All options should be on the table with North Korea: Start with negotiations!

By Gunnar Westberg
TFF Board member

April 17, 2017

North Korea was utterly destroyed in the Korean war. The people of DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, are not allowed to forget that USA considered using nuclear weapons against them.

There are frequent exercises when the population is rushed into underground shelters where they have to stay for days. The perceived, and maybe overblown, threats from the South are an effective way in raising support for the political leaders.

The leaders of DPRK believe that their nuclear weapons will deter an attack from the south. Look at Khadafi in Libya, they say, he gave up his nukes and was attacked. Saddam Hussein had no nukes, he was attacked. We shall not give up the nuclear deterrent as long as we are under threat.

In 1991 USA withdraw all nuclear weapons from South Korea. Subsequently North Korea and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, whereby both sides promised they would “not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons”.

The North Korean nuclear weapons program was mothballed for a longtime. However, the inspections and negotiations were repeatedly interrupted and the whole agreement was several times in jeopardy.

In 1994 the previous US President Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang to meet with DPRK president Kim Il Sung.

Carter announced from Pyongyang that Kim had accepted the broad outline of a deal that was later finalized as the Agreed Framework. Pyongyang was required to “consistently take steps to implement the North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” and to remain a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT.

In exchange, the United States agreed to construct two light water nuclear power reactors, and to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil per year until the first reactor came online with a target date of 2003. Furthermore, the United States was to provide “formal assurances against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.”

USA did nor provide the reactors. DPRK cooperated poorly in the inspections.

However, in the last year of the Clinton administration, renewed negotiation created a promising atmosphere for future peaceful cooperation.

Unfortunately the newly elected president George W. Bush abruptly declared that all negotiations had been terminated. “I was confused and angry to see our long and carefully conducted diplomacy being summarily rejected” writes William J. Perry, former Secretary of Defence. (Here Perry’s latest views on this conflict).

From that point on, tightening sanctions and belligerent threats were the methods used on the US side, nuclear weapons test explosions and missile tests on the DPRK side.

Today, the situation is more complicated and dangerous than in the 1990es. At such times, threats of war are especially perilous. Negotiations, while difficult, are necessary to defuse the situation, and will at least buy time.

It is always best to begin with the question: What does the other side really want? What does DPRK want?

Here the core items:

1. A peace agreement.
Why is it impossible to discuss peace?

2. A Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons.
Here DPRK certainly includes a prohibition of vessels carrying nuclear weapons in the Korean harbours and waters. This comes with no cost for the security of South Korea (ROK – Republic of Korea) or any other party. Nuclear wepons can be fired from the USA, if need be.
However, DPRK will also ask for an end of the US “nuclear umbrella”, the promise by the US to defend ROK with nukes. In strategic terms, this too carries no cost for the security of ROK, if nuclear weapons are abolished in DPRK. The US can lay the North is ashes and gravel again, as in 1950, without the use of nukes.

3. Economic “compensation”.
Aid providing food, agricultural machinery and medicine would decrease the suffering of the North Korean people. And the experience is that North Koran leaders can always be “bought”. The cost would be low compared to weapons. Profit for South Korean and US business should be generously included.

Anything is better than a war.

Military threats carry a great risk for unintended war. Food, CD records and Playboy magazines are without risk. Invite DPRK students and professionals to come and study abroad!

Actually DPRK is on its way to become less and less isolated.

In the long run it will be impossible to prevent the North Korean citizen from learning about the world around them.

Glasnost will come, slowly but surely.

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