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Light Side Last Updated: Feb 28, 2019 - 11:02:11 AM


The United States and the North Korea Nuclear Threat
By Robert A. Wampler, Ph.D., National Security Archive, Feb 26, 2019
Feb 28, 2019 - 11:00:52 AM

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Washington D.C., February 26, 2019 – Prior U.S. administrations from both political parties wrestled intensively with complex security, economic, and diplomatic challenges in trying to rein in successive North Korean dictators’ nuclear ambitions, a review of declassified documentation makes clear. Today, the National Security Archive at The George Washington University presents an array of records from the Nixon, Bush 41, and Clinton administrations that describe the many concerns and tests that have confronted U.S. policymakers and negotiators alike.

These records provide essential historical context for the upcoming February 27-28 meeting in Hanoi between President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They underscore the recognition that war with North Korea would mean immense casualties; the concern of officials such as Defense Secretary Dick Cheney that diplomatic strategy not be jeopardized by discussions of military action; the realization that bilateral diplomacy had to go hand-in-hand with multilateral negotiations; the recognition that China’s critical role cannot be overlooked; and the awareness that the larger question of stability on the Korean peninsula and the wider region would inevitably encompass non-nuclear concerns as well, notably the economic viability of the North.

*  *  *  *  *
The United States and the North Korea Nuclear Threat

By Robert A. Wampler, Ph.D.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will hold their second summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam on February 27-28, 2019. Their first summit, held in Singapore on June 12, 2018, produced a joint statement expressing agreement to work on new relations between the two countries and “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula, but with little in the way of specifics as to how these aspirations would be attained. Since the first summit, Trump’s own intelligence community has continued to warn that North Korea has not halted work on its nuclear weapons or missile technology programs, despite Tweets from the President claiming success for his personal diplomacy with Kim Jong Un, and expressing disdain for the findings of the intelligence community. On the eve of the summit, both administration officials and North Korea experts have been reported to express concern that Trump, in his eagerness to make the summit a success, may make concessions such as agreeing to the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea.

Efforts to implement the Singapore agreement have also proven difficult to achieve, whether in terms of what each side means by “denuclearization,” or the linkages between steps each side needs to take, be it normalization of relations and the easing of sanctions by Washington, or verifiable steps by Pyongyang to begin dismantling its nuclear weapons and missile programs. Similar obstacles will likely face any agreement coming from the Hanoi summit.

In order to provide some essential historical context for the Trump-Kim summit and a better understanding of how previous administrations have sought to tackle the complex diplomacy surrounding efforts to reduce the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, the National Security Archive’s Korea Project is posting today a selection of declassified documents taken from previous Electronic Briefing Books dating back to 2003. These eleven postings cover U.S. efforts to meet North Korea’s military threat from the Nixon through the Clinton administrations. Links to these earlier postings, which also provide more detailed discussion of the historical context of the documents, can be found in the sidebar on this webpage.  Among the key points in these materials:

 

  • The high probability that any military action against North Korea would be difficult to contain and would result in casualties on an immense scale, with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney at one point arguing that discussion of possible military action should not be allowed to endanger diplomatic efforts to halt North Korea’s nuclear program [Documents 1, 2, 6-C-2, 10, and 23]
  • The critical role China must play in diplomatic negotiations to move North Korea away from its nuclear ambitions [Documents 4, 9, and 26]
  • The challenging interplay of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy involving the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and China as they have sought to orchestrate their engagement with North Korea with the proper mix of carrots and sticks [Documents 5, 6, 14, 16, and 21]
  • The emergence of concerns in the late 1990s that North Korea might be on the brink of economic collapse, and what this could mean for stability and security on the peninsula, as well as possibly providing leverage in negotiations with North Korea [Documents 15, 18 and 19]
  • The attention to detail combined with sensitivity to nuance and unknowns that have marked intelligence assessments of the situation inside North Korea. [Documents 11 and 12]

As these documents make clear, diplomacy aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats is a complex and challenging undertaking. The old saying that the devil is in the details will certainly apply here: any substantial agreement with Pyongyang will have to master the finer points of aligning strategic interests and goals not just between the United States and North Korea, but also involving South Korea, Japan, and China.

The documents

 

Document 01
Memorandum, Secretary of Defense Laird to NSA Kissinger, June 25, 1969, Subject: Review of US Contingency Plans for Washington Special Actions Group
1969-06-25
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This key document, prepared at Kissinger’s request for discussion at an upcoming meeting of the Washington Special Actions Group, outlines the full spectrum of contingency plans developed for consideration since the EC-121 incident, and which now includes an outline plan for nuclear operations against North Korea. As the preface indicates, these plans were developed by the CINCPAC, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) and the JCS to “support the attainment of United States politico-military objectives in a potential crisis situation involving the Republic of Korea.” The preface also stresses that the options, numbering over 25 (including sub-options within the main ones) cover a wide range of possible responses and so provide great flexibility and the ability to implement them in multiple variations to tailor the military response to the particular situation. In addition to the plans outlined in this document, more than a dozen others were reported under consideration by CINCPAC and the JCS.  The 13 main options in this document range from non-combatant and emergency evacuation in the event of a crisis to the airstrikes on North Korean airfields and power plants discussed in earlier documents, to a nuclear contingency plan for North Korea containing three options, and the defense of Korea.

The nuclear contingency plan, codenamed FREEDOM DROP and found at Tab L, seeks to provide “pre-coordinated options for the selective use of tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea” short of the plan for defense of South Korea against a renewed attack by North Korea. The first option involves a punitive attack against up to 12 military targets with nuclear weapons of a yield of .2 to 10 kilotons delivered by USAF tactical fighter aircraft based in South Korea, by carrier-based attack aircraft or by US Army Honest John/Sergeant missiles, or a combination of all three. Targets included command controls centers, three airfields, two naval bases and a missile support facility. Option 2 involved an attack with 70 kiloton nuclear weapons to neutralize North Korea’s military air power in response to a North Korean air attack on South Korea. The same three means of delivery were indicated, with all 16 major North Korean airfields targeted. The final option calls for an attack with nuclear weapons ranging from 10 to 70 kilotons aimed at diminishing greatly North Korea’s offensive capability. Using the same means of delivery, the targets would include all those in options 1 and 2 plus 22 additional military targets. Losses of U.S., South Korean and other allied forces were estimated at less than 10%, while civilian casualties, depending on the size of the attack, could range from around 100 to several thousand. Nuclear options were also part of the plan for defense of South Korea against renewed North Korean aggression, discussed at Tab M, particularly if needed to offset Communist numerical superiority in forces.

 

Document 02
Memorandum, Haig to Kissinger, July 3, 1969, Subject: WSAG Meeting of July 2, 1969 (with attached minutes of the meeting)
1969-07-02
Source: The Kissinger Transcripts: The Verbatim Record, edited by Dr. William Burr, The National Security Archive. A partially redacted version is in the FRUS volume on Korea, document no. 28
At this meeting, Kissinger was joined by U. Alexis Johnson from the State Department, G. Warren Nutter from the Pentagon, Cord Meyer from the CIA and Vice Admiral Nels C. Johnson, Director of the Joint Staff, along with Colonels Alexander Haig and Robert Behr of the NSC staff, to discuss the contingency plans drawn up for military action against North Korea, which were summarized in document 13. The discussion is important for understanding the political drivers of the contingency planning as well as the uncertainties that surrounded the process. Kissinger stressed that President Nixon’s goal with these plans was not “esoteric speculation” about events that might lead to a crisis, but to have options that would be useful in specific situations, and for each of these options a check list of what he has to do linked with possible reactions and outcomes. Kissinger also discussed the “lessons learned” that he took from the administration’s response to the EC-121 incident. Characterizing his own initial reactions as “probably naïve,” Kissinger said that the “main lesson he learned from the incident was that the trick in any action taken would be to preclude a counter blow. “ He indicated Nixon had similar second thoughts, musing that if a situation similar to the EC-121 incident occurred in the future and a B-52 strike was deemed necessary, the price to be paid was not much greater for a strike involving 25 aircraft than with three. “The need is to look determined and, if the object is to prevent counter-measures, the action taken should be a powerful blow.” Concluding, Kissinger believed that if a similar situation arose again, Nixon would probably either do nothing or select an option toward the “extreme end of the range of possibilities.” As Vice Admiral Johnson noted, this was a conclusion shared by the JCS.

The redactions in the FRUS volume occur on page 77, which records the group’s discussion of the Red Book of military contingency plans for Korea. This passage corresponds to page 4 of the fully-released document here. Both contain references to strikes to destroy the Chanjin Reservoir, with U. Alexis Johnson noting that “the Chanjin reservoir was where US forces ‘got clobbered’ in the Korea War.”

 

Document 03
Memorandum of Conversation, President Bush's Meeting with General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Zhao Ziyang of the People's Republic of China (S), February 26, 1989.
1989-02-26
Source: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
In this meeting with the Chinese Communist Party head, Bush continues his efforts to press China to exert its moderating influence on North Korea. Zhao echoes Li Peng's protestations of limited Chinese ability to affect the actions and policies of the North Korean leadership. Bush for his part tries to explore the possibilities for dealing with anyone other than this leadership, saying "We have to identify people who have influence who are more reasonable than the two top people in North Korea, Kim Il-sung and his son. … They have a stake in hostility toward the U.S. We need to find other people who are more reasonable to deal with." Unable to provide much hope for this approach, Zhao bluntly tells Bush "In my view, it you want to improve relations with North Korea, you must deal with the two people you don't like."

 

Document 04
Department of State Talking Points Paper for Under Secretary of State Bartholomew's China Trip, ca. 30 May 1991. Subject: North Korean Nuclear Program (For China)
1991-05-30
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This talking points paper, prepared for Under Secretary of State Reginald Bartholomew's trip to China in 1991, summarizes the U.S. concerns about Pyongyang's failure to carry out its obligations under the NPT and the evidence that the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center will be able to produce plutonium, leading to a North Korean nuclear weapon by the mid-1990s. The U.S. approach that Bartholomew was to present to the Chinese leaders stressed the preference for a "broadly based, concerted international consensus" as providing the best hope for bringing North Korea into compliance with its NPT obligations. The U.S. position also opposed any linkage between U.S. security arrangements in South Korea and North Korea's obligation to carry out its IAEA safeguards agreement. Bartholomew was to urge the Chinese to continue to raise these issues with the DPRK and press Pyongyang to meet their NPT commitments.

 

Document 05
Department of State, Cable, Secretary of State James Baker to Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, 18 November 1991. Subject: Dealing with the North Korean Nuclear Problem; Impressions from My Asia Trip.
1991-11-18
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This cable provides Secretary of State Baker's views on the positions being taken in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo on dealing with the problem of the DPRK nuclear program. It is marked by a clear sense of the interplay of different perspectives and concerns motivating the three governments, as well as the need for a coordinated U.S.-Japanese-Chinese-Soviet approach to placing pressure on the DPRK to implement an IAEA safeguards regime and to working out in parallel with the ROK a joint North-South commitment to forego nuclear reprocessing capabilities. As Baker summed up the approach of the first Bush administration, "we are starting to build the basis for a parallel strategy of coordinating diplomatic pressures on the North--combined with ROK initiatives through the North-South talks--and our defense reassurances to Seoul."

 

Document 06
Briefing Book, Deputies Committee Meeting, ca. 12/13/1991 (Secret)
1991-12-13
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This briefing book provides an invaluable and detailed look at how the Bush I administration deliberated over the critical next steps in confronting the North Korea nuclear program, as well as concerns held by the Pentagon about the approach recommended by the State Department. This briefing book was prepared for a NSC/Deputies' Committee meeting to be held on December 17. The Deputies' Committee was composed of high-ranking representatives below the Cabinet level from the State Department, the Secretary of Defense and JCS, the CIA and ACDA, as well as other agencies as required, and met to discuss policy issues that cut across the agencies' briefs. The level of detail found in this briefing book regarding the various negotiating goals and approaches defies easy summarization, and the materials should be read closely to capture all the nuances and factors entering into the U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at halting Pyongyang's nuclear program. The contents of the briefing book, with comments on significant points, include: (page numbers refer to the PDF copy):

A) Cover memo, table of contents and agenda (pages 1-3)

B) Meeting objectives memorandum (page 4)

The purpose of the meeting was to consider a "gameplan" to bring North Korea's nuclear weapons program under control. Specific steps to be considered included preliminary contact with North Korea at the deputy assistant secretary level. This would be accompanied by an approach by Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy in Beijing to invite North Korea to send a high-level official to meet with a U.S. counterpart in New York before President Bush visited Seoul in early January. Also under consideration were talking points for these meetings and demarches to countries with relations or potential influence in Pyongyang informing them of the U.S. concerns about the DPRK nuclear program.

C) Memorandum for ASD/ISA James R. Lilley, Subject DC Meeting on North Korea Nuclear Program, ca. December 12, 1991 (pages 5-6)

This memorandum summarizes the key points in the gameplan and lays out the Pentagon's concerns that the talking points are too "forward-leaning" with respect to offering the prospect of normalized relations with North Korea at this early point in the process. The Pentagon was already concerned that South Korea had rushed ahead in talks with North Korea about a non-aggression agreement while putting the nuclear issue off to the side. ACDA Director Ronald Lehman in his recent visit to Seoul (see 5 and 6 below) had sought to bolster South Korea's determination to press Pyongyang on this issue by agreeing to the idea of a North-South inspection regime. The Pentagon agreed with the key point of the gameplan, which was a high-level meeting to make sure Kim Il Sung knew directly about U.S. concerns regarding North Korea's nuclear program and that, for real progress, signing the IAEA safeguards agreement was not sufficient but the DPRK should reciprocate Roh Tae Woo's November 8 non-nuclear declaration foreswearing the development, including reprocessing and enrichment, of nuclear weapons. But the Pentagon strongly held that the U.S. side should not offer too much by way of a possible normalization of relations in these early contacts. In its view, the mere fact that these two meetings might take place were carrot enough, and the U.S. should make any second meeting conditional on North Korea signing and implementing safeguards, and agreeing to a reciprocal non-nuclear policy with Seoul and to at least trial inspections.

This memorandum has the following attachments:

1) Suggested Talking Points for Mr. Lilley (page 7) - This paper summarizes the main points Lilley should make in the Deputies' Committee meeting to drive home the Pentagon's concerns: keep the pressure on South Korea to push North Korea on the nuclear issue in its bilateral talks and to avoid prematurely raising the prospect of normalized relations in the initial meetings with North Korea, which should focus on making clear the U.S. concerns and benchmarks for progress on the nuclear issue.

2) Strategy for Dealing with North Korean Nuclear Issue (Gameplan paper) (pages 8-15) - This is the State Department paper laying out the diplomatic, political, and economic steps the U.S. should adopt as it works to resolve the North Korea nuclear problem, along with a timeline. The basic components of the plan were: continued international efforts to press North Korea; ensuring that Seoul press Pyongyang at the North-South talks on the nuclear issue; and clearly stating the U.S. position on a peninsula-wide ban on reprocessing and enrichment, both to the world and especially to the DPRK in proposed initial and follow-up, high-level meetings. While there were current signs of movement and success in building international pressures on the DPRK, the paper also sounded a number of warnings, noting that "there is a well-established history of Pyongyang raising expectations . . . only to back off at the last minute with additional demands,"

The paper acknowledges that the odds may be against the U.S. in pursuing the gameplan. It was entirely possible that North Korea had no intention of changing course, and would aim to "delay, diffuse international pressure, and use any opportunity to seem forthcoming, without making meaningful concessions." Adding to the uncertainties were the gaps in intelligence regarding North Korea's processing of nuclear material at Yongbyon. There were also signs that North Korea might try to move and hide its processing facilities before agreeing to inspections. The proposed plan for the next few months was to combine increased international pressure with concrete incentives for North Korea to take the steps needed to rein in its nuclear program. The international campaign would be waged on a number of fronts, including with Japan, China, Russia, the IAEA, and the UN. The latter posed particular issues, such as possibly inviting "invidious comparisons" to other unsafeguarded nuclear programs, such as Israel's. China also posed its own set of possibilities and concerns. The U.S. hoped Beijing would provide more reliable information about the North Korean nuclear program as well as exert its influence. But the U.S. could not be "absolutely certain of PRC motives ... and it is unlikely they would be prepared to take any measures they perceived as putting the survival of the Pyonguang regime in question."

These efforts needed to be coordinated with two other key arenas of discussion: the North-South dialogue and bilateral U.S.-DPRK contacts. The North-South channel was crucial to solution of the nuclear issue and other Korean problems. A meeting to discuss a ROK/DPRK non-nuclear agreement that incorporated a ban on reprocessing and enrichment as well as a bilateral inspection regime was planned for December 20. In support of this initiative, Secretary of Defense Cheney had told Seoul that the U.S. could consider inspections of U.S. bases in South Korea under the right circumstances; i.e., inspections must be reciprocal, simultaneous and involve both civil and military facilities, and should come after the public commitment from both Koreas to a non-nuclear policy. ACDA Director Lehman had elaborated on this position during his visit to Seoul. The North/South talks also carried the risk that South Korea might not be willing to pay the political price of taking tougher steps towards North Korea if needed.

The bilateral U.S.-DPRK dialogue raised the points at issue in the NSC/Deputies' Committee meeting regarding what should be said at these sessions. They would provide a venue for sending a critical message to the top North Korean leadership: should the U.S., at any point, "learn the DPRK is developing nuclear weapons or producing weapons-usable nuclear material, we would be unable to proceed further in the direction of dialogue and normalization." This stick would be paired with the carrot of a possible easing of tensions and moves towards normalization of relations in a step-by-step fashion as North Korea met specific benchmarks in bringing its nuclear program under international safeguards and inspections. Another potential stick was explicitly taken off the table, however: Cheney had told South Korean and Japanese leaders that the U.S. should not consider "military measures" as such discussion could jeopardize the current diplomatic strategy.

3) State Department Talking Points - Preliminary Contact with DPRK (pages 16-17) - This and the following document provide talking points that address U.S. concerns about the North Korean nuclear program and the necessary steps to address them, as discussed in the document above. Notable are the marginal notes, assumed to be by a Pentagon official, that would underscore the need to discuss the nuclear issue, and that called for deleting the talking point about possible normalization of relations between the U.S. and North Korea.

4) State Department Talking Points for High-Level Meeting (pages 18-23) - Again, these talking points elaborate on the U.S. concerns and position regarding North Korea's nuclear program, to be presented at a high-level gathering following the initial meeting. The points are familiar, taken from the gameplan document; of particular interest are the Pentagon marginal notes. The Pentagon remained focused on making it clear to North Korea that its nuclear program was unacceptable and on laying out the steps North Korea must take to bring this program under international review and inspection.

5) Memorandum, Col. Eden Y. Woon (OSD/ISA) for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Subject: ACDEA Director Lehman Visit to Korea on Nuclear Issue, ca. December 30, 1991 (pages 24-26) - This memorandum reports on the interagency team that ACDA Director Lehman took to Seoul on December 6-9. The team consisted of representatives from ACDA, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs, and the office of the Secretary of Defense. After stressing to the South Koreans that the North Korea nuclear issue should be "front and center" in the upcoming North/South ministerial meetings, the U.S. delegation then focused on revising serious problems with a draft joint declaration Seoul planned to propose to Pyongyang at these meetings. Key among these concerns was keeping North Korea's international obligation regarding IAEA safeguards separate from bilateral nuclear agreements; insuring that a North/South inspection regime included both military and civilian sites, as IAEA inspections alone might not be able to detect a covert weapons program at Yongbyon and other suspected sites; and avoiding any statement that the purpose of a bilateral inspection regime was "to check on the presence of nuclear weapons." The U.S. feared this would come too close to sounding like checking for U.S. weapons, whereas the purpose of the inspections should be to verify both Koreas are abiding by any joint nuclear declaration.

The U.S. team had to counter serious South Korean resistance to making changes to address these concerns, fearing it would make the joint declaration too tough for North Korea to accept. More worrisome for Seoul was that it would be hard to pressure North Korea on inspecting reprocessing facilities since reprocessing was legal. Fighting back against what the Americans saw as a reversion to old thinking, which the U.S. thought had disappeared with Roh's November 8 announcement of non-nuclear principles, the U.S. delegation spent the better part of the meeting explaining the inadequacies of IAEA inspections alone, the need to press North Korea to stop reprocessing and the requirement for persuading North Korea to reciprocate Roh Tae Woo's powerful non-nuclear policy.

In the end, the U.S. delegation persuaded the South Koreans to make the necessary changes in the draft joint declaration. Looking ahead, it was clear Washington needed to do more to reassure South Korea that international pressure on North Korea would not ease once the DPRK signed the IAEA safeguards agreement. To this end, the U.S. would have to send out a "core demarche" cable to its friends and allies stating the American goal of persuading North Korea to reciprocate Roh's non-nuclear policy and stop reprocessing, and declaring its position that merely signing the IAEA safeguards agreement was insufficient to address international concerns. Sending this cable would also serve to shield the United States from criticism that it was "moving the goalposts" in its demands on North Korea. And again, Washington needed to engage with China, possibly through high-level talks in the near future, to secure its role in putting pressure on North Korea, a role that would increase if the issue had to move to the U.N. Finally, the U.S. and South Korea needed to make a decision on whether to hold the 1992 Team Spirit joint military exercises, a matter on which South Korean views were divided.

6) Cable, Amembassy Seoul 13075 to SecState, Subject: Lehman Visit:

ROKG Proposal for a N/S Non-Nuclear Joint Declaration, December 9, 1991 (pages 27-30) - This cable summarizes the results of the U.S.-ROK meeting on nuclear issues that is the focus of the preceding memorandum. As noted above, these issues were distinguishing between IAEA inspections and any bilateral North/South inspection agreement, the need to include civil sites in any bilateral agreement, the U.S. opposition to having the stated purpose of bilateral inspections include checking for the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons, as well as the need to include trial inspections as a goal of the North/ South talks. The South Koreans accepted the U.S. changes, which would be incorporated into the draft Seoul would present to the DPRK at the ministerial discussions beginning on December 10. The cable reiterates the South Korean agreement that the nuclear issue should be "front and center" at these talks and that the draft joint declaration will be used to "attack" North Korea's position on nuclear weapons. The South Koreans expected this strategy to lead to a "major confrontation" on the nuclear issue, with Seoul determined to come out of the fight this round as "top dog." The rest of the cable gives the text of the revised draft joint declaration.

7) Cable, Amembassy Seoul 13322 to SecState, Subject: Prime Ministers Sign Joint Agreement on Reconciliation and Nonaggression: "The Most Comprehensive North-South Document Since the Division of the Peninsula, December 13, 1991 (pages 31-33) - This cable reports that on December 13, North and South Korea's prime ministers signed the "Joint Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression, Cooperation and Exchanges," and provides details on a briefing that Assistant Foreign Minister Lee See Young gave the diplomatic corps on the agreement and the negotiations leading to it. Lee said that Seoul had put strong emphasis on the nuclear issue throughout the negotiations, pressing the DPRK to accept nuclear inspections and halt nuclear weapons development, and calling for agreement to end all reprocessing and enrichment to insure nuclear weapons would not be produced on the peninsula. South Korea had also pushed for North Korea to accept that trial inspections of military and civilian facilities, one of the confidence-building measures, be carried out within the month. Regarding the ROK draft declaration on a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, North Korea had initially responded by repeating its call for a nuclear-free zone, but Seoul had pushed to have further talks on a joint nuclear declaration work from the South Korean draft. Lee also noted the "unexpectedly flexible" North Korean stance at the talks, but felt that Pyongyang may need more concrete proof of progress in the North/South dialogue as a step towards improving its international standing and ending its political and economic isolation. For its part, Seoul held that further moves towards normalizing relations with North Korea should wait to ensure the DPRK followed through on implementing the agreement and its continued stand on the nuclear issue. Summing up, Lee asserted that the joint agreement was the most comprehensive North-South document since the division of the peninsula," which could bring about "a major change in North-South relations."

 

Document 07
Memorandum: North Korea Deputies' Committee. March 12, 1992 (Secret)
1992-03-12
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
"Our basic policy remains that nuclear weapons in North Korean hands are intolerable." The state of play in avoiding this outcome is the focus of this memorandum, prepared for a meeting of the North Korea Deputies' Committee. It was a "testing period" for the DPRK, in which the U.S. and its allies waited for Pyongyang to carry out its promise to ratify the IAEA safeguards agreement reached in January, having already failed to meet a commitment to do this in February. While there were promising signs that North Korea might still ratify the IAEA agreement in April, and talks were underway to establish a Joint Nuclear Control Commission (JNCC) to monitor the North-South non-nuclear agreement, the North's intentions remained unclear. There were signs of an internal debate possibly slowing decisions, as the DPRK might see some political advantage in delay, or it might be playing for time so that it could "destroy, dismantle, or convert sensitive facilities," even to hide its nuclear weapons program or produce and then hide "significant amounts of plutonium before allowing inspections. Or perhaps it might plan not to accept meaningful inspections at all.

South Korea and Japan agreed with the U.S. that improved political relations with North Korea were off the table until the nuclear issue was resolved. Seoul had made progress on this issue a prerequisite for movement in other North-South talks, going so far as to postpone a summit meeting and would likely postpone the next round of prime ministerial talks in May absent real progress. Even if the DPRK did ratify the IAEA safeguards agreement and negotiated a bilateral inspection regime, the next test would be the completeness of North Korea's declarations to the IAEA. A further complicating factor was the willingness of some countries, especially China and Russia, to give the DPRK the benefit of the doubt for "plausible delay." Absent undeniable proof that the DPRK did not intend to carry out its promises, it would be difficult to mobilize international pressure in the near term. A "worst case" scenario in which North Korea delayed action on its IAEA commitments until October was attached to the memorandum.

For the moment, the U.S. had to walk a fine line between accepting that North Korea would meet its obligations and maintaining international concern, while at the same time laying the basis for action that could enable it to narrow North Korea's freedom of action and tighten international pressure. The key challenge was "to minimize DPRK "wiggle room," by building international support for a reasonable deadline for initial IAEA inspections at all the DPRK's nuclear facilities, which would in turn lay the basis for international action if it became necessary to coerce Pyongyang. A best case scenario (also attached) would find the DPRK submitting its nuclear inventory in late May, laying the basis for initial inspections in early June. Future U,S. diplomacy needed to focus on bolstering support for the best-case scenario, while not giving North Korea grounds to charge the U.S. was "pressuring" it. A critical target of this diplomacy would be China, which had the most influence with North Korea. Washington was to stress with Beijing that the U.S. timetable was "critical" and urge the Chinese to "make it happen," emphasizing China's national interest and the U.S. determination to pursue tough international steps, which Beijing should support, if Pyongyang "fails to perform." Other venues at which the U.S. should press its case were the IAEA, the UN and in U.S.-DPRK counselors talks in Beijing. Should coercive steps be needed, these could be pursued through economic sanctions under the UN aegis, in concert with like-minded nations, or unilaterally if need be.

 

Document 08
Memorandum, William T. Pendley to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Subject: North Korea Nuclear Issue - Where are We Now?, October 27, 1992 [Secret]
1992-11-27
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This paper reviews the current situation regarding inspection of North Korea nuclear facilities, which was troubling for two main reasons. First, with the fourth IAEA inspection of the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon currently under way, it was becoming clear that North Korean non-cooperation was more evident as IAEA inspections became more aggressive. Second, there was a sense that South Korea, after several unproductive JNCC meetings, might be ready to adopt a bilateral inspection regime that fell short of meeting U.S. concerns or might not be carried out rigorously by Seoul, but would provide Pyongyang with "underserved respectability" on the nuclear inspection issue. There was also concern that Seoul would not have the political will to agree to a challenge inspection for the North Korean facilities. A meeting with officials from State, ACDA, and the NSC revealed these concerns were shared, and that several steps should be taken. First, the U.S. needed to define for Seoul essential principles in the bilateral inspection proposal now under discussion that could not be compromised, including the need for an adequate number of challenge inspections and access to any site, military or civilian. If need be, the U.S. should explore possible alternative "new" or "hybrid" inspection regimes incorporating these essential principles under which perhaps the IAEA, with "more credible" or even U.S. inspectors, could initiate and carry out intrusive challenge inspections. No new initiative should in any way lead North or South Korea to view the U.S. as weakening on its basic goal of stopping any DPRK weapons program with a credible challenge inspection regime.

 

Document 09
China: Potential Response to Korean Contingencies, DIA Special Report, January 31, 1994 (Secret)
1994-01-31
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This DIA analysis examines possible Chinese responses in different Korean contingencies related to North Korea's nuclear weapons program: the imposition of UN economic sanctions, and a military confrontation with North Korea. The report notes that Beijing faces special problems in dealing with Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions. They need to "reconcile their interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula and long-standing ties to Pyongyang with their interests in a denuclearized peninsula, in avoiding isolation among UN Security Council (SC) members, and in maintaining stable relations with the US, Japan and South Korea." In the event of economic sanctions, China would likely work to ameliorate the impact on North Korea, with the primary goal of preventing a political crisis growing out of North Korea's economic collapse. If Pyongyang attacked South Korea, China would likely want to avoid giving military support and would work for an end to hostilities. Finally, if a broader war erupts involving US and South Korean forces, China likely would not respond with aggressive military action, but would take steps to secure its border and might consider deploying Chinese forces across the Yalu River to forestall the loss of all of North Korea to US and South Korea forces.

 

Document 10
Cable, Seoul 0331 to Secretary of State, Subject: SECDEF Meeting with ROK Minister of Defense Rhee, April 21, 1994 (Secret)
1994-04-21
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This cable reports on the first personal meeting between U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry and his South Korean counterpart, Defense Minister Rhee Byong Tae. Despite a developing crisis in Bosnia, Perry felt compelled to come to Seoul to establish a personal relationship with Rhee so that they could work together with confidence on the mounting North Korean nuclear crisis. Despite extensive redactions, this document is important for Perry's clear statements of the U.S. position, the risks involved, and the need for close U.S.-ROK agreement on the threat and the steps to be taken. Perry is at pains to stress that while the U.S. does not believe there was "any imminent danger of war on the peninsula," Washington and Seoul still need to maintain the military deterrent to North Korea as the necessary backstop to negotiations, and then impose sanctions if need be. As Perry summed up the issue, "(1) We will not initiate war' (2) We will not provide a war; but (3) We should not invite a war by being weak." To this end, according to Perry, the U.S. and South Korea must strengthen the deterrent against North Korea, regardless of assertions by Pyongyang that these steps would be provocative. Rhee, while agreeing with Perry, also stresses that war is unthinkable for South Korea, stating bluntly that "If there is another war, the country will be totally wiped out. … during the Korean War, there were two million casualties, with ten million family separations. A war now would be 100 times worse, and South Korean nation-building would be turned into ashes."

 

Document 11
DPRK: Not Much Movement; The Secretary's Morning Intelligence Summary, INR, July 23, 1994 (Top Secret/Codeword)
1994-07-23
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
Here, INR continues its assessments of the power succession in North Korea, examining the usual signs that Kim Jong Il is moving to solidify his position as the new leader, but notes there is no information, positive or negative, to judge the security of his position inside the North Korean leadership. Statements in the party-controlled press have warned against "the slightest attempt to damage" Kim Il Sung's accomplishments, which suggest that the policy of engagement with the U.S. begun under him will continue to receive support from the new leadership. On the other hand, because of South Korea's perceived disrespectful response to the elder Kim's death, prospects for a North-South summit seem diminished, if only for the moment.

 

Document 12
DPRK: Slow-Motion Succession; The Secretary's Morning Intelligence Summary, INR, August 25, 1994 (Top Secret/Codeword)
1994-08-25
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
INR continues to sift the tea leaves on Kim Jong Il's leadership position, as health issues and signs of other "forces at work" seem to be delaying consolidation of his succession. Kim's health issues, reportedly including diabetes, have resulted in his prolonged public absence during a critical time, during which a leadership debate has seemed to reopen on two crucial policy areas: reunification and the economy. All in all, the INR analysts conclude that "Kim Jong Il will have to make some leadership changes soon, to root out pockets of opposition and to put his own stamp on his regime."

 

Document 13
Cable, SecState to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts, Subject: Results of U.S.-DPRK Talks in Geneva, August 22, 1994
1994-08-22
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
In this cable, the State Department provides guidance to its embassies on the results of the most recent round of U.S.-DPRK talks on the North Korean nuclear program. Calling these talks an “important step forward” in efforts to resolve this issue, the cable outlines the elements of the proposed agreements reached in principle so far, involving freezing the essential elements of the North Korean nuclear program while the talks are underway, the proposed replacement of North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors with light-water reactor power plants, exchange of diplomatic envoys between the two Koreas, implementation of a North-South joint declaration on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and U.S. willingness to provide the DPRK with assurances against the threat or use of nuclear weapons against it. Key points remaining to be nailed down included implementation of the IAEA safeguards treaty, including provision for special inspections and a full accounting of past North Korean nuclear activity, and disposition of the spent nuclear fuel from the North Korean reactor; Summing up, the cable notes the critical importance of sequencing these elements of an overall agreement, comparing the final settlement to a puzzle for which the U.S. has some, but not all, of the pieces in place.

 

Document 14
State Department Briefing Paper, Subject: Four Party Proposal Briefing, ca. April 1996
1996-04-00
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This briefing paper underscores the difficult balancing act the U.S. was attempting in working to arrange Four Power talks involving North Korea, South Korea, China and the U.S. on a possible peace agreement for the peninsula. The overriding principle for the talks is that it was for the Korean people to determine the future of the peninsula, so the two Koreas had to take the lead in negotiating any permanent peace treaty. Still, the U.S. and China have interests in the matter, so the talks were being organized to provide maximum flexibility for accommodating and expressing the views of the four parties as they discuss how to initiate a process that can lead to a final settlement.

 

Document 15
State Department Talking Points [in re North Korean economic situation and food aid], ca. May 1996
1996-05-00
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This paper, apparently prepared for trilateral talks with South Korea and Japan, lays out the points of consensus among the three governments regarding the situation in North Korea. Essentially, while North Korea remained in a steep decline economically, the regime under Kim Il Sung’s son, Kim Jong Il, remains in control. The paper outlines the evidence for deepening economic ills in North Korea, and outlines the key points surrounding the question of further food assistance to the country. Important questions here involved the balancing of humanitarian concerns with other policy goals, and how to relate food aid to the four party process. In any event, the U.S. saw the burden of any new aid falling primarily on South Korea, Japan and China.

 

Document 16
State Department Briefing Paper, Subject: US-Japan-Korea Trilaterals, ca. May 1996
1996-05-00
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This paper discusses the mixed record of success in U.S. policy goals for Korea. On the plus side, good progress was being made on the Agreed Framework, with the canning of spent fuel underway at Nyongbyon under IAEA supervision. On the other hand, efforts to foster a meaningful North-South dialogue seemed stalled, as Pyongyang continued to resist official talks with Seoul. The record for bilateral U.S.-DPRK talks was also mixed. Meanwhile, serious challenges still faced the establishment of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), including securing adequate international financing, though South Korean participation in KEDO delegations had served to reduce Seoul’s concerns about being left out of the arrangement. Despite continued problems on specific points, the U.S. assessed North Korean cooperation as “good” so far.

 

Document 17
Key Issue Paper for Secretary of State-designate Madeleine Albright, Subject: Korean Peninsula Issues, December 1996
1996-12-00
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This paper, prepared to brief Madeleine Albright after her nomination as Secretary of State in Bill Clinton’s second term, provides a concise summation of U.S. policy goals and concerns on the peninsula, as well as pressing near-term issues. Significant points that emerge from this document include the statement that the U.S. and South Korea had “cooperated to prevent the precipitate collapse of the DPRK, since it would present unacceptable military risks and economic costs,” as well as the acknowledgement that strains had arisen between Washington and Seoul over North Korea policy, fostered by general resentment in South Korea of any U.S. interaction with North Korea and specifically in the wake of the September 18 incident in which North Korean infiltrators were discovered entering South Korea from a submarine, leading to firefights and a search that extended into November. Despite these South Korean concerns, the U.S. had continued to move ahead in bilateral discussions with Pyongyang on a variety of issues free of “ROK manipulation,” if not resistance, including preparations to open liaison offices in their capitals, recovery of the remains of U.S. soldiers who died north of the DMZ during the Korean War, and negotiations on DPRK missile development and exports.

 

Document 18
State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research Intelligence Assessment, Roundtable on North Korean Food Crisis, July 3, 1997
1997-07-03
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
As the economic crisis deepened, the State Department INR and Office of Korean Affairs convened a roundtable of experts to discuss the crisis, its potential impact on regime stability and broader U.S. policy interests. Echoing earlier assessments, the panel found that the food crisis was real, though uncertainty remained as to its scope and potential for actual famine in North Korea. The experts also agreed that aid alone would not solve the crisis, which required addressing deep structural problems, a step that carried its own risks for Pyongyang. While no one held that the communist regime was facing imminent collapse, most felt its long-term prospects were dim if current trends continued. Despite these uncertainties, the panel reconfirmed the judgment that U.S. support of humanitarian aid to North Korea was in line with other U.S. policy goals on the peninsula, including preventing the outbreak of war, creating a stable peace, promoting change in Pyongyang and reducing the nuclear threat.

 

Document 19
CIA Intelligence Report, Exploring the Implications of Alternative North Korean Endgames: Results for a Discussion Panel on Continuing Coexistence Between North and South Korea, January 21, 1998 [FOIA Release] (pages after 20-36 excised)
1998-01-21
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
In 1997, the CIA devoted at least two exercises to exploring the national security implications of different endgame scenarios on the Korean Peninsula. A March 1997 panel examined the implications of three scenarios: a limited North Korean invasion of the South, a coup attempt and ensuing civil war in the North, and peaceful unification under South Korea's leadership. This exercise concluded that from Seoul's perspective, the optimum endgame would be gradual reconciliation leading to eventual reunification on South Korean terms, without unacceptable economic costs. To further investigate this scenario, a second roundtable of experts was convened in late 1997 to examine the potential for reconciliation as well as the implications of a prolonged period of competitive coexistence between the two Koreas. The results of that roundtable, reported in this partially declassified CIA report, stressed that the fundamental variable is "the question of time" - would North Korea be able to survive long enough for peaceful reunification to occur, or was the regime more likely to collapse due to its endemic economic problems? While rehearsing the familiar observations about Kim Jong Il's ability to stay in command, the report notes the common view held by South Korea and other regional powers that for the time being, the continued existence of North Korea is preferable to the unpredictable costs of reunification in the near term, either peaceful or otherwise. The odds against the regime's continued survival were low, however, as the majority of the experts doubted the regime could persist beyond five years - i.e., 2002 - given the unwillingness or inability of Pyongyang to pursue fundamental reforms.

 

Document 20
Cable, Amembassy Seoul 2078 to SecState, April 13, 1998, Subject: U/S Pickering's Meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Sun Joun-Yung (Confidential)
1998-04-13
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This meeting between Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and ROK Vice Foreign Minister Sun Youn Yun to exchange views in preparation for President Kim Dae Jung's visit to Washington in June, was held against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis, which had rocked South Korea and other East Asian economies, and Seoul's ongoing efforts, supported by the U.S., to reengage North Korea in productive talks to ease tensions on the peninsula through the venue of North/South talks being held in Beijing.

The scheduled meeting in Beijing on April 11, the first in nearly four years, had been spurred by North Korea's desire to obtain fertilizer from Seoul, but South Korea wanted to use the talks as an opportunity to widen the dialogue to other issues, such as the exchange of special envoys and reuniting separated families. The DPRK had also responded favorably to Kim Dae Jung's pledge to separate politics and economics. Vice Minister Sun assured Pickering that Seoul would continue to consult with the U.S. on the North/South dialogue, noting that the South Korean government recognized there was a "delicate balance" between the Four Power Talks and the bilateral North/South dialogue, in which the latter could be used to reinforce the Geneva process.

The second round of four-power talks in Geneva involving the U.S., South Korea, North Korea and China, had been held a few weeks earlier, and Seoul felt these had been useful if for no other reason than it kept Pyongyang engaged in discussions. Pickering was not so sanguine about the recent Geneva meeting, noting that the U.S. had low expectations heading into it, which North Korea met by using its "typical methods, being obstreperous, applying pressure, and then relenting in the end."

Pickering also stressed that there were concerns about the slow pace in carrying out the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) program of building a light-water reactor for North Korea under the terms of the 1994 agreement and the related commitment to provide Pyongyang with heavy fuel oil. The DPRK's recent complaints about these delays likely reflected paranoia, but were also deleterious, if not threatening, to U.S. and South Korean interests. As Pickering warned, "If Pyongyang senses we will betray our commitments to them, they will look for a reason to betray their commitments to us." Pickering and Sun agreed that their two governments must find answers as soon as possible, for they could "not allow something that took so long to put together to get off track now."

 

Document 21
State Department Background Paper: North Korea, drafted by John Meakem, East Asia and Pacific Affairs, ca. April 14, 1998 (Secret)
1998-04-14
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This paper, possibly prepared for Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Stanley Roth's upcoming visit to Seoul (see Document 4 below) assesses the state of play regarding North Korea's internal situation, the North/South dialogue, Four Party talks and KEDO. North Korea's situation was seen as bleak, with the economy in a tailspin since 1990 and grinding to a halt in many sectors. The ongoing food shortage, by some estimates resulting in the death of nearly one million people over the previous three years, was rooted in structural defects not subject to quick fixes. Absent the needed reforms Pyongyang seemed unwilling to make, only outside aid from the US. South Korea, Japan and international bodies could ease the situation. The risk was that a 'starving North Korea" could become unstable and create a "dangerously chaotic situation." Politically, Kim Jong Il had yet to assume the title of head of state, give a public speech or meet with foreign leaders.

The two parallel lines of engagement with North Korea were seen by the paper's author as complementary and mutually reinforcing, a view that South Korean leader Kim Dae Jung also held. The food crisis led North Korea to propose vice ministerial-level talks in Beijing, the first high-level talks since 1994, to discuss acquiring fertilizer from South Korea, though no agreement on such talks had been reached because North Korea remained unwilling to address South Korean concerns, such as the reunion of divided families. Still, Seoul felt that North Korea's readiness to meet reflected a positive reaction to Kim Dae Jung's more forward-leaning policy towards North Korea. While the North/South dialogue worked to improve the general tone of relations and provide much needed economic and humanitarian aid to North Korea, the Four Party talks could lead to progress on confidence-building steps and reducing tensions.

KEDO, on the other hand, faced a financial crisis, primarily for supplying heavy fuel oil to North Korea, but also for financing the light-water reactor project. For reasons that include domestic politics, Japan and South Korea refused to help with the heavy oil fuel issue and current commitments to the light-water reactor would end in the fall. Without progress on these matters, North Korea, which was already protesting the lack of progress on the reactors, might take steps involving the nuclear freeze that would start a "vicious cycle" leading to a new security crisis.

 

Document 22
Robert D. Walpole, National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, North Korea's Taepo Dong Launch and Some Implications on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, December 8, 1998.
1998-12-08
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This report contains information on the August 31, 1998 Taepo Dong 1 launch and its implications, the controversial 1998 national intelligence estimate on the ballistic missile threat to the United States.

 

Document 23
Cable, Amembassy Seoul 6928 to SecState, December 8, 1998, Subject: Former Secretary Perry's Meeting with President Kim (Confidential)
1998-12-08
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
Thanks to the Blue House press spokesman, a nearly complete transcript was released of a meeting in early December 1998 between President Kim Dae Jung and William Perry, who had rejoined the Clinton administration as special coordinator for North Korean affairs to prepare a report with policy recommendations for Clinton. Joining Perry were Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, State Department Counselor Wendy Sherman, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nonproliferation Ashton Carter, while President Kim's secretary for foreign affairs and national security Lim Dong Won also took part. The meeting took place against the backdrop of President Clinton's visit to Seoul on November 20-22, during which Clinton had sought to rebut reports of rifts between the two countries over North Korea policy. Seoul was Perry's first stop on a trip that would include Japan and China, and focused on hearing these countries' views on how engagement with North Korea could be pursued in the face of provocative actions by Pyongyang.

As Kim saw it, North Korea was at a crossroads where it could either choose the path of military provocations and risk war, or pursue reform and greater openness. There were signs of both approaches in North Korea's recent actions, with its missile program and suspected underground nuclear sites set against its cooperation in the four-party talks and bilateral talks with South Korea on peninsular peace and stability, as well as steps to promote business linkages between the two Koreas. There were also signs that the North Korean regime was moving cautiously to explore economic reform that resembled the early stages of a socialist market economy. Kim believed that North Korea was acting tough not because it was tough but because its economic difficulties were expressed as threats when it interacted with other countries. What mattered most, Kim argued, was that no country in the world would support North Korea if it chose to attack South Korea. This was particularly true of China, whose leaders, based on Kim's talks with Chinese leaders including President Jiang, were opposed to war and supported reconciliation and detente on the Korean peninsula because these were in line with Chinese interests.

Kim stressed that the U.S. and South Korea must stand firm together and work to involve Russia and especially China to engage North Korea with a policy that combined the incentive of improved relations, including economic ties and humanitarian assistance, if North Korea cooperated to address security issues, with a tough security policy that made it clear Pyongyang would not profit from provocative actions, including its military programs. This dual policy of stiff penalties for provocations and incentives for cooperation had led to success in U.S. diplomacy in two key cases - the opening to China and the end of the Cold War, Kim argued.

Turning to North Korea's missile program and suspected nuclear weapons program, Kim believed Pyongyang was four to five years away from building nuclear weapons, if that was their goal. Before imposing sanctions, the U.S. should carry out the nuclear inspections that North Korea was subject to under the 1994 framework agreement. With respect to missiles, including North Korea's efforts to sell missile technology to Middle East nations, the U.S. needed to pursue direct talks to address these issues.

Finally, the discussion touched on two points regarding the 1993-1994 nuclear crisis with North Korea that was resolved by the 1994 Framework Agreement. Kim told Perry that during the crisis he visited the U.S. where he met with Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gallucci, who spearheaded the negotiations with North Korea. Later, during remarks at the National Press Club, Kim strongly pushed the idea that former President Jimmy Carter should visit North Korea to work with Kim Il Sung on a resolution of the crisis. According to Kim the South Korean government at the time had opposed this idea, fearing Kim Il Sung would mislead Carter, but Kim told U.S. Ambassador James Laney that a Carter visit would not fail, and that Kim Il Sung would not have invited Carter if he planned to send the former president back empty-handed. In the event, Carter's trip served to facilitate a resolution of the crisis. Perry at one point noted that he had been secretary of defense in 1994, and that the U.S had planned for war at the time. Regarding these plans, Perry told the South Korean leader that "Of course, with the combined forces of the ROK and U.S., we can undoubtedly win the war. But war involves many casualties in the process." Perry assured Kim that he was well aware of the negative aspects of war and would do his best to avoid it.

 

Document 24
"Script of Talking Points for William J. Perry," May 21, 1999 (Secret)
1999-05-21
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
As concerns, including ongoing problems with North Korea's adherence to the Agreed Framework, continued to mount, in October 1998 President Clinton asked former Secretary of Defense William Perry to carry out a fundamental review of U.S. policy toward North Korea. This document provides the detailed talking points for Perry's remarks to North Korean officials, with revisions possibly in his own hand, on May 26 during his visit to the country to exchange views about his policy recommendations. Though the last half of his remarks have been redacted, the document still provides a good summary of U.S. concerns and goals regarding North Korea as it sought to reset relations with the country. As Perry presented the U.S. view, the Framework Agreement helped to avert a crisis and also opened a door into "an era of decisively improved relations between the US and the DPRK," though the two sides had not yet managed to pass through this door. To this end, Perry was recommending a fundamental change in U.S. policy toward North Korea, rooted in U.S. security interests and goals in Asia that had developed since World War II. This policy would seek to engage with North Korea on the basis of reciprocal respect for each nation's security interests, with the goal of reducing threats that might endanger peace and stability on the peninsula and in Asia. This would require agreed changes to a status quo that is unstable, including removing the "clear and present danger" presented by North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

 

Document 25
William J. Perry, Review of United States Policy Toward North Korea: Findings and Recommendations, October 12, 1999.
1999-10-12
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
Former Secretary of Defense William Perry headed a North Korea policy review team, tasked in November 1998 by President Clinton with conducting an extensive review of U.S. relations with the DPRK. The team's report focused on the assessment of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula, the perspective of regional actors, alternative policies, and offered an overall strategy and recommendations.

 

Document 26
Cable, Amembassy Beijing 010155 to Ruech/Secstate, October 29, 1999, Subject: U/S Pickering's October 28 Lunch with Chinese VFM Yang Jiechi: International Issues and More on Taiwan, (Confidential).
1999-10-29
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
This cable, which reports on a wide-ranging discussion between Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, includes a briefing Pickering gave Yang on the Perry Report, plans for a high-level DPRK visit to Washington, and the Four Power talks (pages 5-7). Stressing that reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula was in the interests of the U.S. and China, Pickering reminded Yang that, as State Department Counselor Wendy Sherman had told the Chinese charge in Washington, the recently-released Perry Report recommended that U.S. policy toward North Korea should become "more comprehensive and integrated." To this end, the U.S. should work to normalize relations with North Korea at a faster rate as Pyongyang took steps to address Washington's concerns about its nuclear and missile programs.

For its part, North Korea had agreed to a missile test moratorium while discussions with the U.S. proceeded, while the U.S. had eased sanctions, though this step could be reversed. Whereas the U.S. hoped North Korea would work with it to reduce tensions on the peninsula, Washington had to be ready to pursue other options if the DPRK did not cooperate. The U.S. would also continue to carry out the Agreed Framework agreement at the same time as it sought verifiable assurances from North Korea that it was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

As all these processes unfolded, Pickering said that Washington would continue to consult with Beijing and appreciated China's efforts to "counsel Pyongyang to exercise restraint." Regarding next steps, Pickering told Yang that the Berlin talks between the U.S. and North Korea in September had laid the basis for a high-level DPRK visit to the U.S., a visit which the U.S. felt North Korea was taking very seriously. These bilateral developments in turn helped to improve the atmosphere for the Four Party Talks, which the U.S. hoped would resume by the end of the year. Pickering noted that a draft treaty tabled by China at the last round of talks would serve as a useful basis for future discussion, and expressed appreciation for the "depth and strength" of Beijing's participation in these talks.


Document 27
Memorandum, Roy to Secretary of State Albright, Subject: Pyongyang at the Summit, June 16, 2000

2000-06-16
Source: Freedom of Information Act release
In this memorandum, Stapleton Roy attempts to provide Secretary of State Albright with some historical perspective on the historic North-South summit in Pyongyang. His basic argument is that while there was much that was new in the summit, “Pyongyang is carrying out policies that have been much discussed in the leadership and, in some cases, were formulated and partially deployed years ago. What appears to be a new, more lively North Korean approach is really a return to familiar patterns, temporarily suspended after the death of Kim Il Sung. … The North Koreans have survived, independent and prickly, among their larger neighbors precisely because they have not had an ideologically rigid foreign policy. On the contrary, the policy has reacted to changing circumstances in and around the peninsula. Kim Jong Il was a party to that policy for many years, indeed, he helped shape it” The rest of the memorandum provides Roy’s evidence for this argument, citing events going back to the 1980s.

Source:Ocnus.net 2019

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