by Peter Hayes / Nautilus Institute –
(November 18, 2003)
Current Strategy Risks Failure: The current Bush strategy of crime-and-punishment maximizes the probability that the DPRK will continue to arm itself with nuclear weapons. It increases the probability of a huge war in Korea. It increases the eventual price to be paid for their nuclear capacities should they be willing to trade them in. It lengthens the time horizon for reducing the residual uncertainty as to their intentions and capacities to acceptable levels. It drives the North Koreans to revert to a worst-case and paranoid worldview that maximizes the possibility that they may use nuclear weapons to attack the United States in the belief that they are about to be attacked in a preventive or preemptive war. Worst of all, it diverts our attention from the primary security threat to the United States and the international community: the urgent global problem of transnational terrorism as revealed on September 11, 2001.
Alternative Strategy: The following strategy puts diplomacy in the driver’s seat. It relies on cooperative engagement and a meaningful combination of unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral strategies to bring North Korea into compliance with its NPT/IAEA obligations. It shifts the burden to allies and friends wherever possible, and maximizes the use of economic and political power. It relies on a strong military as ultimate recourse and to lend gravity to diplomacy and engagement. It maximizes the chances of pulling the DPRK’s nuclear teeth without war. This alternative policy requires the United States to set in motion the following seven-step North Korea strategy:
Step 1: Establish a high-level North Korea policy czar with authority to act on behalf of the president, with direct access to him.
Step 2: Declare a detailed US-DPRK roadmap of bilateral obligations
Step 3: Initiate a regional security framework based on common security principles and issue a US-DPRK mutual security assurance
Step 4: Insist on Immediate DPRK Unilateral Plutonium Re-Freeze, Enrichment Freeze and Declaration, Intrusive Inspections, and Missile Export Moratorium as Precondition for Implementing the Roadmap
Step 5: Take the DPRK off the US terrorist list when they roll up their narco-criminal networks
Step 6: Put the ROK front-and-center of implementation of the roadmap
Step 7: Increase US-ROK military readiness, and negotiate conventional cooperative security agenda with DPRK
The exact sequence would vary as opportunities arose and obstacles were overcome during a crazy-quilt implementation, but the content of these steps are essential ingredients of any successful strategy-defined as de-nuclearizing Korea without a catastrophic war.
Step 1: Establish a High-Level North Korea Policy Czar with Presidential Authority
The political debates inside the Administration over the pragmatic engagement of the DPRK must end, effective immediately, and the proper interagency process of policy deliberation and implementation must be resumed. To this end, the US President should authorize a top official to take charge and give this official direct presidential access on an as-needed basis. This person must travel to Pyongyang immediately as the President’s personal emissary to meet with Kim Jong Il to outline the roadmap and to meet with other heads-of-state in the region-just as Russian and Chinese emissaries have met with Kim Jong Il in recent months on the nuclear issue.
Step 2: Declare a Detailed US-DPRK Roadmap of Bilateral Obligations
The most immediate issue now is to develop and to share with North Korea a detailed American negotiating position based on US demands for immediate nuclear dismantlement that recognizes the DPRK demands for political recognition, security assurances, and recommitment to AF obligations and supplemental “post AF” obligations that are based on the principle of separate but contingent obligations whereby “we do this, they do that,” and vice versa. This is the same logic that the DPRK calls “simultaneity.”
This simple and clear roadmap for the DPRK and the other parties to the multilateral talks will place the onus on the DPRK to respond, and will move both sides to a more realistic appreciation of what will and will not work to bring about DPRK cooperation on the nuclear issue.
Otherwise, the North will only come to future talks to curry favor with China and the United States will be blamed for chasing the North’s narcotics and counterfeit money while they walk free with nuclear weapons.
The United States can only declare such contingent obligations on its own behalf, not on behalf of other states. But it can move quickly to obtain other’s bilateral commitments-for example, from Japan-to provide economic support to kick-start the DPRK economy. The United States roadmap is an essential bilateral element that could lead to rapid progress in a multilateral framework.
The United States does not have to shoulder a major economic burden to achieve this outcome. Establishing normal diplomatic relations, providing a security assurance, taking them off the terrorist listing, and enabling others to do and pay for the economic heavy lifting, including providing the energy equivalent of the heavy fuel oil and the now-suspended light water reactor projects. This approach relies heavily on international agencies, allies and friends providing technical assistance and infrastructure development investment. This policy shift can be summarized as simply getting out of their face once they perform.
The roadmap of phased mutually contingent steps leading to actual disarmament and actual economic benefits in the DPRK is not implemented, just negotiated at this first stage. It will not be implemented until after the next two “simultaneous” steps are taken by the United States and the DPRK that provide for a mutual non-aggression commitment and for a unilateral re-establishment of IAEA monitoring on a frozen DPRK nuclear fuel cycle.
Step 3: Initiate a Regional Security Framework Based on Common Security Principles and Issue a US-DPRK Mutual Security Assurance
At the same time as it outlines and negotiates a bilateral roadmap for renewed mutual obligations between itself and the DPRK, the United States should initiate dialogue between states in the region as to the principles on which a regional common security system may be built, similar to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe created by the 1975 Helsinki Treaty.
Eventually, this approach would create binding obligations concerning security issues on all states, big and small, in the region. However, it will take years to negotiate such a regional security architecture given the asymmetries of power and interest between the regional players and the dead weight of history. Meanwhile, this larger dialogue would provide a framework in the form of a set of concerted bilateral security negotiations under a set of principles adopted at the outset for a bilateral US security assurance to the DPRK. This approach would lend substance to such a declaration because the same principle enshrined in a US-DPRK agreement could be adopted by all states in the region. It also opens the way for regional norms to be developed on many issues of great concern to Americans in the DPRK such as human rights, refugee treatment and status, etc, but does not elevate these to trump the security agenda which, by any measure, must take first place in the queue due to the global stakes in the peaceful versus violent resolution of the nuclear issue.
As the United States has no plans and no interest in attacking the DPRK unless it is first attacked, there is no cost to the United States in issuing such a declaration. This step will be taken simultaneously with the DPRK announcing that it will take the next step to reestablish continuity of monitoring on its nuclear fuel cycle.
Step 4: Insist on Immediate DPRK Unilateral Plutonium Re-Freeze, Enrichment Freeze and Declaration, Intrusive Inspections, and Missile Export Moratorium as Precondition for Implementing the Roadmap
The most urgent issue is to get a freeze, monitored or not, then to resume monitoring, by IAEA or US inspectors, back onto spent fuel and/or reprocessed material and any plutonium removed from spent fuel since last October to reestablish “continuity of monitoring” as to the status of this material; and to obtain a complete declaration of uranium enrichment activities from the DPRK.
Implementing the first step on plutonium will be a tedious, expensive, and time-consuming task, but it is critical to confidence that the DPRK has not obtained plutonium for bombs or for export. If the DPRK has weaponized such material, then the fissile cores need to be placed under IAEA monitoring as well.
Implementing the second step on uranium enrichment is related to the first step on plutonium. If the DPRK declaration on enrichment is false relative to US intelligence concerning its known acquisition activities, this is prima facie evidence of bad faith with regard to both plutonium and uranium enrichment. After a short period of consultation over any differences between their declaration and US and allied records to see if there are reasonable explanations for any light between them, the go-no go signal for the roadmap as a whole should be activated.
The DPRK refreeze of plutonium and freeze and declaration of uranium enrichment activities should be unilateral and immediate for two reasons. First, this conforms to precedent, it being what they did between June and October in 1994 while the AF was negotiated.
Second, it insists that the DPRK must conform to a minimalist version of its past NPT/IAEA obligations before any negotiations result in any benefits flowing to the DPRK. (Full-scope safeguards come later). It is not sufficient, however, to move forward until additional intrusive verification measures are undertaken that portend or lead to actual nuclear dismantlement.
If major progress is made in negotiating steps 2 and 3 on a security guarantee and economic roadmap for the DPRK, then the United States should insist that taking these steps will be contingent on immediate transfer of fissile material and spent fuel to a third country (rather than delayed as anticipated in the 1994 Agreed Framework until the completion of the first LWR).
Intrusive inspection measures will also be required at this time to determine how much fissile material was generated in the early years of reactor operation. Techniques are available to achieve this result provided the United States does not attack DPRK nuclear facilities, thereby destroying critical physical evidence; and provided that the DPRK allows access to Yongbyon facilities in a cooperative manner. Confidence sufficient to establish a safeguards baseline with regard to early plutonium production and extraction can be achieved even if the spent fuel rods have been reprocessed. It is noteworthy that when the incentives are right, both governments and non-governmental agencies have found it possible to obtain intrusive access to sites and information in the DPRK on sensitive issues. The United States should reiterate its earlier offer to allow reciprocal DPRK intrusive inspections at US facilities in the ROK to alleviate concerns by the Korean People’s Army that US nuclear weapons are stockpiled there (which they are not).
Third, the DPRK would reiterate its moratorium on missile testing and implement a moratorium on missile exports of any kind. The two sides would negotiate a set of initial monitoring and verification measures that would partly resolve American concerns on this issue until missile manufacturing and stockpiles are dealt with in the context of peninsular disarmament. Such measures may include: DPRK declarations of the contents of all shipments with agreement that shipments inconsistent with DPRK declarations being subject to cooperative inspection by a multilateral team authorized by the UN Security Council; posting of international monitors at key ports and airfields; and agreement that only day-time loading of ships and aircraft will be undertaken combined with extension of the Open Skies Treaty monitoring and verification measures to both Koreas. The DPRK would also join the Missile Technology Control Regime.
In response to these unilateral steps required of the DPRK, the United States would unilaterally resume humanitarian aid and would expand the Missing In Action/POW Joint Recovery operations with the Korean People’s Army. It would also encourage private sector for and non-profit organizations to unleash precision-guided markets and non-profit projects that will assist in the economic and institutional transition and inside-out transformation of the DPRK.
Step 5: Take the DPRK off the US Terrorist List When, and Only When, They Roll Up Their Narco-Criminal Networks
Only after they unilaterally re-establish continuity of monitoring on their fuel cycle and we have declared a common security guarantee in a regional framework, the United States will take them off the US terrorist list as the first step in implementing the roadmap. This step would be contingent upon the DPRK cleaning up residual issues related to past terrorism-they need to hand over to the United States their US dollar counterfeiting plates, return surviving Japanese Red Army members to Japan, and roll up their narco-criminal networks in collaboration with Interpol, for example. The United States should insist that the DPRK settle the abductees with Japan but not determine that this issue will keep the DPRK on the terrorist listing.
The DPRK must roll-up their narco-criminal networks in collaboration with Interpol and national security agencies in concerned countries; change funding practices for their international missions; and break definitively their trading links with terrorist organizations and states known to sponsor terrorism. In particular, they must stop exporting missiles to such states. The DPRK must ratify all UN treaties on terrorism; and will join the Proliferation Security Initiative upon completion of the verifiable roll-up of their narco-criminal networks. The actions is this step must be taken along with the freezing and intrusive verification steps outlined above before any implementation of the economic roadmap is done (with the exception of minor confidence-building unilateral measures).
Thereby, the DPRK gets to join the World Bank which is blocked by the US terrorist listing, gets access to emergency IMF funds provided by member states (South Korea for Thereby, the DPRK gets to join the World Bank which is blocked by the US terrorist listing, gets access to emergency IMF funds provided by member states (South Korea for example), to bilateral aid from other small and medium-sized states that wish to play a role in solving the Korean nuclear issue, and to Japanese reparations for past damage done to Koreans during colonialism and WWII. The latter item is the most critical of the three being the biggest and fastest way to kick-start the DPRK’s moribund economy.
This outcome is essential to break the potential link between North Korean criminal behaviors, global terrorist networks, and the WMD threat to the international community from terrorists. Such action is a necessary down-payment by the North Koreans to solve this issue. Some of these steps can be implemented under Chinese and/or Russian reporting channels for face-saving reasons. However, the missile-export moratorium steps should be undertaken directly with American and ROK experts. The United States and the ROK will also provide training on export controls to the DPRK export agencies.
Only after the DPRK has taken these unilateral steps will the United States and its partners in this process begin to implement the political and economic roadmap with North Korea.
Step 6: Support Inter-Korean Reconciliation, especially cross-DMZ Regional Network Integration
In three years, the United States has done immense, largely self-inflicted and possibly irreversible damage to the US-ROK alliance.
Instead of blocking or ignoring the ROK’s Nordpolitik, the United States should support rapid expansion of inter-Korean trade and DMZ-crossing, and inter-Korean reconciliation as fast as the ROK deems it feasible to move in concert with the DPRK. Any residual sanctions to such activity that cause American firms overseas to engage with DPRK counterparts or with US-ROK joint ventures should be removed subject to dual-use export controls.
The United States primary focus, however, should be to support and stimulate regional network linkages that cross the DMZ with telecommunications, railways, roads, and other infrastructure between China/Russia, the two Koreas, and Japan. Taking a regional approach is essential to reassure the DPRK that it will not be swallowed alive by the ROK nor subject to the ROK’s volatile domestic politics that can swing wildly in relation to the DPRK. Instead, the DPRK should be able to rely on Russian, Chinese and Japanese buffers against ROK coercive leverage even as its overall interdependence on external economies increases due to expanding network integration.
Step 7: Modernize US and ROK Military Forces, Negotiate Conventional Cooperative Security Agenda with the DPRK
At the same time as the United States and other parties engage the DPRK, we should quietly modernize US and ROK forces. This sends a message to the North that we have our back foot firmly on the ground if they push back or misjudge our intention. Provided we are engaging positively, the DPRK will understand and respect our strength. We need to reassure Kim Jong Il that we do not intend to send a cruise missile to kill him, at least not if he is restraining his nuclear ambitions. As it is obvious that military strikes against DPRK nuclear sites are unlikely to destroy whatever fissile material or warheads that they have garnered, and that such strikes may lead to war and nuclear war in Korea, we do not need to say or do anything on this score except to emphasize that IAEA inspections will make such attacks unnecessary.
Moreover, if the policy fails and the DPRK lashes out, or if the DPRK collapses into civil war and one or other faction lashes out across the border seeking to invoke US-ROK intervention, then we need to be prepared for the full range of escalation possibilities.
In particular, we need to develop a strong civil defense plan for Americans in the ROK, and work with the ROK to develop a meaningful South Korean civil defense plan (none exists at this time, leaving Americans and other foreign nationals highly exposed to DPRK attack). We also need to accelerate consultations at the UN Security Council to create a legal framework that authorizes Security Council members to act collectively to recover fissile material or actual nuclear weapons that have entered criminal or terrorist networks.
The United States should also be proposing longer term conventional arms control and disarmament dialogues on a civilian and inter-military basis with the North Koreans, including cooperative monitoring and verification of the DMZ and cross-border activities, and eventual pullback, drawdown, and dismantlement, demobilization and conversion of military forces to peaceful uses. The United States can work closely with Russia on this issue as Kim Jong Il is known to have pursued it actively on his last trip to Moscow.
Finally, we should reactivate the four power talks related to ending the Armistice.
In the big picture, North Korea is not a big issue or is it hard to solve. The issues are complex but negotiable. The United States has the necessary leverage to get its way, whichever route it chooses.
Whichever strategy it adopts, eventually the United States will bring North Korea to heel. North Korea is a very small place (less than half the size of California), with a small population (less than half South Korea’s population, about two thirds of California’s population), and a very small GNP (about one percent of the ROK’s GNP or about the size of Alameda County’s annual product). With or without nuclear weapons, with or without a war, eventually North Korea will be forced to comply. The only question is when, at what cost, and to whom?
Unlike Iraq under Hussein, North Korea seeks a security relationship with the United States. It seeks to become part of the status quo. It would like to become a small power that is militarily strong with nuclear weapons, and to have a modern economy.
By simply playing our cards right, we can force it to choose an economy over nuclear weapons, and thereby stabilize the Korean Peninsula and repair the gaping hole in the fabric of the NPT made by North Korea’s pullout.