Friday, October 18, 2013

Facing the Facts: Towards a New U.S. North Korea Policy By: Evans J.R. Revere

A good history of the evolution of US policy toward north Korea.  The 25 page paper can also be downloaded directly at this link:

He proposes a new negotiating paradigm but prior to that I think he has written a key summary of the problem.  

4) The Problem is the Regime. The tortured history of negotiations with the DPRK suggests strongly that unless and until a way can be found to transform the nature of the North Korean regime and its priorities, denuclearization of the DPRK is unlikely. The regime in Pyongyang shows no sign of serious interest in denuclearization, and in fact has declared its intention to strengthen its nuclear capabilities. 

The collapse of the current regime and the onset of new leadership would open up prospects for a new relationship between North Korea and the international community and bring with it the possibility of a denuclearized North Korea. But a U.S. policy of forcible regime change is both dangerous and unlikely. The U.S. track record in seeking regime change is not a good one, and America’s South Korean ally is unlikely to concur in a policy that would risk chaos on the Korean Peninsula. 

But if the problem is the regime, the current array of sanctions and other pressures is unlikely to alter the regime’s course in the near or medium term. And the ongoing development of the North’s nuclear weapons and missile capabilities suggests that the serious threat posed by these capabilities will become a reality during this same timeframe. Time is not on our side. 

Of particular concern is the ability of the North Korean regime to evade or reduce the impact of current sanctions. This suggests the need to do a better job enforcing and strengthening the current sanctions regime. A particular goal should be to undermine the relationship between the regime and its “base”—the elites who are largely resident in Pyongyang. To an important degree, the regime’s stability depends on its ability to maintain elite support. Thus far, the regime has managed to keep the flow of goods and privileges flowing to this group. Staunching that flow should be an even greater priority for the current sanctions regime. 

New mechanisms should be explored to increase and fine-tune pressure on North Korea. The DPRK’s banking system remains an important target, and additional steps by the international community to sanction North Korean banks and business entities would threaten the regime’s viability, sending an important message to the leadership in Pyongyang. The United States has by no means exhausted the array of sanctions-related tools that could be used to increase pressure on Pyongyang, including measures that have been used to good effect on Iran. The DPRK’s continued refusal to give up its nuclear program, its future success in developing that program, and the fears that this success will generate among its neighbors and the international community are likely to ease the United States’ task in building support for such new measures. The goal of U.S. sanctions-related policy should be to present North Korea with a stark choice between nuclear weapons and economic survival, with the hope that Pyongyang will choose the latter. 

| October 2013

Facing the Facts: Towards a New U.S. North Korea Policy

For two decades, the United States has sought to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Occasional success in freezing elements of that program, together with pledges by Pyongyang to end it, inspired hope that denuclearization could actually be achieved. Hope also grew from the belief that there existed a collection of incentives, including diplomatic normalization, security guarantees, and food assistance, which would convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions. These hopes have been dashed. U.S. policy has failed to achieve its objective.
Important lessons have been learned from years of negotiating with Pyongyang. Among them is that North Korea probably was never serious about ending its nuclear and missile programs. We have learned that even the most robust package of inducements was insufficient to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear pursuit. North Korea has shown itself willing to endure tough sanctions to preserve its nuclear and missile assets. We have seen nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles become twin pillars of the regime’s survival plan. And Pyongyang has enshrined its nuclear status in its constitution and declared that it will not give up its nuclear weapons under any circumstances.
Today, North Korea is advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which it calls its “strategic deterrent.” Pyongyang knows that the international community will never recognize it as a nuclear weapons state, but believes it can secure the world’s grudging acceptance of its nuclear status. 
Meanwhile, China hopes to reconvene the Six-Party denuclearization talks that collapsed in 2008.  Experience tells us that such negotiations, if they were to resume, will not end Pyongyang’s determined pursuit of nuclear weapons. Occasional North Korean declarations claiming interest in denuclearization notwithstanding, Pyongyang is embarked on the development of a nuclear strike capability that will soon threaten Northeast Asia, including U.S. allies and American bases in the region.
Faced with these facts, U.S. policy must change to meet the stark new reality of a North Korea that possesses nuclear weapons and has threatened to use them, including against the United States. 
The United States should recognize that the current North Korean regime has no intention to denuclearize. Nevertheless, denuclearization should remain the goal of U.S. policy, and the United States should remain open to negotiations if talks offer a serious prospect of achieving that goal. We should also recognize that only direct dialogue with North Korea’s leaders has any chance of changing DPRK policy – although the odds are slim that even this will succeed.  
While leaving the door open to credible negotiations, Washington should expand and intensify current sanctions, thereby greatly raising the economic and political cost to Pyongyang of its nuclear weapons program. The United States should adopt stronger deterrence and counter-proliferation measures and impress on North Korea that its nuclear ambitions will not only prevent the regime from achieving its economic development goals, but could lead to instability. In short, U.S. policy should present North Korea with a stark choice between nuclear weapons and economic survival. 
We must understand and accept that the problem we face is the nature of the North Korean regime itself. Intensifying economic pressure, highlighting the regime’s dismal human rights record, and increasing the flow of information to the North Korean people could hasten the transformation of the regime’s thinking. So, too, could targeted sanctions and other measures designed to shake the confidence of the elites on which the regime depends. But all of these measures could also contribute to the regime’s demise, even if the goal of U.S. policy is not regime change. Accordingly, Washington should intensify discussions with Seoul and Tokyo (and Beijing, if it is willing) on how to respond to the collapse of the North Korean regime.
(Continued at the link below)

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