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The North Korean Problem Essay Example for Free
The North Korean Problem Essay American leaders have struggled to deal with communist North Korea for decades. It is a unique diplomatic problem. As China gradually opens up to democratic influence, North Korea remains as one of the few remaining communist stalwarts in Asia. American Presidents have been reluctant to deal with the issue. The militaristic stance of North Korea has forced recent Presidents to develop a diplomatic strategy, however. In general terms, the Clinton approach might be described as a Ã¢â¬Å"rewardÃ¢â¬ strategy. The G.W. Bush strategy, in contrast, is generally seen as a Ã¢â¬Å"punishmentÃ¢â¬ approach. The strategy of both Presidents has been affected by events on the ground and the stance of South Korea. For both Presidents, the issues have proven to be difficult and lacking in clear-cut solutions. Both Presidents have learned, though, that the North Korean issue cannot be ignored. The North Korean Threat There are few places in the world where the contrast between a successful democratic state and a poverty-stricken communist state is so stark. Recently, many news organizations aired a nighttime satellite photo of the Korean peninsula. The southern end was lit up, indicative of a thriving economy and culture. In contrast, the northern end of the peninsula was almost entirely dark. After decades of mismanagement, the North relies heavily on Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã international food to feed the population, while continuing to Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã expend resources to maintain an army of over 1 million, the Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã fifth largest army in the world.Ã 1 The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2001. Wash. D.C.: BrasseyÃ¢â¬â¢s, 2001, p.267. North Korea has, in many ways, isolated itself. Its economy is not self-sustaining, even though the country possesses a great deal of natural resources. Government policies have failed to stimulate business and international trade. Modern North Korea has been a dictatorship since its founding. When Kim Il Sung died, he was succeeded by his son Kim Jong Il. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Last October, the North Koreans announced they had reprocessed Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã all 8,000 of their fuel rods and solved the technical problems of Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã converting the plutonium into nuclear bombs. 2 Kim Jong Il maintains his position with an iron grip. He resists overtures from Western countries, fearing that their influence will ultimately weaken his grip on power. In 2006, North Korea exploded what was suspected to be a small nuclear weapon underground. The threat of a poor, desperate, dictatorial nation with nuclear weapons is rapidly becoming a reality. This action has moved the conflict to a new stage. The unpredictability of the North Korean regime is what makes it dangerous. Ultimately, the regime will do whatever it has to in order to survive. This may include selling nuclear technology or materials to terrorists or rogue nations. For its own reasons, the North Korean regime has insisted on staying in the headlines. Feeling ignored while the West fights the war on terror, the North Koreans have accelerated their nuclear program. Very public pronouncements of their success have followed. The pretense of a nuclear program strictly for energy purposes has been dropped with recent bomb tests. It remains unclear exactly what the military capabilities of the Fred Kaplan, Ã¢â¬Å"Rolling Blunder: How the Bush Administration let North Korea Get Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã NukesÃ¢â¬ Washington Monthly, Available from; Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0405.kaplan.html : accessed Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã 12 Dec. 2006. North Koreans are. Even less clear are the motives of its leader, Kim Jong Il. Some believe that the leader is playing a manipulative game of nuclear blackmail. Others believe, worse yet, that the leader is not altogether sane. The lack of clarity makes Western leaders nervous. Kim Jong Il, for his part, may be convinced that the world will not go to war against him. It is a dangerous game the recent American Presidents would prefer not to play. The Clinton approach Like the later Bush administration, the Clinton administration was still trying to gain its footing when the North Korean situation arose. It had suffered very public failures on universal health care and the siege at Waco, Texas. The President was also dealing with withering criticism of his personal behavior. Ã Increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula presented an unwelcome problem for the Clinton administration. The CIA had been issuing reports for several years similar to this one in 2001: Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã North KoreaÃ¢â¬â¢s long-range missile development and research Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã into nuclear and chemical weapons are of major concern to Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã the international community.Ã 3 An international incident arose when North Korea began to block access of international inspectors to their nuclear facilities. Eventually, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determined that North Korea did have nuclear weapon capabilities. The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2001. Wash. D.C.: BrasseyÃ¢â¬â¢s, Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã 2001: p. 267. The domestically-oriented Clinton administration would be forced to deal with the issue. Having been chastened by the events at Waco, Texas that year, the administration resisted taking a hard line against North Korea. Michael Breen wrote of the emerging crisis: Analysts drew a comparison between the Branch Davidian Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã cultÃ¢â¬ ¦and Kim Jong IlÃ¢â¬â¢s North Korea and made the point that Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã North Korea should not be painted in to a corner. From this Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã point on, the consensus grew that Washington and Pyongyang Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã should talk.Ã Ã 4 There were two primary issues for the United States. The Clinton administration wanted to stop the North Koreans from enriching weapons-grade uranium. Secondly, it wanted to prevent North Korea from developing long range missiles capable of reaching the United States or Europe. The Clinton administration began bilateral negotiations with the North Korean regime. Diplomatic back channels were also used to assist the two sides in reaching a breakthrough. During the crisis, former President Jimmy Carter traveled to North Korea for discussions with Kim Jong Il. Publicly, Carter was portrayed as simply a prominent private citizen hoping to aid the process. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that CarterÃ¢â¬â¢s role was much more substantial. In effect, he served as a member of the Clinton administration. In 1994, a document referred to as the Agreed Framework was signed by both sides. North Korea agreed to remain in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty. In return, the Clinton administration dropped its threat of economic sanctions on Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 246. North Korea. North Korea also agreed to shut down one of its old reactors in exchange for assistance building light-water reactors used to generate energy. Inspection and verification of North Korean facilities was part of the treaty, but it was by no means an airtight system. An element of trust was extended to North Korea. It was hoped that the economic incentives would prompt Kim Jong Il to abide by the treaty. The Bush approach During the Bush administration, the North Korean administration seemed intent on presenting itself as a world power that must be dealt with. Early in the Bush presidency, evidence3 began to surface that the North Koreans were violating the Agreed Framework. Bush, like Clinton, preferred not to deal with the issue. Having emerged from a contentious election that was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, Bush was still settling into office six months in. The events of September 11, 2001 changed everything. After the devastating attack on the United States, the administration took on a war footing. In an effort to define the threats America faced, the North Korean regime was publicly included with the radical Islamic states. North Korea was not pleased to be publicly called out as a charter member of the Ã¢â¬Å"Axis of EvilÃ¢â¬ . Relations worsened from that point on. The 9/11 attacks made the United States government less likely to take a conciliatory approach with what it saw as rogue nations. It s still unclear to what degree the North Koreans had been cheating on the Agreed Framework. Once accused, however, they ejected inspectors and withdrew from the Non-Proliferation treaty. As a result, the Bush administration faced a similar crisis to what Clinton had faced in the mid-1990Ã¢â¬â¢s. World events caused them to address the crisis from different perspectives. For Clinton, the issue was somewhat simpler. His goal was to prevent another dictatorial regime from acquiring nuclear weapons they could use to threaten the world. Bush, on the other hand, was forced to look at the issue through the prism of terrorism. America was under attack, not by a nation, but by an unknown number of religious radicals. North Korea, desperate for money, could sell itsÃ¢â¬â¢ nuclear technology to radicals who have already proven they are capable of devastating attacks on the American mainland. The Bush administration was inclined to give no quarter to the North Koreans. Kim Jong Il wanted direct discussions with the United States. The Bush administration, overburdened and mistrusting of the North Koreans insist on multi-lateral talks with other Asian countries. Most in the Bush administration regard the Clinton agreement as a failure. For that reason, they do not want to pursue a similar agreement. The Bush approach is to marshal world pressure against North Korea. Meanwhile, the United States is imposing unilateral sanctions. Food aid, once used as an incentive, is now being withheld as punishment. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The biggest bundle came in 1999, with 695, 194 metric tons Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã of foodÃ¢â¬ ¦the Bush administration cut back to 207,000 tons Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã in 2002, and drastically cut it to 40,000 tons through the first half of 2003.Ã 5 Since the North Korean nuclear tests in 2006, the United Nations has begun to impose sanctions of its own. The outcome of the standoff remains unclear. A military conflict is possible, though Western nations are extremely reluctant at this point. A major humanitarian crisis is already under way and will likely worsen with international Bruce Cumings, North Korea: another country (New York: The New Press, 2004): 183: sanctions. The increasingly desperate regime of Kim Jong Il is highly unpredictable. The effects of the reduction of food aid on the political situation are not yet clear. The Bush administration hopes that a ratcheting up of pressure on North Korea will bring them back to the negotiating table under WashingtonÃ¢â¬â¢s terms. Meanwhile, the North Korean leader has been making incendiary statements, claiming that the sanctions are an Ã¢â¬Å"act of warÃ¢â¬ against North Korea. The Bush administration has insisted that North Korea return to the six-party talks which include other countries in the region. North Korea may be starting to warm to that idea, but the outcome is still unclear. North Korea has stated publicly that it wants a security guarantee that the United States will not attack militarily. Presidents Bush and Clinton both resisted that demand, as any President is likely to do. No American administration is likely to agree to this term unless it is tied to a substantial number of concessions and guarantees by the North Koreans. The level to which the Chinese will participate in solving the crisis is still in question. The Bush administration, with its hands full, would prefer that the Chinese step in. Kim Jong Il, however, appears to only want to deal with the United States. The Bush administration has taken a hard line, but the difficulties it is facing in Iraq and other parts of the world may force it to modify itsÃ¢â¬â¢ approach. Some critics argue that the hard line is just the easy way of avoiding the problem altogether. According to Fred Kaplan of Washington Monthly, Ã¢â¬Å"Bush has neither threatened war nor pursued diplomacyÃ¢â¬ .6 Neither the Clinton nor the Bush policy has achieved the desired result to date. A third option is clearly required. In forming that strategy, the full participation of North KoreaÃ¢â¬â¢s neighbor to the south is vital. Fred Kaplan, Ã¢â¬Å"Rolling Blunder: How the Bush Administration let North Korea Get Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã NukesÃ¢â¬ Washington Monthly, Available from; Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0405.kaplan.html : South and North and the U.S. South Korea is a unique, democratic success story. It is well positioned between Japan, an economic power, and China, an emerging economic powerhouse. The future looks bright for South Korea, but the biggest threat to itÃ¢â¬â¢sÃ¢â¬â¢ success is North Korea. South Korean policymakers walk a treacherous line When the Berlin wall fell and Germany was reunited in the early 1990Ã¢â¬â¢s, South Korean leaders considered the possibility of a reunification of the Korean peninsula. Koreans share centuries of culture. It seemed like a natural idea to state a policy that ultimately favored reunification. Researchers studied North Korea and the emerging democracies in Eastern Europe. They were discouraged by what they found, but not completely deterred. The South Korean government began to realize the scope of the humanitarian problem in North Korea. They concluded that immediate reunification could create unbearable economic stress on South Korea. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã They came to a startling conclusion. If the North were to collapse the economic and social burden of reunification Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã might ruin the South.Ã 7 For this reason, the resulting South Korean policy is somewhat vague. South Korea has been a strong ally of the United States for many decades. The United States would prefer regime change in the North. South Korea is more reluctant, being acutely aware of the fallout from such a change. In recent years, they have taken a more conciliatory tone toward the North. They walk a fine line of diplomacy between the worldsÃ¢â¬â¢ only superpower and their desperate, but powerful, neighbor to the north. Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 247. The South Korean approach is based on self-preservation. Although there is a natural yearning for reunification, those who have looked at it closely believe that it may not be the right thing to do. Michael Breen writes: Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã What the South KoreanÃ¢â¬â¢s want now is reconciliation, not Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã reunification. This does not mean that they oppose reunification Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã entirely, but simply that they prefer postponement. Ã Ã Ã 8 At the same time, the volatility of the situation has prompted South Korea to increase its defense spending, although it is still only a small fraction of that spent in the north. Ostensibly, South Korea is still a nation in the middle of a larger war. No formal treaty has ended the Korean war of the 1950Ã¢â¬â¢s. Peace is only preserved by an armistice. The country of South Korea has thrived, despite the constant tension and the permanent presence of a large number of U.S. troops. From itsÃ¢â¬â¢ perspective, war would be devastating and a collapse of the Northern regime almost as bad. There is no way that any upheaval in the North can leave the prosperity of the South unaffected. At the same time, the prospect of a hostile, nuclear North Korea is daunting. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã On a variety of issues, the United States and Korea perceive Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã genuine common interests such as better trade relations and the Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. But fundamentally Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã different political and economic philosophies, military objectives Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã and geostrategic aims have made it difficult for the two countries Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã to act in concert.Ã Ã 9 Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 247. John Feffer, Ã¢â¬Å"American Apples, Korean OrangesÃ¢â¬ Foreign Policy Focus Aug. (2006) Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The relationship between the United States and South Korea has been described by some as a sibling rivalry. The United States is the bigger, older brother. South Korea is the younger brother trying to escape itÃ¢â¬â¢ older brothers shadow. Like brothers, they sometimes battle. Recent years have seen a cooling in relations between the two. The leaders rarely communicate. Usually, the two make up, but there are other issues to consider. John Feffer, of Foreign Policy in Focus, writes: Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The sibling comparison, however, can only go so far to explain Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã the U.S.-ROK dynamic and why the two countries have reached Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã one of the lowest points of cooperation in the 50 year history of Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã their alliance.Ã 10 Kim Dae Jung, the South Korean President, ad initially expected that the Bush administration would continue with the conciliatory approach. He was to be disappointed. Kim Dae Jung, while publicly remaining an ally of the United States, had advocated a more open and conciliatory approach to the North. In 2002, the Japanese prime minister made a visit to North Korea to discuss normalization of relations. This took the United States by surprise, increasing itÃ¢â¬â¢sÃ¢â¬â¢ anxiety all the more. An element of mistrust has entered the U.S. Ã¢â¬â South Korean relationship in recent years. The Bush administration cancelled a planned shipment of surveillance technology to South Korea. The reason given publicly was that they feared the technology would be leaked to the North. Analysis For Western nations, managing the threat of North Korea is proving to be a difficult if not impossible prospect. According to author Michael Breen: John Feffer, Ã¢â¬Å"American Apples, Korean OrangesÃ¢â¬ Foreign Policy Focus Aug. (2006) Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã America is the key nation in the Korean question. It has had Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã itsÃ¢â¬â¢ own reasons to hate North Korea. Barring Iraq in the 1990Ã¢â¬â¢s, Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã North Korea may be the most demonized state in the American Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã political imaginationÃ¢â¬ ¦ Ã Ã Ã 11 In order for there to be a solution it seems clear that some level of communication must be established. Near-catastrophic events during the cold war show us the dangers of a lack of communication. The only communication in recent years has been public name calling and threats. Calling the North Korean state Ã¢â¬Å"evilÃ¢â¬ , for example, does not help the problem. To the North Koreans it is a meaningless insult. Evil is a loaded word in the Korean culture. Bruce Cumings writes of the Koreans conception of evil: Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã A society like this has no place for evil; in fact, Koreans donÃ¢â¬â¢t Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã have a conception of evil. Evil couldnÃ¢â¬â¢t exist because Koreans Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã have created a universe that has no place for it.Ã Ã 12 Kim Jong Il can then use rhetoric like this domestically to further solidify his power. In the Korean culture respect for authority is paramount. The American policy, under Bush and Clinton, is to advocate regime change in North Korea. Fomenting a revolution may not even be possible. The country is poor, unarmed, hungry and respectful of itÃ¢â¬â¢sÃ¢â¬â¢ leader. Much of the military and civilian leadership is composed from loyal families who have held those positions for generations. North Korea is an unwelcome issue for any American administration. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations have been forced to deal with it, however. South Korea, Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 245. Bruce Cumings, North Korea: another country (New York: The New Press, 2004): 206. in the mean time, maintains a precarious balance between the two nuclear powers. Any action taken by one of the three parties will invariably affect the other two. Nobody wants another war, but Kim Jong Il believes that by being a threat he can eventually gain concessions. Had it not been for the terrorist attacks ofÃ 9/11/2001, the Bush administration may have maintained the framework started by Clinton. North Korea has essentially become part of the war on terror. Seemingly unrelated world events have led to a total breakdown in communication with North Korea. Reestablishing that communication is the first step to creating a workable agreement. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Presidential policies are often influenced by the policies of those who held the office before. In this case, the same would very likely have been true of Clinton and Bush if world events had not intervened. The entire Bush presidency has taken place on a war footing. As a result, all other countries are looked at more suspiciously. When evidence was presented that the North Koreans might be cheating on the agreed framework, the Bush administration was less inclined to negotiate again. North Korea was immediately named to the Ã¢â¬Å"axis of evilÃ¢â¬ . This, as much as anything, is an effort to engender international support against North Korea. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã The Clinton administration had unquestionably shown a more deft diplomatic touch in its dealings with North Korea. How he would have reacted given the complicating factors Bush faced is anyoneÃ¢â¬â¢s guess. In the end, it is questionable whether either Presidents policy could be called a success. North Korea has apparently exploded a nuclear weapon despite all of the attempts to prevent it. Achieving ultimate success in this matter may involve reevaluating our own goals and redefining what success actually is. Ã Notes The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2001. Wash. D.C.: BrasseyÃ¢â¬â¢s, Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã 2001: p. 267. Fred Kaplan, Ã¢â¬Å"Rolling Blunder: How the Bush Administration let North Korea Get Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã NukesÃ¢â¬ Washington Monthly, Available from; Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0405.kaplan.html : accessed Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã 12 Dec. 2006. The Central Intelligence Agency. The World Factbook 2001. Wash. D.C.: BrasseyÃ¢â¬â¢s, Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã 2001: p. 267. Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 246. Bruce Cumings, North Korea: another country (New York: The New Press, 2004): 183: Fred Kaplan, Ã¢â¬Å"Rolling Blunder: How the Bush Administration let North Korea Get Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã NukesÃ¢â¬ Washington Monthly, Available from; Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0405.kaplan.html : accessed Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã 12 Dec. 2006. Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 247. Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 247. John Feffer, Ã¢â¬Å"American Apples, Korean OrangesÃ¢â¬ Foreign Policy Focus Aug. (2006) John Feffer, Ã¢â¬Å"American Apples, Korean OrangesÃ¢â¬ Foreign Policy Focus Aug. (2006). Michael Breen, The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã (New York: St Martins, 1988): p. 245. Bruce Cumings, North Korea: another country (New York: The New Press, 2004): 206. Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Works Cited Breen, Michael. The Koreans: who they are, what they want, where their future lies. New York: St. Martins, 1998. Cumings, Bruce. North Korea: another country. New York: The New Press, 2004. Dao, James. Ã¢â¬Å"Bush Administration Halts Payments to Send Oil to North KoreaÃ¢â¬ . New York Times: 14 Nov. 2002, A01. Feffer, John. Ã¢â¬Å"American Apples, Korean OrangesÃ¢â¬ . Foreign Policy in Focus. 17 Aug. 2006. Harrison, Selig S. Ã¢â¬Å"Did North Korea Cheat?Ã¢â¬ Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2005. Hastedt, Glenn P. American Foreign Policy: past, present and future, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003. Kaplan, Fred. Ã¢â¬Å"Rolling Blunder: How the Bush Administration let North Korea Get NukesÃ¢â¬ . Washington Monthly. Ã Available from; http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0405.kaplan.html : accessed 12 Dec. 2006.