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Korean Endgame

Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement

Selig S. Harrison
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 448
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    Korean Endgame
    Book Description:

    Nearly half a century after the fighting stopped, the 1953 Armistice has yet to be replaced with a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. While Russia and China withdrew the last of their forces in 1958, the United States maintains 37,000 troops in South Korea and is pledged to defend it with nuclear weapons. InKorean Endgame, Selig Harrison mounts the first authoritative challenge to this long-standing U.S. policy.

    Harrison shows why North Korea is not--as many policymakers expect--about to collapse. And he explains why existing U.S. policies hamper North-South reconciliation and reunification. Assessing North Korean capabilities and the motivations that have led to its forward deployments, he spells out the arms control concessions by North Korea, South Korea, and the United States necessary to ease the dangers of confrontation, centering on reciprocal U.S. force redeployments and U.S. withdrawals in return for North Korean pullbacks from the thirty-eighth parallel.

    Similarly, he proposes specific trade-offs to forestall the North's development of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, calling for the withdrawal of the U.S. nuclear umbrella in conjunction with agreements to denuclearize Korea embracing China, Russia, and Japan. The long-term goal of U.S. policy, he argues, should be the full disengagement of U.S. combat forces from Korea as part of regional agreements insulating the peninsula from all foreign conventional and nuclear forces.

    A veteran journalist with decades of extensive firsthand knowledge of North Korea and long-standing contacts with leaders in Washington, Seoul, and Pyongyang, Harrison is perfectly placed to make these arguments. Throughout, he supports his analysis with revealing accounts of conversations with North Korean, South Korean, and U.S. leaders over thirty-five years. Combining probing scholarship with a seasoned reporter's on-the-ground experience and insights, he has given us the definitive book on U.S. policy in Korea--past, present, and future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2491-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Richard C. Leone

    For more than a decade, scholars and analysts of U.S. foreign policy have labored under enormous handicaps. In many ways, the unexpected breakup of the Soviet Union complicated the basic work of understanding and explaining world affairs, making the task of prescribing policies even more difficult. There were numerous good reasons, for example, to be uncertain about the stability of both the regimes and policies of the formerly Communist states. One simply could not know what the nearterm future held for the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States or even for the Russian Federation itself. And, on the fringes among the...

  4. OVERVIEW: The United States and Korea
    (pp. xiii-xxx)
  5. PART I Will North Korea Collapse?

    • CHAPTER 1 The Paralysis of American Policy
      (pp. 3-7)

      The debate over whether North Korea will collapse—and whether the United States should promote its collapse—has paralyzed American policymaking relating to Korea. Unable to resolve this debate, the United States has been marking time, watching to see what develops in Pyongyang and keeping its options open with a policy of “limited engagement.” In the absence of coherent, long-term goals, successive administrations have improvised ad hoc responses to a series of crises precipitated by Pyongyang in pursuit of its own objectives.

      The debate has been framed simplistically in terms of a stark choice: on the one hand, implosion or...

    • CHAPTER 2 Nationalism and the “Permanent Siege Mentality”
      (pp. 8-20)

      The psychological cement that holds North Korea together is nationalism, and the key to understanding the strength of nationalist feeling in the North lies in a recognition of the traumatic impact of the Korean War. Kim Il Sung skillfully utilized his totalitarian control to enshrine himself as the defender of Korean sovereignty and honor in the eyes of his people, but he was able to do so primarily because memories of the war made his nationalist message credible.

      The American visitor is reminded constantly that the scars left by the war are unusually deep in the North. The South suffered...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Confucian Legacy
      (pp. 21-24)

      In predicting a collapse, many observers who compare North Korea to East Germany ignore the cultural and historical differences that set the two cases apart. In East Germany, the Soviet occupation imposed an alien totalitarian model in a cultural environment more hospitable to democratic concepts. In Korea, the Confucian ethos and the traditions of absolute centralized rule that go with it have facilitated totalitarianism in the North and authoritarian rule in the South. Together with the power of nationalism, these basic differences explain why the fate suffered by the East European Communist states is not likely to be repeated in...

    • CHAPTER 4 Reform by Stealth
      (pp. 25-47)

      The unifying power of nationalism and the Confucian legacy of absolute centralized rule help explain why North Korea has held together for the past five decades and is not likely to collapse. But another crucial factor contributed to its stability during four of these five decades: the massive and wide-ranging economic subsidies provided by the Soviet Union and China. The sudden termination of these subsidies following the end of the cold war triggered a precipitous decline in the North Korean economy that has imposed unprecedented strains on the political system. As economic hardship has increased, so has a long-standing policy...

    • CHAPTER 5 Gold, Oil, and the Basket-Case Image
      (pp. 48-52)

      The stereotypical image of North Korea as a hopeless economic basket case ignores the fact that there are extensive natural resources there. Gold, iron ore, anthracite coal, zinc, lead, magnesite, and tungsten mines have been operating in Korea for centuries, most of them in the northern part of the country. Since the creation of North Korea, these mines have provided the major source of Pyongyang’s foreign exchange earnings. Production has declined or stopped altogether at many of them since 1990, reflecting the economic dislocations resulting from the termination of Soviet and Chinese aid, especially the breakdown of transportation links with...

    • CHAPTER 6 Kim Jong Il and His Successors
      (pp. 53-66)

      Predictions of a collapse are often based on an either-or dichotomy: Kim Jong Il either proves to be a strong leader and pushes through systematic economic reforms or is so weak that the economy continues to stagnate, discontent grows, and rampant factionalism brings down the entire structure of the North Korean state. But the reality may well lie in a more nuanced assessment.

      Kim Jong Il is not a charismatic leader like his father and is not even attempting to emulate the Kim Il Sung leadership model. He has created a new constitutional structure in which the armed forces provide...

  6. PART II Reunification:: Postponing the Dream

    • CHAPTER 7 Trading Places
      (pp. 69-73)

      How, when, and whether Korea can be reunified is the overarching issue that has confronted both the North and the South since the division of 1945. It is this issue, above all else, that shapes their attitudes toward the United States. Pyongyang and Seoul alike believe that the United States bears the principal responsibility for the division. Both believe that the United States should now accept the principal responsibility for helping them put the pieces back together. At the same time, there are profound differences between North and South, and within the South itself, concerning the role that the United...

    • CHAPTER 8 Confederation or Absorption?
      (pp. 74-101)

      To many foreign observers, talk of a confederation in Korea sounds legalistic and academic. It seems more plausible that the South will absorb the North gradually or that the status quo will continue indefinitely until some explosion within the North, or between North and South, precipitates a sudden reunification of the peninsula. To North Korea, however, and to many Koreans in the South, including President Kim Dae Jung and former president Roh Tae Woo, the concept of a confederation has long been attractive as a realistic way to reduce North-South tensions and to formalize the de facto division of the...

    • CHAPTER 9 The United States and Reunification
      (pp. 102-110)

      In North Korea and South Korea alike, it is an article of faith that the United States deserves the principal blame for the division of the peninsula and thus has a special responsibility for helping to restore national unity. This deep-seated sense of grievance is linked with the belief that Washington wanted to keep Korea divided during the cold war in order to pursue U.S. strategic objectives related mainly to Japan. Anti-American nationalism is surprisingly virulent even in the South, where military dependence on the United States has generated strong undercurrents of xenophobia that are sweeping aside the gratitude felt...

  7. PART III Toward U. S. Disengagement

    • CHAPTER 10 Tripwire
      (pp. 113-123)

      Of all the pronouncements made by Perry following his mission to Pyongyang on behalf of President Clinton, this was the most far-reaching in its implications, underlining as it did the integral connection between the U.S. military presence in Korea and North Korean missile ambitions. Yet despite this unambiguous recognition of North Korean motivations, Perry ignored North Korean security concerns in his policy recommendations to the White House. Focusing solely on U.S. security priorities, he said that Washington should condition the normalization of relations on two key North Korean concessions. First, Pyongyang should agree to limit the range of its missiles...

    • CHAPTER 11 The United States and the Military Balance
      (pp. 124-137)

      In September 2000, the United States maintained conventional forces in South Korea totaling 36,388 Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine personnel. This military presence consisted primarily of ground forces and their logistical support, including the combat infantry force of 15,000 deployed in forward positions as a “tripwire.” President Bush removed U.S. tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea and from Pacific aircraft carriers in 1991. But the United States has not ruled out their reintroduction and the use of both tactical and strategic nuclear weapons against North Korean conventional forces. Successive U.S. administrations have pledged to maintain a U.S. “nuclear umbrella”...

    • CHAPTER 12 New Opportunities for Arms Control
      (pp. 138-153)

      The possibility of negotiating verifiable conventional arms-control agreements with North Korea has never been seriously tested. In responding to a series of proposals from Pyongyang for defusing the military confrontation in Korea, South Korea and the United States have ignored the central element in these proposals: the redeployment and eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces. Seoul and Washington have argued that both the future of U.S. forces and North Korean proposals for parallel North-South force reductions can only be addressed after tensions have been reduced through more modest confidence-building measures. Pyongyang’s response has been that confidence-building measures presuppose a climate of...

    • CHAPTER 13 Ending the Korean War
      (pp. 154-173)

      Is North Korea serious about arms control?

      Would Pyongyang agree to tension-reduction measures and the termination of its nuclear and long-range missile programs in conjunction with a phased U.S. withdrawal?

      The only way to find out is to bring the Korean War to a formal end, normalize relations with Pyongyang, and replace the anachronistic 1953 armistice machinery with a new peace structure. The Military Armistice Commission set up in 1953 was a temporary expedient to oversee the cease-fire. But it still lingers on. Similarly, the United Nations Command, which provided a genuinely multilateral umbrella for U.S. intervention in the conflict,...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Tar Baby Syndrome
      (pp. 174-189)

      “They have attached themselves to the big fat udder of Uncle Sam, and naturally they don’t want to let go.”

      I was not too surprised to hear this irreverent comment about South Korea from the plain-talking U.S. ambassador in Seoul, the late William J. Porter, during an off-the-record discussion in his residence in early 1971.¹ Porter was engaged at the time in bitter negotiations with the Park Chung Hee military regime over the size of the U.S. military presence in the South. He had successfully pushed the Nixon administration to cut the U.S. presence from 60,000 to 40,000 troops, prompting...

    • CHAPTER 15 Guidelines for U.S. Policy
      (pp. 190-194)

      Until now, most proposals for arms control and tension reduction in Korea have suffered from two basic limitations. First, they have conditioned any changes in the 1953 armistice machinery on prior confidencebuilding and tension-reduction steps by North Korea, instead of making such changes first to expedite arms-control negotiations. Second, they have envisaged only the redeployment or partial disengagement of U.S.forces as a quid pro quo for North Korean concessions, ruling out the possibility of complete U.S. disengagement regardless of the price that Pyongyang is willing to pay.

      As I have elaborated in the preceding chapters, the replacement of the armistice...

  8. PART IV Toward a Nuclear-Free Korea

    • CHAPTER 16 The U.S. Nuclear Challenge to North Korea
      (pp. 197-200)

      Advocates of a U.S. national missile defense system depict North Korean leaders as irrational xenophobes with a mindless anti-American hatred that explains why they want nuclear weapons and why they might well use them to attack the United States. But North Korea’s perception of its security environment is not irrational in the context of its embattled national history since 1945. Indeed, the North Korean effort to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems was a direct response to nuclear saber rattling during the Korean War and the subsequent deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in the South for more than...

    • CHAPTER 17 The North Korean Response
      (pp. 201-214)

      The shifting North Korean response to the U.S. nuclear challenge has reflected a broad search for security that embraces economic as well as military priorities. As this search has evolved, Pyongyang has been flexible in adapting to changing circumstances, signaling clearly that it would be willing to give up the development of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems if its security can be assured without them.

      When Moscow refused their 1963 request for help in developing a military nuclear program, North Korean scientists attempted to prepare for one on their own, drawing on the Soviet technology supplied for their civilian...

    • CHAPTER 18 The 1994 Compromise: CAN IT SURVIVE?
      (pp. 215-230)

      Jimmy Carter’s mission to Pyongyang saved Clinton from what could well have been the most catastrophic military crisis of his presidency. I spelled out in part 3 how close the United States came to war in 1994 and the horrendous consequences that would have ensued if the advocates of military strikes against the Yongbyon reactor had prevailed. Yet the evidence is clear that Clinton and most of his advisers, with the notable exception of Gallucci and Perry, did not want Carter to go; went along with the visit reluctantly; and were outraged, not grateful, when he negotiated a temporary nuclear...

    • CHAPTER 19 Japan and Nuclear Weapons
      (pp. 231-244)

      The most astonishing literary phenomenon in the history of South Korea is the popularity ofThe Rose of Sharon Has Blossomed,a three-volume saga in which North and South cooperate in developing nuclear weapons that save the South in a war with Japan. More than five million copies of the novel have been sold since 1994, in contrast to a peak of 300,000 copies for other best-sellers in recent years.¹

      In a plot that mixes elements of historical fact with larger doses of fiction, the novel centers on a Korean-born American nuclear physicist who masterminds a secret South Korean nuclear...

    • CHAPTER 20 South Korea and Nuclear Weapons
      (pp. 245-256)

      In 1989, the United States made its discovery that Pyongyang was secretly attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Amid the resulting furor over the possibility of a North Korean nuclear threat, it has often been forgotten that eighteen years earlier, in 1970, South Korea had embarked on a comparable clandestine program of its own, eluding U.S. detection for nearly four years. When U.S. intelligence did find out what Seoul was up to, a bitter showdown ensued, the most serious conflict that has ever occurred in the history of U.S.–South Korean relations. The United States forced President Park Chung Hee to...

    • CHAPTER 21 Guidelines for U.S. Policy
      (pp. 257-284)

      Regrettably, General Horner is atypical, one of a small number of senior retired U.S. military officers who have questioned U.S. nuclear armscontrol and nonproliferation policies.¹ Despite its own reliance on nuclear weapons, the United States does not, in fact, find it awkward at all to tell North Korea not to develop them. With its self-image as the “only superpower,” entitled to exercise global strategic dominance, the United States has no moral qualms in attempting to impose its inequitable nonproliferation policies wherever possible.

      Reviewing the successes and failures of U.S. nonproliferation policy, North Korea must clearly be judged a major success...

  9. PART V Korea in Northeast Asia

    • CHAPTER 22 Will History Repeat Itself?
      (pp. 287-289)

      In deciding whether to continue the American military presence and the American nuclear umbrella in Korea—and if so, for how long—the United States must consider not only American interests in Korea itself but also the broader impact of American policies on regional stability and U.S. interests in East Asia as a whole. Would the indefinite continuance of the American presence in the South promote regional stability and positive U.S. relations with Japan, China, and Russia, as its proponents argue? Or would a gradual process of disengagement, culminating in agreements to neutralize and denuclearize Korea, better serve American interests...

    • CHAPTER 23 Korea, Japan, and the United States
      (pp. 290-305)

      The most striking example of the impact of historical memories on contemporary relations between Northeast Asian powers is the persistence of deep tensions between Japan and the two Koreas more than half a century after the end of Japanese colonial rule in the peninsula.

      Most Japanese look down on Koreans as crude country cousins who imitated but never absorbed Chinese culture. In the Japanese self-image, Japan took the best of Chinese culture, created a distinctive Japanese cultural amalgam, and then turned to face the new challenge from the West, using Western technology to modernize, but not Westernize, Japan. In Japanese...

    • CHAPTER 24 Korea, China, and the United States
      (pp. 306-327)

      One of the key issues in the debate over the future of the American military presence in Korea is what impact a U.S. withdrawal would have on the relations between China and a unified Korea. The case for a postunification U.S. military presence frequently includes a warning that China would move into the “vacuum” resulting from a U.S. withdrawal by concluding a military alliance with Korea, complete with a nuclear umbrella, linked with preferential status for Korea in trade and investment relations. The rationale for such an alliance, it is argued, would be the perception of a common threat to...

    • CHAPTER 25 Korea, Russia, and the United States
      (pp. 328-346)

      Czarist Russia, the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation have all regarded the Korean peninsula as the focal point of their geopolitical and strategic interests in Northeast Asia. Moscow is dismayed by the marginalization of Russian influence in Korea that has taken place since the end of the cold war and is likely to seek a restoration of its role as a major player there in future decades.

      In Russian eyes, the United States has done its best to make sure that the Russian Federation is marginalized by building American policy in Northeast Asia around China and Japan and...

      (pp. 347-356)

      The case for the indefinite continuation of the American military presence in Korea rests on a questionable set of assumptions: first, that U.S. disengagement would create a power vacuum; second, that China, Japan, and Russia would move into this vacuum, competing for dominance as they did from 1894 to 1905; and finally, that a reunified Korea without U.S. protection would either seek a military alliance with one of its neighbors, probably China, or would develop its own independent nuclear capability.

      These assumptions exclude the possibility that a reunified Korea could play the independent, non-nuclear buffer role envisaged in the proposals...

  10. Notes to the Chapters
    (pp. 357-392)
  11. Index
    (pp. 393-409)