KOREA: Nuclear Threats from the North and a New Regime in
the South. Is the U.S.
Ready to Address Challenges from Northeast Asia as it Looks Toward
Speech delivered to the Atlanta Council on International Relations,
January 15, 2003 by
John E. Endicott, Ph.D.
Director, Center for International Strategy, Technology and Policy
Professor, Sam Nunn School of International Affairs
Colonel, US Air Force (Retired)
In what might be described as a text-book case of climbing the ladder of
escalation described to nuclear strategy
professionals by Herman Khan in the 1960's, the DPRK in the last four months
has dragged the international
community -- especially the United States -- through a series of events,
each one becoming more serious and more
provocative. The DPRK has raised tensions to the point that they have now
succeeded in seizing the front page of
newspapers and lead coverage on the evening news. (In the U.S. with its
historic attention on Europe and the Middle
East -- this is no small feat.) The only problem is that this activity
involves the stability and peace of the entire
Northeast Asian Region. Japan, the second largest GDP, Russia, the
4th, the PRC, the 7th, and the ROK, the 10th,
not to mention the U.S. with a 10 trillion dollar GDP are being whipsawed
by a country with a population of 24 and
a half million and a GDP of only 18 billion U.S. dollars -- a per
capita rate of only $804. North Korea's entire GDP is
only 4 billion dollars more than South Korea's defense budget. Is
there any question why we are all focused on
the nuclear crisis; it is the premier bargaining chip of the DPRK.
(An active duty military of slightly over 1 million also
Is this just a sudden replay of the March 1993 crisis, when the DPRK also
threatened to leave the NPT as the IAEA
was knocking on too many closed doors. Do recall that the previous
crisis resulted in the 1994 Agreed Framework.
That agreement between the U.S. and the DPRK recognized that North Korea
could have nuclear power facilities to
meet its energy needs, and in return for a freezing of ongoing programs,
two reactors would be provided, and 500,000
tons of fuel would be supplied per year to bridge the gap that would occur
until the nuclear power plants came on
line. There was one problem. The reactors were to be made available
in 2003, if the IAEA could give a clean bill of
health for the existing DPRK nuclear programs. Concern over the developing
energy shortfall was already being
expressed by DPRK representatives in March of 2000. It was clear by
then that the 2003 completion date would not
The willingness of the states of NEA (Northeast Asia) to act in concert
on a security issue marks the crossing of a major milestone in the history
of that region that has unresolved legacies from colonialism, World War II,
and the Cold War.
Japan's Prime Minister (Junichro Koizumi) while in Russia this past week
said that North Korea would have to address
the nuclear issues before aid could be started. The leaders of both Russia
and the PRC have voiced concern, and
Shinzo Abe, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, said that sanctions may be imposed
by Japan if the situation escalates.
Saying this shortly after North Korean diplomatic spokesmen have gone on
record with "sanctions means war,"
underlines the depth of the feelings now unleashed by the DPRK..//..
But let us return to the crisis at hand. Why is it happening just
now, and what can we make of it for the longer term.
Certainly this implosion of U.S.-DPRK relations was not the desire of the
current Bush team as they took over
two-years ago next week. When our new administration was formed, names now
in the news almost daily, Richard
Armitage, James Kelly, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Paal had already assembled
and had working policy papers that
set some pretty sensible goals. The most important was by Richard Armitage,
a former Assistant Secretary of Defense
and the current Deputy Secretary of State. He has been a vocal force
on Asian policy for some years. His 1999
study published by the Institute for National Strategic Studies served as
the impetus for the Perry Process toward North
Korea, and his October 2000 study looking at U.S.-Japan and regional
relationships was also key.
His specific recommendations for American policy regarding North Korea included
the following steps:
l. Negotiations on the Agreed Framework of 1994 to re-verify our commitment
but to insist that DPRK pledges be
carried out especially with regard to transparency of suspected nuclear
sites and IAEA safeguards and inspections.
In return, the U.S.would need to expedite construction of the two power
reactors and the nuclear cooperation accord
with the DPRK.
2. Negotiations to solve the missile problem and obtain North Korean
adherence to the MTCR.
3. Begin a conventional force reduction effort and tie all other "peace
mechanism" or confidence measures to success in
reducing conventional forces.
4.Food/economic assistance should be continued for humanitarian purposes,
but maintaining a requirement of end-use transparency. Our ultimate
goal should be in the economic restructuring of the DPRK economy.
5. Security assurances should be provided to the DPRK within a six party
framework involving the U.S., Russia, China,
Japan, South Korea, and, of course, North Korea. These centered on
President Kim Dae Jung's inaugural address
to reassure North Korea that there is "no intent to implode North Korea,
to absorb North Korea, or to force North
Korea to change its political system."
6. Normalization of relations would be offered once the DPRK satisfied our
The second major study involving Armitage and East Asia was the report:
"The United States and Japan: Advancing
Toward a Mature Partnership." In this report which on the surface
stresses Japan, deals with all of Asia, and in particular
the Korean Peninsula in many instances. In a discussion about American
leadership in its relations with Japan the term "excellence without arrogance"
is use to describe what is desired for the U.S.-Japan relationship.
One would hope that
this is the kind of characterization that could be made about the U.S. and
all its key relationships, of course, this also
applies to how we relate to the Republic of Korea. Since October,
however, it becomes even more acute phrase for
after the U.S.-DPRK meeting in Pyongyang we see this "arrogance" charge
surfacing from the North Korean
If the DPRK embarked on this venture seeking attention from the U.S., she
certainly succeeded. Unfortunately for them,
the neighbors noticed as well. Is it time to seek Jimmy Carter's intervention
again? We have already seen that Governor
Bill Richardson of New Mexico has their respect. Perhaps it is time
for the government to make him a special envoy,
realizing that he is respected by, at least, the DPRK diplomatic service.
Whoever is chosen as a special representative to
resolve this issue, it is time for the U.S. to turn, in the spirit of Article
6 of the NPT and take a special step toward
resolution of the crisis. States go nuclear when they have grave security
issues which cannot be met by conventional or
The United States needs to forcefully declare in writing that it has no
intention of destroying the DPRK. In return, the
DPRK needs to prepare a similar declaration regarding re-entry into the
NPT System, with explicit pledges for terminating
any weapon-related progams. Such declarations should be handed to
a special mediating envoy, be it President-elect
Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, or President
Hu Jintao of the PRC (all recommended
for this task by Aidan Foster-Carter), Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
of Japan, or Governor Bill Richardson of the U.S.,
(there are any number of such personages) to then call an end to the war
of words. With a South-North ministerial meeting coming up soon at the
suggestion of the North, perhaps that meeting can be the site for the passing
of important notes.
Whatever the case, this matter must be solved, and it must be solved with
the full agreement and participation of our long-
term Pacific allies, the ROK and Japan. If we must complete a bilateral
agreement between the U.S. and the DPRK first,
that will suffice, but after it is all over, a regional infrastructure must
be put in place to reinforce and guarantee the
arrangement. Northeast Asia has been ignored by the security elites
too long. Let us start a new era that places emphasis
on cooperative security, not confrontational insecurity.