Disarming Strangers

Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea

Leon V. Sigal
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7smb0
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  • Book Info
    Disarming Strangers
    Book Description:

    In June 1994 the United States went to the brink of war with North Korea. With economic sanctions impending, President Bill Clinton approved the dispatch of substantial reinforcements to Korea, and plans were prepared for attacking the North's nuclear weapons complex. The turning point came in an extraordinary private diplomatic initiative by former President Jimmy Carter and others to reverse the dangerous American course and open the way to a diplomatic settlement of the nuclear crisis.

    Few Americans know the full details behind this story or perhaps realize the devastating impact it could have had on the nation's post-Cold War foreign policy. In this lively and authoritative book, Leon Sigal offers an inside look at how the Korean nuclear crisis originated, escalated, and was ultimately defused. He begins by exploring a web of intelligence failures by the United States and intransigence within South Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Sigal pays particular attention to an American mindset that prefers coercion to cooperation in dealing with aggressive nations. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with policymakers from the countries involved, he discloses the details of the buildup to confrontation, American refusal to engage in diplomatic give-and-take, the Carter mission, and the diplomatic deal of October 1994.

    In the post-Cold War era, the United States is less willing and able than before to expend unlimited resources abroad; as a result it will need to act less unilaterally and more in concert with other nations. What will become of an American foreign policy that prefers coercion when conciliation is more likely to serve its national interests? Using the events that nearly led the United States into a second Korean War, Sigal explores the need for policy change when it comes to addressing the challenge of nuclear proliferation and avoiding conflict with nations like Russia, Iran, and Iraq. What the Cuban missile crisis was to fifty years of superpower conflict, the North Korean nuclear crisis is to the coming era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2235-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. 1 UNCOOPERATIVE AMERICA
    (pp. 3-14)

    THE TROUBLE with American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War is that the United States has been unwilling to use military force, or so the prevailing orthodoxy goes. American influence abroad is said to have waned because its threats are no longer credible. Yet that orthodoxy ignores another source of foreign policy failure—American unwillingness to cooperate with strangers. In a number of recent cases the United States has tried threats to get its way when promises seemed more likely to succeed. Whether with Russia or Japan, with Cuba or the Palestinians, we have recoiled from giving...

  6. PART I: COERCION FAILS
    • 2 THE BUSH DEADLOCK MACHINE
      (pp. 17-51)

      MOST SENIOR officials in the Bush Administration, including National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, his deputy and later C.I.A. Director Robert Gates, Secretary of State James Baker, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, shared the belief that nuclear diplomacy with North Korea could not succeed. Domestic politics, in particular, vocal hostility to dealing with North Korea in Congress and the foreign policy establishment reinforced their reluctance to try.

      When the United States offered security assurances, North Korea responded in kind. Yet the Bush Administration did not learn from the experience. After that brief flirtation with conciliation,...

    • 3 THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION TIES ITSELF IN KNOTS
      (pp. 52-89)

      THE CLINTON Administration inherited a failing North Korea policy from the Bush Administration. It compounded its troubles by making two mistakes at the very outset. It embraced ends that could not be attained with certainty anytime soon, if ever, and it adopted means that were doomed to fail.

      The administration’s initial aim was no nuclear weapon in North Korea. That became its avowed aim on November 7, 1993, when President Clinton, in an appearance onMeet the Press, said that “North Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb.” Yet, by the time Clinton spoke, some say misspoke, officials...

    • 4 A “BETTER THAN EVEN” CHANCE OF MISESTIMATION
      (pp. 90-123)

      AN INTELLIGENCE estimate is an artifact that Washington treats like a fact. Its internal dissemination and its public disclosure can be used to dynamite existing policy.

      A National Intelligence Estimate in late November 1993 concluded that North Korea already had one or two nuclear weapons and would never agree to give up its bomb program. The estimate was the product of hypervigilant imaginations in the American intelligence community. Its wide dissemination had two unintended consequences. It strengthened North Korea’s bargaining position, and it nearly led to war.

      In early December, within days of its completion, officials began selectively disclosing the...

    • 5 DEADLOCK
      (pp. 124-128)

      AT ANY TIME from 1992 on, North Korea could have shut down its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, removed spent fuel rods, and reprocessed them, extracting plutonium to make five or six nuclear weapons. It did not. For a country supposedly hell-bent on bomb-making, its self-restraint seems difficult to explain. North Korea’s actions, instead, could be seen as signs that it was trying to trade in its nuclear weapons program for what it may have thought it needed more—security assurances and political economic ties to the United States.

      Yet for three years, the United States could not bring itself to...

  7. PART II: COOPERATION SUCCEEDS
    • 6 OPEN COVENANTS, PRIVATELY ARRIVED AT
      (pp. 131-167)

      JIMMY CARTER and Tony Namkung make the most unlikely of partners. Carter, nuclear engineer and Navy submariner, peanut farmer and born-again Christian from Plains, Georgia, catapulted from the governorship to the presidency. Since leaving the White House, he has become an earnest missionary for nonviolence, election monitor, and emissary at large—talking peace and preaching reconciliation from Ethiopia to Nicaragua and staking his personal prestige on getting results. Namkung, born in Shanghai and schooled in Tokyo with the children of U.S. occupation troops, is an American citizen and a Korean patriot. Like many Koreans of his generation, he has kin...

    • 7 GETTING TO YES
      (pp. 168-204)

      JIMMY CARTER managed to move the United States and North Korea away from the brink and back to the negotiating table. Once he did, it would take negotiators just four months to conclude an Agreed Framework mapping out reciprocal steps to resolve the nuclear issue. Within a year a more detailed accord on the replacement reactors was signed at Kuala Lumpur, putting the antagonists on the path to settlement of the nuclear dispute. As of mid-1997 the D.P.R.K. had lived up to these agreements.

      Washington’s newfound willingness to deal led to a rapid resolution of the crisis. Its turnaround was...

  8. PART III: CONCLUSIONS
    • 8 NUCLEAR DIPLOMACY IN THE NEWS—AN UNTOLD STORY
      (pp. 207-228)

      TO EVEN the most devoted news watchers, the story of nuclear diplomacy with North Korea may seem unfamiliar. The reason is simple: key parts of the story never appeared in the news. In particular, evidence that North Korea might be trying to trade away its nuclear arms program received very little media attention between 1992 and mid-1994. North Korean concessions were downplayed; crucial proposals were virtually ignored.

      Nuclear diplomacy with North Korea was largely covered as a case of crime and punishment. North Korea was portrayed as an outlaw state whose misdeeds warranted economic sanctions. Suspicions of its noncompliance with...

    • 9 THE POLITICS OF DISCOURAGEMENT
      (pp. 229-243)

      THE CLINTON Administration took advantage of the June 1994 mission by Carter to reverse field and begin negotiating in earnest. Within four months it concluded the Agreed Framework. Within a year it reached agreement in Kuala Lumpur on the replacement reactors. Yet the highest officials in the Clinton Administration seemed initially hesitant to defend their success.

      To fend off criticism that it was too eager for compromise, the administration talked about the threats it had brandished to compel the North. Yet U.S. threats to embargo North Korea or destroy its nuclear sites, whatever their value as ammunition against hawks at...

    • 10 WHY WON’T AMERICA COOPERATE?
      (pp. 244-254)

      FOUR SHARED images shaped the politics of nuclear diplomacy in the United States: first, that “rogue states” with an aggressive intent in acquiring nuclear arms are the main proliferation menace; second, that as an archetypal rogue state, and an old-fashioned communist one at that, North Korea was hostile to the United States and hell-bent on nuclear-arming; third, that once a state decides to build the Bomb, it cannot be induced to stop; and fourth, that the only way to get states to abandon their nuclear ambitions is to demonize them as outlaws and force them to disarm—the crime-and-punishment approach...

  9. APPENDIXES
    • APPENDIX I NORTH KOREA’S TIT-FOR-TAT NEGOTIATING BEHAVIOR
      (pp. 257-259)
    • APPENDIX II KEY DOCUMENTS
      (pp. 260-264)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 265-306)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 307-321)