Sunday, February 16, 2014

U.S. Policy Paper on North Korea dated February 15, 2014 (Simulation)


On February 13, 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry, while in Seoul with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, released a statement that the United States would not be drawn into empty talks and that the upcoming joint military drills between the United States and South Korea would not be derailed despite threats of retaliation from the North Korean regime, which are assumed to be aimed at procrastinating a return to multilateral negotiations concerning North Korean nuclear weapons development (Gordon & Sang-Hun, 2014).  It is vital for the current United States administration to take into consideration all constraining U.S. domestic and international factors, the vast array of current economic and political relations with the actor-states involved in the current regional situation with North Korea, and to consider an in-depth review of the top policy recommendations for moving forward in dealing with the containment of, and possible cooperation with, North Korea’s continued developing nuclear program which is currently without International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulation, and ensuring the security and interests of the United States and United States citizens.  There are three policy options being considered by the United States at this time:  1) A continued hardline policy focused on forcing North Korean compliance, 2) A middle of the road policy focusing on allowing international democracy to work unimpeded and allowing other states to take the lead on negotiations with North Korea, and 3) A policy of easing sanctions while promoting diplomacy and reconciliation with North Korea.  The long-term hardline position of the United States in dealing with North Korea has had little positive impact on achieving North Korean compliance over the past two decades.  The middle of the road policy option is the recommended policy option for current U.S.-North Korean crisis requirements, with the policy of reconciliation diplomacy and easing sanctions as a viable secondary option. 
North Korea is currently believed to possess somewhere between four to eight nuclear weapons and intelligence reports indicate that North Korea has successfully achieved short- to medium range missile capabilities (Kim, 2013).  Current intelligence reports indicate that North Korea has not managed to develop the required capability of miniaturization for nuclear devices required for missile delivery, nor does that state possess Intercontinental or long distance missile capabilities at this point (Kim, 2013).  The North Korean Regime has continuously denied pursuing and developing nuclear weapons against clear evidence showing the opposite and has violated multiple international agreements, most notably the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), while continuing to purposely disrupt the political and economic stability of the region.  These disruptions are usually aimed at regional U.S. allies as a retaliation for U.S. hardline positioning and sanctions.  During the two year span between 1992 and 1993, North Korea submitted a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a requirement of the Nonproliferation Treaty which North Korea signed 7 years earlier in 1985, only to announce the intention of withdrawing from the NPT after discrepancies were discovered during IAEA inspections at North Korean sites.  As a result of the reported discrepancies, North Korea officially withdrew from the IAEA and has continued to conduct nuclear tests and missile launches since that time (Davenport, 2014). 
Since 2003, the United States has participated in several rounds of multilateral talks concerning Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions with fluctuating results and in 2005 North Korea reaffirmed its commitment to the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and agreed to terms with the U.S., China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan and Russia for promoting economic cooperation in the field of energy through economic investment and assistance on bilateral and multilateral levels (U.S. Department of State, 2005).   This specific historical example shows the possibility for promoting U.S.-North Korean reconciliation through the easing of sanctions, economic investment into North Korea, and the probability for diplomatic success should the United States reach out to North Korea.   
Despite hardline positions promoted as diplomatic efforts by the United States for two decades, North Korea has remained steadfast in non-compliance of NPT and IAEA regulations.  North Korea conducted tests on long range missiles in 2007 and 2009, and underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 (University of Illinois, 2011).  While the nuclear tests of 2007 and 2009 were considered failures for the North Korean regime, the underground nuclear test conducted in 2013 has been deemed a success, along with multiple missile tests in 2012 and 2013 aimed to provoke regional neighbors that are allied with the United States (Kim, 2013).  It is of importance for U.S. interests and allies to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table, while at the same recognizing that the United States faces domestic and international constraints.
The first domestic constraint faced in any U.S. policy decision consideration toward applying pressure on North Korea would be the fact that 2014 is a congressional election year which offers the possibility that one of the two major U.S. political parties, both holding different stances on North Korea and foreign policy, could obtain control of the U.S. Congress.  This could result in drastic change or complete reversal in Congressional foreign policy, which could internationally portray the United States as a state in internal political disarray instead of a consolidated superpower with strong foreign policy direction.  A secondary domestic constraint is economic constraint and the frustration of the American people.  Due to a climbing national deficit and two decade-long failed military expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan which have lost the support of the American taxpayers, any political hardline stance toward North Korea that would require costly or long-term military action by the United States may not be favorable to the American people, and may not be in the economic or military interest of the state considering current budget cuts and military reductions, and these domestic constraints may be easily recognized by North Korean leadership and challenged.
The United States also faces international constraints when considering policies for bringing North Korea back to negotiations.  One of the most constraining areas on an international level concerning U.S. pressure toward North Korea is the key problematic issue that “North Korea has become more integrated with countries that are willing to trade on an unconditional basis, most notably China” (Haggard & Noland, 2011, p. 4).  It should be noted that despite previous sanctions and the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1718, which placed an arms embargo and luxury items embargo on North Korea, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874, “Chinese exports of luxury goods to North Korea have risen after each UN resolution” (Haggard & Noland, 2011, p. 84).  This economically-driven first international constraint leads to the second international constraint, which is the veto capability of China in the United Nations Security Council.  China is a “veto-holding member of the UNSC with increasing economic and political stakes in many of the regimes that the U.S. has targeted through the Council, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has the prerogative, and potentially the resolve, to prevent the U.S. from achieving its objective” (Wuthnow,2011, p. 3).
The United States has the option of three different policy directions to pursue toward bringing the North Korean regime back to negotiations.  The first policy option falls under the category of hard line forced compliance, and has been the unsuccessful policy utilized by the United States toward North Korea over the past two decades.  This is the least rational approach for the United States since unilateral military action aimed at North Korean non-compliance would risk economic and military requirements that the United States is in no position to provide; the majority of American taxpayers would not support such military actions after the long-term and expensive failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, and unilateral military action would risk regional escalation with China.
The second policy option would be a middle-of-the-road approach that would allow international democracy to run its natural course, and ultimately allow another state on the international stage to take the political lead in dealing with North Korea.  The United States could propose medium range to hardline sanctions before the United Nations Security Council to allow democratic vote or Chinese veto, and then quietly refocus American interests toward a declared higher priority situation on the international stage, or inward towards vital American domestic issues.  The absence of U.S. pressure would eventually create a political vacuum that would eventually cause other states with economic interests in the region to take the leading position in negotiations with North Korea.  A hiatus scenario would also provide the United States with time to heal from failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, and strengthen its economy before reengaging any hardline position toward North Korea should no other states fill the vacuum created by the political retrenchment of the United States.  The main problem with this scenario is that the Japanese and South Korean regimes, strong trade partners with the United States, look to the United States for security in the region, and are certain to apply political pressure on the United States concerning North Korean provocation in the possibility that no other state takes the lead in negotiating with North Korea.    
The third policy option would be to reduce sanctions and present a more energetic effort at reconciliation and sanctions relief instead of applying tougher sanctions and hard line positioning by the United States.  One example of failed excessive hardline agitation that caused a deterioration of prior negotiations with North Korea was the U.S. decision in 2009 to not remove North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism after terms could not be reached with North Korea on U.S. demands that all North Korean sites would be required to offer full access for inspections (Haggard & Noland, 2011, p. 44).  Threats and sanctions implemented by the United States have made little progress with North Korea over the past decade, and in the delicate economic and exhausted military conditioning of the United States, an approach of reconciliation, sanctions easing and investment is a rational secondary policy for accomplishing United States-North Korean cooperation on nuclear inspections.
The current trend of hardline positioning in dealing with North Korean non-compliance has been a consistent failure and has only agitated negotiations, therefore it is recommended that the United States adjust policy direction and assume the second policy option of allowing international democracy to determine the fate of North Korea while allowing other states to assume lead positions in negotiating with North Korea on returning to the International Atomic Energy Agency and adhering to all regulations required by that international agency.   Such a policy shift would allow the United States a hiatus period to focus on current economic and military issues after two failed military endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The third policy option of easing sanctions, encouraging reconciliation and offering economic and investment rewards for North Korean compliance is also a viable option for the United States in any scenario where sustained United States engagement due to political pressure from allies such as South Korea and Japan is deemed necessary to United States interests.
 



Deyeon Kim.  2013.  Fact Sheet: North Korea’s Nuclear and Ballistic Missile Programs.  The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferartion.  Accessed February 14, 2014, http://armscontrolcenter.org/publications/factsheets/fact_sheet_north_korea_nuclear_and_missile_programs/

Joel Wuthnow.  2011.  Beyond the Veto: Chinese Diplomacy in the United Nations Security Council.  University of Columbia.  Accessed on February 15, 2014, http://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac%3A132019
Kelsey Davenport.  2014.  Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy.  Arms Control Association.  Accessed February 14, 2014, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/dprkchron
Michael R. Gordan and Choe Sang-Hun.  2014.  “Kerry Rejects Delaying South Korea Exercise.”  New York Times, February 13, 2014.  Accessed February 14, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/world/asia/kerry-in-south-korea-rejects-request-to-delay-joint-military-exercise.html?_r=0
Stephen Haggard and Marcus Noland.  2011.  Engaging North Korea: The Role of Economic Statecraft (Hawaii: East-West Center), 2011.  Accessed on February 14, 2014, http://www.eastwestcenter.org/sites/default/files/private/ps059_0.pdf
The Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security.  2011.  A Timeline of North Korea’s Nuclear Development.  University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  Accessed on February 14, 2014, http://acdis.illinois.edu/resources/arms-control-quick-facts/timeline-of-north-koreas-nuclear-development.html
United States Department of State.  2005.  Six-Party Talks, Beijing, China.  U.S. Department of State Website.  Accessed on February 14, 2014, http://www.state.gov/p/eap/regional/c15455.htm
 
 

 
 

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