North Korean Endgame: Working toward Full Political and Economic Relations May 01, 2009

Summary. A continuing leitmotif of North Korean regional foreign policy is to establish full political and economic relations with the US – including a peace treaty between the two countries. This goal has been a centerpiece of North Korea’s foreign policy with the US since the signing of the Agreed Framework on 21 Oct 94. “agreed” commitments regarding North Korea. North Korea cites Paragraph II of the 1994 Agreed Framework as the basis of its argument whenever it claims that the US is not living up to Recent North Korean events such as the missile launch, withdrawal from the 6PT, and threats to extract plutonium from spent fuel rods, conduct a 2nd nuclear test and additional ICBM launches are all designed to cajole the US into bilateral negotiations, paving the way for an eventual normalization of bilateral relations. With the change in US Administration, North Korea expected a US willingness, and perhaps eagerness, to initiate bilateral negotiations. forums. North Korea will likely continue to “push the envelope”, believing that further elevated tension on the Korean Peninsula will compel the US into bilateral negotiations on North Korea’s terms – which the North believes will force benefits from the US (i.e. energy aid, light-water reactors, etc.) and eventually lead to full political and economic relations with the US. To North Korea’s surprise, the US chose instead to take the silent road – all but ignoring the North except through the multi-lateral UNSC and 6PT

Introduction. On 14 Apr, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Six-Party Talks (6PT) and the restart of its nuclear program in reaction to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) presidential statement issued on 13 Apr. the international community. The statement denounced North Korea’s 05 Apr long-range ballistic missile launch which occurred in defiance of numerous warnings from By 16 Apr, the IAEA nuclear monitors left North Korea, followed On by the US nuclear specialists on 17 Apr, leaving North Korea relatively free to resume its nuclear and missile development without the prying eyes of the US and international community. its Yongbyon nuclear facility. 25 Apr, North Korea announced that it has restarted extracting plutonium from spent fuel rods at On 29 Apr, North Korea, in its latest move to increase tension,

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threatened that it will conduct additional nuclear and long-range missile tests in response to the UNSC sanctions. The vehicle used to convey the message – a lengthy Foreign Ministry Along with the threats, spokesman’s statement – was both authoritative and unambiguous. consequently, a “declaration of war.” For observers of Northeast Asian security issues there is little doubt North Korea marches to its own drum with little concern for international decorum – as long as such measures benefit the regime. There is also little doubt North Korea conducts meticulous preparation and follows The prevailing opinion regarding the exhaustive pre-planned options in its foreign policies.

North Korea characterized the UNSC actions as an annulment of the Armistice Agreement, and

recent missile launch and the latest threat of nuclear test is no different – Kim Jong-il, facing domestic and international economic hardship, international pressure to conform, and possibly domestic political instability, opted to forge ahead with the missile test (which North Korea claims was a satellite launch) and the threat to conduct additional nuclear and missile tests only after precise risk/gain calculations (or perhaps miscalculations). So, what is the desired end state North Korea is seeking to achieve from the recent events it has set in motion? The optimal end state for North Korea is direct negotiations with the US, independent of the 6PT or any other multilateral forum. Recent North Korean experience with bilateral negotiations. During the Clinton The

administration North Korea enjoyed a certain level of bilateral relations with the US.

Agreed Framework of 1994; 500,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil per annum; two light-water reactors through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO); Jo Myong Rok’s visit to the White House; and Secretary of State Albright’s visit to Pyongyang were all direct results of US-North Korea bilateral negotiations. North Korea. The inauguration of the Bush administration in 2001, however, brought forth a significant change in US foreign policy toward Unlike the Clinton administration, the Bush administration disengaged from North Korea and opted to deal with it only through multilateral means – such as the 6PT. The US refusal to engage North Korea in a bilateral setting, and North Korea’s provocative attempts to force the US into bilateral negotiations (i.e. Taepo Dong-2 missile launch in Jul 06 and underground nuclear test in Oct 06) continued until mid-2008. On 26 Jun 08, the US agreed, in a bilateral setting, to lift some provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act and initiated the process to remove North Korea from the US List of Terrorism Sponsoring Countries

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in return for North Korea’s nuclear asset/program submission and assurance it would continue 6PT participation. On 27 Jun 08, with the world’s news cameras watching, North Korea On 12 Oct 08, after demolished the cooling tower for the 5MWe nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. Sponsoring Countries.

much rhetoric from the North, the US removed North Korea from the US List of Terrorism With its name removed from the List, North Korea believed it was time for the next step towards achieving elusive normalization of bilateral relations. North Korea’s Miscalculation and Choice in Strategy. During North Korea’s formulation of its next US policy, it would have viewed Senator Obama’s victory over Senator McCain in the 2008 US Presidential Election as an opportunity. To North Korea, President Obama appeared This led the that he was willing to have immediate direct dialogue with North Korea, as he made clear that he would engage North Korea via dialogue during his presidential campaign. North to assess the Obama administration’s North Korea foreign policy would be much like that of its Democratic predecessor – the Clinton administration. Considering North Korea was able to get the Bush administration to remove it from the US terrorism list, it assessed that it could achieve much higher gains in political, economic, and security fronts in direct negotiations with the Obama administration (then it would have against Bush administration). These assessments led the North to believe that Obama’s North Korean stance would be weaker than the previous administration’s, and that the North could dictate to the US the terms of bilateral negotiations. To test its theory, North Korea offered to send a senior diplomat to the If the US had accepted the offer it would signal US North Korea issued an inauguration of President Obama.

recognition of North Korea diplomatically and signal a willingness to deal bilaterally but, to North Korea’s chagrin, the US rejected North Korea’s offer on 12 Jan. immediate reaction (on 13 Jan) through its foreign ministry stating that the US should first normalize relations with North Korea as a precondition for its denuclearization and that NK would hold onto its nuclear weapons as long as the US backed the ROK with its own atomic arsenal. The statement also demanded that if “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the issue to be settled only when the DPRK shows nuclear weapons,” then North Korea must also verify the presence of nuclear weapons in the ROK and the same rule applied to US troops stationed in the ROK. North’s second reaction came on 16 Jan when it issued another strong The North stated that it will statement directed at the US about retaining nuclear weapons. nuclear threat from the US.

boost its nuclear deterrent and maintain its nuclear weapons as long as it remains under a

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Subsequent North Korean actions and reactions suggest that North Korea realized it had made a mistake in its assessment of the Obama administration’s foreign policy (perhaps as early as mid-January 2009) and decided to depend on the tried and true North Korean strategy – brinkmanship and escalation – to force Washington’s hand. Much can be gleaned from a 26 Mar Choso'n Sinbo report – a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan with editorial ties to the regime – on how North Korea views this strategy. The Choso’n Sinbo report framed the 2006 long-range missile and nuclear tests as key contributing factors in quickly restarting the 6PT and ultimately gaining "action measures," including North Korea’s removal from the terrorism list. Stages of brinkmanship and escalation. North Korea has been systemically escalating the level of tension on the Korean Peninsula throughout the year in an attempt to position itself in an “advantageous” position against the US at the negotiating table. Weeks prior to the US inauguration, North Korea offered to send a top diplomat to the inauguration, which the US rejected on 12 Jan. On 13 Jan, a spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the US should first normalize relations with North Korea as a precondition for its denuclearization and that NK would hold its nuclear weapons as long as the US backed the ROK with its own atomic arsenal. The statement also demanded that if “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the issue to be settled only when the DPRK shows nuclear weapons,” then North Korea must also verify the presence of nuclear weapons in the ROK and the same rule applied to US troops stationed in the ROK. On 15 Jan, the ROK government rejected the North’s demand as “distorted.” On 16 Jan, North Korea issued another strong statement directed at the US about retaining nuclear weapons. The North stated that it will boost its nuclear deterrent and maintain its nuclear weapons as long as it remains under a nuclear threat from the US. On 17 Jan, North Korea escalated its saber rattling against the ROK with a threatening statement from the KPA General Staff. On 21 Jan, the Obama Administration stated a goal of elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons "through tough and direct diplomacy." According to a foreign policy agenda

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posted on the White House Web site, the administration planned to "use tough diplomacy – backed by real incentives and real pressures – to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate fully and verifiably North Korea's nuclear weapons program." The Web posting came one day after President Obama’s 20 Jan inauguration ceremony during which he stated "with old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat." On 23 Jan, Xinhua News Agency reported Kim Jong-il desired a nuclear free Korean peninsula and declared his willingness to work with China to push the six-party process forward. Kim stated, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, and hopes to live in peace with all other sides. … We don’t want to see tension emerge in the situation on the peninsula, and we are willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with China and push forward the six-party process without interruption.” il’s commitment. On 26 Jan, former US President Jimmy Carter stated a belief North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons in return for US diplomatic recognition, a peace deal with the ROK and US, new atomic power reactors, and free fuel oil. Former President Carter said in an Associated Press interview, "It could be worked out, in my opinion, in half a day." On 27 Jan, US Secretary of State Clinton surmised six-party talks as "essential" to ending North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions and that North Korea's nuclear proliferation should be resolved quickly through direct diplomacy of the US, if necessary. On 30 Jan, North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Fatherland (CPRF) noted that the North was scrapping all political and military agreements with the ROK and also declared the NLL void. The ROK responded to the North’s rhetoric with a warning of its own, stating any North Korean attempt to violate the NLL would face firm counteraction. On 03 Feb, world media reported North Korean missile launch preparations. On 24 Feb, North Korea announced its intent to launch an experimental communications satellite. The US and the ROK governments reportedly welcomed Kim Jong-

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Amid the objections of regional and international community, North Korea steadily continued its preparations including a 12 Mar formal notification to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) its intent to launch a satellite between 04 – 08 Apr. NK also submitted to the IMO and ICAO two navigational closure areas (one in the East Sea [Sea of Japan], and one in the Pacific Ocean) where it judged the separated rocket stages as most likely to fall. On 17 Mar, North Korea also detained two American journalists on the Chinese-North Korean border. state.” On 24 Apr, North Korea announced it would force the two journalists to stand trial for illegally entering the country and for unspecific “hostile activities against the Perhaps, not too surprisingly, the announcement was made coincident with the UN sanctions committee decision to freeze assets of two North Korean companies and a bank. On 05 Apr, North Korea launched a long-range ballistic missile (presumably a TD-2 variant), but failed to place a satellite in orbit. The international community (minus China and Russia) immediately responded with condemnation and “regret”, resulting in the UNSC issued presidential statement on 13 Apr which formally denounced North Korea’s missile launch. On 14 Apr, North Korea withdrew from the 6PT and expelled all IAEA and US nuclear inspectors. On 24 Apr, the UNSC Sanctions Committee formally named two North Korean companies a bank to have their assets frozen according to the UNSCR 1718. On 25 Apr (24 Apr EST), undoubtedly in response to the UNSC Sanctions Committee’s decision, North Korea announced it had restarted plutonium extraction from spent fuel rods at Yongbyon. Responding to North Korea's purported reactivation of its plutonium-producing facilities, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on 25 Apr that the US wants dialogue with North Korea, the North should first retract its brinkmanship. During her surprise visit to Baghdad, Secretary Clinton said, "We're not going to be blackmailed by the North Koreans. … We're going to crack down in conjunction with the Chinese, the Russians, the Japanese, the South Koreans and other allies to try to ... tighten the band around North Korea so that they cannot do that." The secretary emphasized that the US wants to talk with Pyongyang to resolve the crisis, saying “We hope that we will be able to resume discussions with North Korea that

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will lead to their assuming responsibility for denuclearizing the peninsula.” Also on 25 Apr, the US State Department spokeswoman Megan Mattson said the United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-weapons state. She also stated, "The United States remains committed to the six-party goal of the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner through the six-party talks." She added the United States will "seek full implementation of the Sept. 19, 2005 Joint Statement under which North Korea committed to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and return, at an early date, to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards.” On 29 Apr, North Korea, in its latest move to increase tensions, threatened it would conduct additional nuclear and long-range missile tests in response to the UNSC sanctions. with the threats, North Korea characterized the UNSC actions as an annulment of the Armistice Agreement, consequently a “declaration of war.” In the statement, the North's Foreign Ministry said it will also start building a light-water reactor and develop technology to produce nuclear fuel, implying that it will begin its uranium enrichment program. Escalate until the US folds. North Korean Foreign Ministry’s 29 Apr announcement that it would carry out an additional nuclear test, multiple long-range missile tests, uranium enrichment, and that is considers the UNSC action as an annulment of the Armistice Agreement, consequently a “declaration of war”, was the most direct language used in such announcement to date. The last time the North’s foreign ministry used the term "declaration of war" was after Before Oct 06, the previous time the term was employed at the same level or the Oct 06 nuclear test, when the North was seeking to justify the test and dull the UN response to the test. higher was in 2003, when it was made known that the North was engaged in nuclear reprocessing. The latest threats appear to be in line with the North’s strategy of escalation and they suggest that the North is fully committed to an escalatory path. There is no doubt that North Korea believes threats and actual conduct of an additional nuclear test will force the US to a bilateral negotiating table and coax the most concessions out of the US – as one can glean from the 26 Mar Rodong Shinmun report discussed earlier. While it is unclear when North Korea would carry out these tests, it seems only reasonable for the North to continue on this path until it is satisfied that it has attained enough leverage(s) that it could consistently use against the US at Along

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future negotiating tables over the long term. Last fall, Kim Jong-il’s former teacher wrote an article in Foreign Policy titled “The Secret History of Kim Jong Il.” In the article, Kim’s former teacher said, “Kim has managed to extract His brand of nuclear blackmail is a virtual guarantor of bottomless resources from wealthier and stronger states by manufacturing crises and generating international instability. international aid for the world’s most militarized society.” Outlook. A continuing North Korean regional foreign policy theme is a focus on the establishment of full political and economic relations with the US – including a peace treaty between the two countries. This goal has been a centerpiece of North Korea’s foreign policy North Korea cites with the US since the signing of the Agreed Framework on 21 Oct 94. the US is not living up to “agreed” commitments regarding North Korea. North Korea’s recent missile launch, its withdrawal from the 6PT, and its threat to extract plutonium from spent fuel rods, conduct a second nuclear test, and additional ICBM launches are all designed to cajole the US into bilateral negotiations, paving the way for an eventual normalization of bilateral relations. North Korea will continue to follow the path of escalation in an attempt to position itself to dictate the terms of any bilateral negotiations. These escalations will most likely include a second nuclear test, as the North likely considers this option as the next logical step in attaining leverage(s) on the US for use in any eventual long-term bilateral engagement.

Paragraph II of the 1994 Agreed Framework as the basis of its argument whenever it claims that

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