LOS ANGELES—October 10—The U.S.-based Korea Policy Institute (KPI) releases a policy analysis of events leading up to North Korea’s testing of a nuclear device on October 9.
In September 2005, the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia agreed on a basic trade: North Korean denuclearization in return for something approaching normal relations between the U.S. and North Korea. The latter agreed to “abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” on the grounds that both countries would “respect each other’s sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize relations.” However, four days after the agreement was signed, the U.S. virtually declared economic war on North Korea by imposing new financial sanctions with the goal of cutting off North Korean access to the international banking system.
If this political maneuver had been a stand-alone action, then North Korea would not have tested its nuclear capability. However, since the Bush Administration came into office, it has, at times openly, at times quietly, continuously pursued a policy of regime change toward North Korea that flatly contradicts the Administration’s rhetoric about wanting to pursue diplomacy with North Korea. Dr. Thomas Kim, Executive Director of KPI and Professor of Politics & International Relations at Scripps College writes, “Those who claim that North Korea’s nuclear test is the result of a failure of U.S. diplomacy are wrong because this claim presupposes that the Bush Administration has actually engaged in good-faith efforts to negotiate with North Korea. On the contrary, ever since it came into office, the Administration has avoided being drawn into meaningful negotiations with North Korea.”
In response to those who argue that North Korea is not a reliable negotiating partner, Dr. Kim notes that North Korea’s “actions on the very issues that currently bedevil U.S.-North Korea relations suggest that this is simply not true The mere fact that the North Koreans did not process plutonium during the Clinton administration and voluntarily maintained a self-imposed ban on test firing missiles for 8 years tells us that North Korea is willing to make trade-offs about the very things that neoconservatives claim that North Korea is unwilling to trade away.”
Faced with a Bush Administration that has never committed itself to genuine diplomacy—not only in North Korea but virtually everywhere else in the world—the North Koreans are deeply skeptical that talking with a U.S. government unwilling to negotiate in good faith can lead to real progress. If the U.S. truly wants North Korea to come to the table, it must treat diplomatic negotiation as a starting point for dialogue, rather than as a reward for unilateral concessions.
To read the full report, visit the Korea Policy Institute at www.kpolicy.org.