Current US-China Relations

Henry C.K. Liu

Part I:   A Lame Duck-Greenhorn Dance
Part II:  US Unilateralism
Part III: Geopolitical Dynamics of the Korea Proliferation Crisis
Part IV: More Geopolitical Dynamics of the Korea Proliferation Crisis
Part V:  Kim Il Sung and China
Part VI: Korea Under Park Chung Hee

Part VII: Clinton Policy on North Korea – a Belated Path to Peace

Bill Clinton, a president who began to shed his hawkish foreign policy of moral imperialism only late in his second term, nearly went to war against North Korea in the spring of 1994, just one year into his first term which began on January 20, 1993. It was a time when opportunistic hostility towards China dictated by US domestic political sentiments that marked his 1992 presidential campaign had followed him into a White House soon embroiled in cronyism scandals and liberal domestic social program fiascos. During the 1992 campaign, Clinton had accused incumbent Bush Sr. of “cuddling to the Butchers of Beijing” in reference to the Tiananmen incident of 1989. Cynics have since suspected much of Clinton’s military adventures of being “wag the dog” moves, based on the eponymous black comedy film in which a beleaguered president staged a phony war to distract attention from his sexual indiscretions in the White House. The incoming Clinton team had mistakenly regarded the US position in the world as so secure that it openly announced that its first term of office would be focused not on geopolitical but mostly on domestic economic issues. The Clinton team repeatedly told Chinese diplomats that the new president would have no time to focus on policy on China until the second term.

Five years earlier, during the first Bush presidency, the CIA had presented intelligence that North Korea was building a reprocessing facility near its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon which when finished, would allow it to convert the fuel rods into weapons-grade plutonium. Now, in the midst of an inexperienced Clinton White House in disarray, North Korea was preparing to remove the fuel rods from their storage site, expel international weapons inspectors, and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which North Korea had signed in 1985.

In response, and in the context of a feverish anti-China climate, Clinton pushed the United Nations Security Council to consider sanctions against North Korea, China’s blood ally. North Korea warned that sanctions are acts of war that would trigger a renewed shooting war on the Korean Peninsula. Clinton’s Defense Department then drew up plans to send 50,000 additional troops to South Korea, bolstering the 37,000 that had been there since the beginning of the Korean War armistice agreement reached in 1953, as well as 400 additional combat jets, 50 ships, and additional battalions of Apache attack helicopters, Bradley fighting vehicles, multiple-launch rockets, and new Patriot air-defense missiles, to be managed by a new logistics systems command. These mobilization moves were designed to send a clear signal to North Korean that Clinton was willing to go to war to keep the fuel rods in North Korea under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) control, a signal reinforced by several former US officials who publicly opined that Clinton was prepared to launch an air strike on the Yongbyon reactor even at the risk of provoking war.  US preemptive strikes against nuclear proliferation in countries deemed evil and unfriendly have been a foreign policy consideration all through the nuclear age by all US presidents, most notably against China, even at the risk of global war.

Stepping Back from War with the Agreed Framework

As war clouds gathered over the Korean Peninsula, Clinton set up a diplomatic back-channel to try to defuse the crisis to re-establish non-proliferation peacefully. The vehicle for this channel was former President Jimmy Carter, who in June 1994 was sent to Pyongyang to talk with Kim Il Sung, the founding leader of North Korea. Carter's trip was widely portrayed at the time as a private citizen venture, without approval from the president. However, a 2004 book about the 1994 North Korean crisis, Going Critical, by Joel S. Wit, Daniel B. Poneman, and Robert L. Gallucci, three former officials who played key roles in the events, reveals that Clinton recruited Carter to go.  Carter himself wrote in the New York Times on October 11, 2006 in a piece entitled Solving the Korean Stalemate, One Step at a Time: “Responding to an invitation from President Kim Il-sung of North Korea, and with the approval of President Bill Clinton, I went to Pyongyang and negotiated an agreement under which North Korea would cease its nuclear program at Yongbyon and permit inspectors from the atomic agency to return to the site to assure that the spent fuel was not reprocessed. It was also agreed that direct talks would be held between the two Koreas.”

Carter was an ideal choice for defusing the Korean crisis. As president, he had once announced that he planned to withdraw all US troops from South Korea but was forced to retract the idea after it met fierce and vocal domestic opposition, ironically even from liberals and the anti-communist Left in the Democratic Party. The still-born proposal nevertheless made Carter a man of peace in the eyes of Kim Il Sung, who, after Carter left office, issued the former president a standing invitation to visit North Korea. When Iranian students holding hostages in a long siege inside the US embassy in Tehran, manipulated by the Reagan campaign team in ways that bordered on treason, vindictively deprived Carter of a second term by refusing to end the hostage crisis before the 1978 presidential election to deny Carter any advantage of an “October Surprise”, they unwittingly acted against their own country’s best long-range national interest by letting loose a lasting wave of conservative extremism in US domestic politics that eventually led to the current quandary in several hot spots around the world. A second term for Carter would have left a less belligerent US and a world less dangerously threatened by terrorism.

The Clinton team was divided over whether it would be wise to let Carter go to North Korea. Ironically, those who had served under Carter, such as Warren Christopher, Clinton’s secretary of state, and Anthony Lake, national security adviser, opposed the trip, warning that their former leader could behave like a loose cannon that would ignore the confines of specific orders and free-lance a deal that would create problems for the administration both domestically and geopolitically. Vice President Al Gore favored the trip, seeing no other way out of the crisis. Clinton sided with Gore. As Clinton saw it, Kim Il Sung had painted himself into a diplomatic and domestic politics corner and needed an escape hatch to back away from the brink without appearing to buckle under pressure from the US. Carter might offer that hatch.  While unspoken, Clinton felt that Carter might also open an escape hatch for his administration which, should the Carter deal be opposed by intransigent domestic politics, could be shut down by the White House without political cost.

Both sides in this internal debate in the White House turned out to be right. Kim, who was to die unexpectedly on July 8, less than a month after meeting with Carter, from what officially described as “a heart shock following myocardial infarction owing to heavy mental strains,” agreed to back down in his meeting with Carter. And Carter went way beyond his official instructions, negotiating the outlines of a treaty and notifying Clinton after the fact only minutes in advance of announcing the terms live on CNN on June 15.

Four months later, on Oct. 21, 1994, the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, commonly known as North Korea) under the new leadership of Kim Jong Il signed a formal accord based on outlines Cater negotiated, known as the Agreed Framework.

The accord specified that North Korea would renew its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), lock up the fuel rods, and again let IAEA inspectors monitor the facility. In exchange, the US, with financial backing mostly from South Korea and Japan, would provide two light-water nuclear reactors for electricity explicitly allowed by NPT rules.  Upon delivery of the first light-water reactor targeted for 2003, intrusive IAEA inspections of North Korean nuclear sites would begin. After the second reactor arrived, North Korea would ship its fuel rods to a third country approved by the US. North Korea would essentially give up nuclear weapons capability step by step.  In the interim, the US would provide 500 metric tons of fuel oil per year to North Korea to compensate for the loss of energy from shutting down the nuclear reactor at Yongbyon..

Other sections of the accord, less publicized in the US press, pledged both sides to “move toward full normalization of political and economic relations.” Within three months of its signing, the two countries were to lower trade barriers and exchange ambassadors. Most critically, the US was also to “provide full assurances” that it would never use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against North Korea.

Clinton Unable to Deliver US Commitment to North Korea

In theory, the 1994 Agreed Framework called upon North Korea to freeze operation and construction of nuclear reactors suspected of being part of a covert nuclear weapons program in exchange for two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors to be financed and construction by an international consortium that includes South Korea, Japan and the European Union, to be known as the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). The agreement also called upon the US to supply North Korea with fuel oil pending construction of the reactors.  On that basis, the Agreed Framework ended an 18-month crisis during which North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT and attendant commitment not to develop nuclear weapons.

The key item in the Agreed Framework states: “Both sides commit not to nuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The United States must ‘provide formal assurances’ not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Pyongyang is required to ‘consistently take steps’ to implement the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

In practice, the construction of the promised light-water reactors immediately fell far behind schedule. The first reactor, initially slated for completion in 2003, in reality could not become operational until 2008 at the earliest. Numerous other events, as part of North Korean protests on the delays, strained relations between Washington and Pyongyang, resulting vicious cycles of mutual recrimination to justify further construction delays. In 1996, a North Korean submarine landed on South Korean shores, causing Seoul to suspend its share of energy assistance stipulated in the Agreed Framework. The North retaliated with ballistic rhetoric and secretly started to export missile technology to Pakistan in exchange for Pakistani centrifuges. In 1998, North Korea defiantly test-fired a Taepo Dong-1 missile to show it was not bluffing.

On September 17, 1999, to savage the deteriorating situation, Clinton began easing some economic sanctions against North Korea. In December 1999, a US-led consortium finally signed a $4.6 billion contract for two Western-developed light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea. After that, North Korea kept to its side of the bargain, but the US, led by a politically weakened Clinton who had narrowly escaped impeachment, could not deliver its commitments. Since the accord was not a formal treaty, Congressional ratification was not needed, but Congress held up the sizable financial appropriation called for by the Agreed Framework on the ground that the agreement amounted to “appeasement” and rewarding North Korea for bad behavior. The argument was irrational since North Korea considered it a sovereign right to develop defensive weapons against US threats and sanctions, and it was the US who demanded North Korea to give up its nuclear program in exchange for non-weapon grade light water reactors. South Korea was not supportive of the agreement which had been negotiated bilaterally between the US and North Korea without South Korean participation. The light-water reactors were never funded nor were steps toward normalization between the US and North Korea taken.

Not until June 2000 did the US actually ease substantially longstanding sanctions against North Korea under the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Defense Production Act, and the Export Administration Act, clearing the way for increased trade, financial transactions, and investment. Pyongyang was still prohibited, however, from receiving US exports of military and sensitive dual-use items and most related assistance available to South Korea. Thus non-proliferation in the Korean Peninsula remained a selective regime as it had been and still is around the world.

In June, 2000, South Korean leader Kim Dae Jung traveled to Pyongyang for a summit with Kim Jong Il. The meeting raised hope for a further warming of relations between the two fraternal governments. In August, emotional family reunions were held in Seoul and Pyongyang for families divided since the end of the Korean War nearly five decades ago. The following month, athletes from both North and South Korea march together in the opening ceremony of the Olympic in Sydney, Australia. Korean reunification was looking encouraging.

By July 2000, North Korea began to threaten restarting its nuclear program if a lame-duck Clinton administration did not compensate it financially for the loss of electricity caused by delays in building light water nuclear power plants. It was a demand that Clinton was in no position to meet. By then, with time running out for Clinton who desperately wanted to resolve the North Korean and Middle East crises before leaving office, relations were allowed to warm between the US and North Korea.

In October, South Korea president Kim Dae Jung receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to open a dialogue with North Korea while Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made the advance trip to North Korea.

Clinton’s last minute Attempt

Previously, North Korea had made being removed from the State Department’s list of states accused of sponsoring terrorism a precondition for sending a high-level envoy to the United States. However, according to Wendy Sherman, Albright’s North Korean policy coordinator, North Korean delegates at a September 27-October 2, 2000 bilateral meeting in New York proposed that North Korean Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok visit the United States, in an apparent concession.

had announced on September 1 that he would not authorize deployment of a national missile defense (NMD) system, citing technical doubts and concerns about negative international reaction.  Russia and China, the only two states with ICBMs capable of striking the continental United States, staunchly opposed the system and traditional NATO allies, led by France and Germany, expressed worries that the system would strain the transatlantic alliance and halt or reverse progress toward enhancing general stability in arms control.

Samuel Berger,
Clinton’s national security adviser, explained Clinton’s statement as indicating that development contracts for NMD would not be awarded to defense contractors. Defense Secretary Cohen, a Republican, the leading NMD advocate in the Clinton administration, had reportedly pressed Clinton to award the contracts just days before Clinton’s speech. Cohen released a statement after the announcement, saying he supported the president’s approach of having the “next President fully involved in decisions regarding the future of the program.”  Unfortunately for arms control, the next president turned out not to be Al Gore but George W. Bush who reversed Clinton’s decision to delay deployment of NMD.

Throughout periodic negotiations since 1996, the United States had tried to persuade North Korea to end its ballistic missile exports and terminate its indigenous missile development program. The last round of missile talks ended in stalemate in July 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, when North Korea demanded monetary compensation in the amount of $1 billion per year to make up for lost revenue from arms exports and reiterated its position that missile development is a sovereign right. The US, North Korea pointed out, has been the world’s largest exporter of missile technology and systems to approved states all over the world.

Kim Jong Il who has become leader since his father’s death in 1994, reissued a public invitation to Clinton to come to Pyongyang, promising to sign a treaty banning the production of long-range missiles and the export of all missiles.

Kim Jong Il Impressed
Clinton Aides as Serious and Rational

Caricatured by a hostile Western press as an unstable psychotic leader, Kim Jong Il was described privately by those US officials who saw him negotiate with Albright as a very rational and pragmatic statesman. North Korea has been portrayed by the Western press as an inhumane government which allowed its population to starve while pursuing costly nuclear armament, not withstanding the obvious fact that the starvation has been largely caused by US sanctions and embargo, and the need for nuclear defense has been made necessary by repeated US threats of use of force against it.

Robert Einhorn, who was Clinton’s chief North Korea negotiator, now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bi-partisan think tank in Washington chaired by former Democrat Senator Sam Nunn, with a membership rooster that reads like a who’s who of former high US officials, took part in the twelve hours of talks with Kim. “He [Kim Jong Il] struck me as a very serious, rational guy who knew his issues pretty well,” Einhorn recalls. Ambassador Wendy Sherman came away with a similar impression.

One month before the presidential election, the Clinton administration formally declared US obligation to not threaten North Korea militarily in the October 12, 2000 Joint Communiqué between Washington and Pyongyang which states: “The two sides stated that neither government would have hostile intent toward the other and confirmed the commitment of both governments to make every effort in the future to build a new relationship free from past enmity.”

The DPRK-US Joint Communiqué of 2000

The full text reads:
As the special envoy of Chairman Kim Jong Il of the DPRK National Defense Commission, the First Vice Chairman, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, visited the United States of America from October 9-12, 2000.

During his visit, Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok delivered a letter from National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong Il, as well as his views on US-DPRK relations, directly to US President William Clinton. Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok and his party also met with senior officials of the Clinton Administration, including his host Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Secretary of Defense William Cohen, for an extensive exchange of views on issues of common concern. They reviewed in depth the new opportunities that have opened up for improving the full range of relations between the United States of America and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The meetings proceeded in a serious, constructive, and businesslike atmosphere, allowing each side to gain a better understanding of the other's concerns.

Recognizing the changed circumstances on the Korean Peninsula created by the historic [June 2000] inter-Korean summit, the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have decided to take steps to fundamentally improve their bilateral relations in the interests of enhancing peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. In this regard, the two sides agreed there are a variety of available means, including Four Party talks, to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula and formally end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 Armistice Agreement with permanent peace arrangements.

Recognizing that improving ties is a natural goal in relations among states and that better relations would benefit both nations in the 21st century while helping ensure peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and in the Asia-Pacific region, the US and the DPRK sides stated that they are prepared to undertake a new direction in their relations. As a crucial first step, the two sides stated that neither government would have hostile intent toward the other and confirmed the commitment of both governments to make every effort in the future to build a new relationship free from past enmity.

Building on the principles laid out in the June 11, 1993 US-DPRK Joint Statement and reaffirmed in the October 21, 1994 Agreed Framework, the two sides agreed to work to remove mistrust, build mutual confidence, and maintain an atmosphere in which they can deal constructively with issues of central concern. In this regard, the two sides reaffirmed that their relations should be based on the principles of respect for each other's sovereignty and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and noted the value of regular diplomatic contacts, bilaterally and in broader fora.

The two sides agreed to work together to develop mutually beneficial economic cooperation and exchanges. To explore the possibilities for trade and commerce that will benefit the peoples of both countries and contribute to an environment conducive to greater economic cooperation throughout Northeast Asia, the two sides discussed an exchange of visits by economic and trade experts at an early date.

The two sides agreed that resolution of the missile issue would make an essential contribution to a fundamentally improved relationship between them and to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. To further the efforts to build new relations, the DPRK informed the US that it will not launch long-range missiles of any kind while talks on the missile issue continue.

Pledging to redouble their commitment and their efforts to fulfill their respective obligations in their entirety under the Agreed Framework, the US and the DPRK strongly affirmed its importance to achieving peace and security on a nuclear weapons free Korean Peninsula. To this end, the two sides agreed on the desirability of greater transparency in carrying out their respective obligations under the Agreed Framework. In this regard, they noted the value of the access which removed US concerns about the underground site at Kumchang-ri.

The two sides noted that in recent years they have begun to work cooperatively in areas of common humanitarian concern. The DPRK side expressed appreciation for significant US contributions to its humanitarian needs in areas of food and medical assistance. The US side expressed appreciation for DPRK cooperation in recovering the remains of US servicemen still missing from the Korean War, and both sides agreed to work for rapid progress for the fullest possible accounting. The two sides will continue to meet to discuss these and other humanitarian issues.

As set forth in their Joint Statement of October 6, 2000, the two sides agreed to support and encourage international efforts against terrorism.

Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok explained to the US side developments in the inter-Korean dialogue in recent months, including the results of the historic North-South summit. The US side expressed its firm commitment to assist in all appropriate ways the continued progress and success of ongoing North-South dialogue and initiatives for reconciliation and greater cooperation, including increased security dialogue.

Special Envoy Jo Myong Rok expressed his appreciation to President Clinton and the American people for their warm hospitality during the visit.

It was agreed that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will visit the DPRK in the near future to convey the views of U.S. President William Clinton directly to Chairman Kim Jong Il of the DPRK National Defense Commission and to prepare for a possible visit by the President of the United States. [End]

When asked at an October 12 press briefing if Jo Myong Rok had discussed Kim’s reported offer to Russian president Vladimir Russian to stop missile launches in exchange for foreign satellite-launch assistance, Ambassador Wendy Sherman, policy coordinator for North Korea, said, “We believe, based on the discussions that we had, that there is validity to this idea.”

At the end of an unprecedented visit to Pyongyang on October 24, 2000, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, with less than two weeks from the presidential election, announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il had apparently signaled a willingness to end testing of the Taepo Dong-1 ballistic missile. Albright and Kim Jong Il met for two days of discussions covering the North Korea missile program, nuclear transparency, normalization of relations, and a possible trip to Pyongyang by President Clinton. Albright was the highest-level US official ever to travel to North Korea and the first US government representative to meet with Kim, now in his 6th year as leader of North Korea.

Albright announced to a news conference that she and Kim “discussed the full range of concerns on missiles,” including North Korea’s indigenous program, its exports to states like Pakistan and Iran, and Kim’s reported proposal to Putin to cease missile testing in exchange for foreign launch of North Korean satellites. Since September 1999, North Korea had voluntarily foregone missile testing during talks with the US, a moratorium that Pyongyang reaffirmed after the US eased economic sanctions in July 2000. North Korea had conducted its only test of the Taepo Dong-1 medium-range ballistic missile in August 1998 in an attempt to put a satellite into orbit. US government officials maintain that the satellite launch was a failure and that the launch was intended to test missile guidance and booster capability. The US had cited North Korea’s advances in missile technology as the primary rationale for a national missile defense and Pyongyang as the principal exporter of missiles to so-called states of concern.

According to Albright, while attending a celebration of the 55th anniversary of North Korea's communist party, Kim told her there would be no more tests of the Taepo Dong-1 missile. Albright added: “I take what he said on these issues as serious in terms of his desire and ours to move forward to resolve the various questions that continue to exist on the whole range of missile issues.”

No Clinton-Kim Summit

President Clinton did not visit
North Korea when he made his final presidential visit to Asia in November 2000 but did not ruled out making a trip to the country before he left office on January 20, 2001. The decision not to include North Korea on the president’s itinerary came after talks between the two sides on Pyongyang’s missile program wrapped up in Kuala Lumpur with apparent inconclusive ending, despite US delegation leader Robert Einhorn’s characterization of the talks as “detailed constructive and very substantive.” A summit between Clinton and Kim would have crowned North Korea’s diplomatic emergence after decades as a Cold War pariah adversary of Washington. But Clinton had come under increasing pressure in the last weeks of his term in office not to go to North Korea from domestic critics who warned that any visit would be portrayed in Pyongyang as a stamp of approval for Kim Jong-Il, whom US propaganda had portrayed as an eccentric tyrant.

As the presidential election approached, Albright urged the next president to follow the path set by the current administration.
The next president will have to choose whether to continue down the path we have begun.  Respectfully, I hope he will and believe he should, because I am convinced it is the right path for America, our allies and the people of Korea,” she said in an address to the National Press Club.

Of course, Albright’s hope was misplaced. Bush and his neo-conservative team rejected the conciliatory path of the Clinton administration towards North Korea.

Time Ran Out for Clinton

But time had run out for the Clinton team. After the Albright-Kim talks, Einhorn and his staff, worked at a frantic pace with North Korean diplomats but could not close a deal. Clinton was distracted in the final weeks of his second term by a futile last attempt to forge a peace treaty in the Middle East. The disputed outcome of the 2000 presidential election which took weeks to be finally settled by the Supreme Court suspended all diplomatic activity, as the US drifted diplomatically in mid-ocean. Yet as Clinton left the White House, the fuel rods remained under lock and key in North Korea. The 1994 Agreed Framework signed by the Clinton administration was not without problems, but it did prevent North Korea from moving in the direction of nuclearization for a good part of a decade.

Bush Reversed
Clinton Approach on North Korea

After the 2000 presidential election, by June 2001, North Korea warned a newly installed Bush administration dominated by neo-conservatives that it would reconsider its moratorium on missile tests if the Bush administration did not resume contacts aimed at normalizing relations, a warning ignored by Bush.  In July, US State Department reported North Korea as going ahead with development of its long-range missile. A Bush administration official said North Korea conducts an engine test of the Taepodong-1 missile.  In December, three months after the 9-11-2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush warned Iraq, Iran and North Korea that they would be “held accountable” if they developed weapons of mass destruction “that will be used to terrorize nations.”

In his State of the Union message in January 2002, the first after the 9-11 attacks, President George W. Bush labeled North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” along with Iraq and Iran. North Korea accused Washington of targeting it for “preemptive nuclear attack.” In September 2002, the Bush administration released a report which emphasizes the right of “pre-emptive defense” in attacking hostile countries developing weapons of mass destruction, explicitly mentioning North Korea. In addition, a leaked version of the Bush administration’s January 2002 classified Nuclear Posture Review lists North Korea as a country against which the United States should be prepared to use nuclear weapons, although it does not mention pre-emptive nuclear strikes.  The impact of these developments was fundamental on North Korea’s renewed nuclear strategy which was then condemned by the US as provocative.

With the Second Iraq War turning into an endless occupation quagmire, Bush administration began to reverse itself and its officials began to say several times on different occasions that the US now has no intention of attacking North Korea. A January 7, 2003 joint statement from the US, Japan, and South Korea reaffirmed this commitment in writing, stating that the US “has no intention of invading” North Korea. Still, voices advocating pre-emptive attacks on North Korea have not been totally silenced in US policy circles.

From North Korea’s perspective, the US pledge to provide formal assurances not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against North Korea was the sine qua non of the entire Agreed Framework. The Bush administration has failed to keep this critical pledge by the US with its new “transformation policy” of regime change for an “axis of evil” of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Thus the “provocation” behind the alleged “provocative actions” taken recently by North Korea in the form of missile and nuclear weapon tests originated from the Bush White House.

The Bush administration alleged that Pyongyang admitted during an October 4, 2002 bilateral meeting on possessing a uranium-enrichment program, which could be used to build nuclear weapons and would violate North Korea’s commitment to forgo the acquisition of such weapons. North Korea has denied the allegation. In response the State Department allegation, KEDO suspended oil shipments to North Korea the following month as winter began. North Korea reacted on December 12, 2002 by announcing that it would restart the nuclear facilities mothballed by the Agreed Framework. Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors on December 31, 2002 and announced on January 10, 2003 that it was withdrawing from the NPT, effective the next day. Pyongyang’s official status with the treaty remains ambiguous.

Fuel oil shipment was suspended in November 2002, for which the US had provided the largest financial contribution. On November 21, 2003, KEDO announced that it would suspend construction of the two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea for one year beginning December 1, 2003. The Bush Department of State declared that there was “no future for the project.”  With that, the future of non-proliferation in the Korea peninsula was foreclosed.

October 20. 2006

Next: GW Bush Policy on North Korea – a Direct Path to War