have cropped up in Vietnam and other totalitarian regimes. In terms of diplomacy, the emphasis should be on obtaining compliance with the NPT and altering North Korea's threatening military posture. We should work on getting China to live up to its agreements and stop repatriating North Korean refugees, and we should shame the European Union for its support of the North Korean regime. The key for policy should be to avoid doing anything that helps the North Korean regime cope with its failure and to undertake a serious planning effort to examine how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the regime and to prepare for what would be necessary in the aftermath of the regime's fall.


Endnote: Marin Strmecki is Vice President and Director of Programs at the Smith Richardson Foundation.

wersja do wydruku


Michael Emerson, Approaches to the Stabilisation of the Caucasus, "Caucasian Regional Studies", Volume 5, Issue 1 & 2, 2000

Alexandru Liono, The Chechen Problem: Sources, Developments and Future Prospects, "Caucasian Regional Studies", Volume 5, Issue 1 & 2, 2000

Tomas Valasek, Trouble in North Caucasus, "Weekly Defense Monitor" [Center for Defense Information] ,Volume 3, Issue 32 z 19 sierpnia 1999

Raimon Panikkar, The Dharma of India, World Affairs, Vol. 6, Number 1 (January-March 2002)

Jon B. Wolfsthal, North Korea: Hard Line is Not the Best Line, Proliferation Brief, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Los Angeles Times z 7 marca 2001)

Janusz Krzywicki, 2003 03 15, Warsaw University Conference celebrating 'The tenth anniversary of the abolition of apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa'

Katarzyna Utrata, Kolegium MISH, Uniwersytet Warszawski 2003 03 15, Warsaw University Conference celebrating 'The tenth anniversary of the abolition of apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa'

2003 03 15, Warsaw University Conference celebrating 'The tenth anniversary of the abolition of apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa'

Weronika Kloc, 2003 03 15, Warsaw University Conference celebrating 'The tenth anniversary of the abolition of apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa'

Jakub Zajączkowski, Instytut Stosunków Międzynarodowych, Uniwersytet Warszawski; 2003 03 15; Warsaw University Conference celebrating 'The tenth anniversary of the abolition of apartheid regime in the Republic of South Africa'

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