Das geteilte Land - KOREA

2013 Peace Network: Pyongyang style is taking all

Nord- und Südkorea, 2013


Pyongyang style is taking all and giving nothing?
Wake up from the delusions



Wook-sik Cheong (Representative of Peace Network)


May 2, 2013

“How long do we have to repeat the vicious cycle of crisis created by the North, followed by compromise and aid?” said Park Geun-hye at the cabinet meeting on April 9th. “The behavior of the regime in Pyongyang that we are seeing now –- represents a familiar pattern, and as I think we’ve seen over the past several administrations ∙∙∙ it is important to view this within the context of the kind of behavior that we’ve seen out of North Korea in the past.” said Jay Carney, the White House spokesperson on April 3rd.

The “North Korean Pattern” is a key concept shared by the U.S. and South Korea since 2009, and they are dedicated to mark an end to this pattern. John Kerry, the Secretary of State stressed on April 15th that as long as North Korea was not ready to go in the direction that the global community guided, there would be neither negotiation nor dialogue, and that the U.S. was dedicated to stop the vicious cycle. John McCain, the Republican senate, insisted that North Korea ran away with money whenever the Democratic and Republican Administrations entered negotiations. In short, North Korea is said to take all and give nothing.

  The “North Korean Pattern” is an expression widely used by Republican Party from 1994. It asserts that negotiation and compromise with North Korea are a reward for mischief. The South Korean and U.S governments have adopted this notion since 2009. For example, the Obama Administration considered the rocket launch from Pyongyang as a revival of the “North Korean Pattern.” President Barack Obama held the National Security Council in March, 2009, when the North’s rocket launch was imminent, to address that he wanted to mark an end to the vicious cycle of provocation-coercion-reward, which had befallen the U.S. Administrations for the past 15 years. Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense, was present at the meeting and emphasized the need to refrain from luring North Korea to the negotiation table with enticements, saying the U.S. should not buy the same horses three times.

  The South Korean Government supports this idea. President Lee Myung-bak said on a phone call with President Barack Obama on May 26th, a day after the second nuclear test from North Korea, that they had to take into consideration the experience from the first nuclear test on October 2006 when Pyongyang succeeded in drawing a reward, resuming dialogues with the international community. President Lee Myung-bak added that the international society should cooperate to not repeat this pattern. President Barack Obama responded at the press conference on June 16th that while North Korea had a pattern of belligerent actions, followed by compensation, he was dedicated to break that pattern.
‘Superficial Understanding’ of North Korea
If so, does the “North Korean Pattern” of provocation→dialogue→reward really exist? To look back on the past twenty years of negotiations towards the North superficially, one can say yes. The U.S. began a dialogue with Pyongyang after North Korea started to develop nuclear weapons in 1993 after it withdrew from the NPT. After a year of pulling and hauling, the U.S. promised provision of light-water reactors and heavy oil, normalization of political and economic relations, and non-use of nuclear weapons as a reward for nuclear freeze and eventual nuclear dismantlement. This is part of the October 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework, which is referred to as an example of the U.S. surrendering to North’s provocation by the American hardliners, and as the root of the “North Korean Pattern” .

In August 1998, North Korea was accused of having suspicious nuclear facilities in Kumchang-ri and a satellite “Kwangmyongsong-1” launch (called a ballistic missile, or “Taepodong-1” by South Korea, the U.S. and Japan). Tensions escalated between Pyongyang and Washington, but in the end, the U.S. provided 500,000 tons of food in exchange for inspections of suspicious nuclear facilities in North Korea, and alleviated some economic sanctions as a reward for the North postponing additional missile launches. This scenario appears like the North being rewarded for provocation.

A similar pattern was seen at the end of the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration only entered into direct talks with the North after a ballistic missile test in July 2006, followed by nuclear test three months later. The U.S. also promised to resolve the issue of Banco Delta Asia, and provide 200,000 tons of heavy oil as a reward to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. Due to the delay in resolving the BDA problem, North Korea postponed shutdown of its nuclear facilities. North Korea stopped disabling Yongbyon reactors in August 2008, warning of restoring the facilities. It was only when the U.S. excluded the North from a state-sponsored terrorism listing that it resumed disabling. President Lee Myung-bak states this as an example in which South Korea and the U.S. got entangled in the “North Korean Pattern.”

As indicated, both South Korean and the U.S. Governments believe that there are serious problems in developing negotiations for nuclear weapons with the North. The reality for them is that Pyongyang provokes, and Seoul and Washington jump in and reward the North Korea by opening up dialogue. Because of this, they declared ‘no reward for provocation,’ after the long-range rocket launch in April 2009 and after the second nuclear test in May 2009 by the North. Based on this recognition, South Korea and the U.S. Governments reacted to
“Kwangmyongsong-2” (ballistic missile or “Taepodong-1”) with the Presidential Statement by the UN Security Council, and to the second nuclear test with the passing of UNSC Resolution 1874, a highly severe sanction on North Korea. This pattern lingers today: the pattern of a rocket launch by North Korea→reaction from the UN Security Council→additional nuclear test by the North→additional resolutions by the UNSC. The Obama Administration, leading with a firm stance on the North, asserts that it has broken the “North Korean Pattern.”
Looking Closely At the Truth
However, only looking at the past 20 years as a pattern of repetitive provocation is far from objective to understand negotiations concerning the North’s nuclear weapons. In short, this quick glance neglects the causes and effects. Pyongyang’s withdrawal from the NPT in March 1993 was a result of conflicts between the U.S., the IAEA and North Korea on special inspection on undeclared facilities, resuming Team Spirit training between South Korea and the U.S., and Washington’s rejection of a senior-level talk with Pyongyang. Postponing Team Spirit training was a key element in concluding the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement in 1991 to 1992. North Korea, on the other hand, deemed it as a violation of the spirit of the agreements to resume this training and withdrew from the NPT. In a promise made during senior-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington, the North could defer withdrawal if the dialogues continued.

Negotiations on North Korea went along until the Kim Yong-sam Government and the U.S. introduced a hardline policy against the North, and North Korea attempted to extract nuclear fuel rods (a pre-step for nuclear reprocessing to produce weaponizable plutonium) when tensions reached their highest point. The U.S. threatened to bomb Pyongyang while the North declared it would take the risk of war, consequently escalating tension in the Korean Peninsula. It was Jimmy Carter, former President of the U.S., who visited North Korea to turn the situation into a whole new phase. Senior-level talks between Pyongyang and Washington resumed and concluded with the Agreed Framework in October 1994. The Agreed Framework, however, was nothing unusual. Security guarantee and economic rewards introduced by international community made it possible for countries like South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to renounce possession of nuclear weapons.

South Korea, the U.S., and Japan succeeded in freezing the North’s nuclear development for eight years with the Agreed Framework until the second nuclear crisis erupted in 2002. Without this agreement, the Korean Peninsula could have erupted in another war or the North could have completed making nuclear weapons ten years ago. Agreed Framework stopped the North from producing nuclear weapons, which was estimated to possess enough plutonium to produce sixty to one hundred nuclear weapons, according to an intelligence agency.

However, it was only millions of tons of heavy fuel that North Korea received from the Agreed Framework. Construction of light-water reactors stopped in 2003. The promised Negative Security Assurances (that the U.S. will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons) turned out to be empty commitments when secret documents of mock nuclear attacks on Pyongyang were revealed. The normalization of political and economic relations was a promise between the North and U.S, but that promise was not yet realized. Therefore, it was the North that felt the stronger sense of betrayal from the broken Agreed Framework.

North Korea, which had been fallen out of American’s sights after the Agreed Framework came back into the U.S.’s focus with suspicious Kumchang-ri nuclear facilities in August 1998 and the launch of “Kwangmyongsong-1.” Suspicion concerning Kumchang-ri was raised when an intelligence agency leaked information to the New York Times, although it turned out to be only “an empty tunnel.” The U.S. ignored explanations from North Korea, and paid two visits to Kumchang-ri after promising 500,000 tons of foodstuffs, only to confirm false information. In this regard, the Kumchang-ri controversy can be explained as the U.S. paying for its own fault of twisting information, rather than compensating for the North’s mischief.

Kwangmyongsong-1” or “Taepodong-1” can be understood in the same light. Despite the U.S.’s argument that Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile, “Taepodong-1,” was actually a satellite named “Kwangmyongsong-1” that the North tried to launch into orbit, which was later confirmed by the U.S. intelligence agency. At that time, North Korea never promised it would refrain from launching rockets nor was there any UN Security Council Resolution to prevent such behavior. In short, the ‘Kwangmyongsong-1’ launch did not violate any type of agreement or international norm. The U.S. started to reexamine its North Korean policy after the rocket launch, and completed the “Perry Report” with help from the Kim Dae-jung Government. In September 1999, In bilateral talks with the U.S held in Berlin, North Korea agreed to suspend additional ballistic missile launches, in return for a promise to relieve economic sanctions. In nine months, relief came, but as an empty gesture from the U.S. for including North Korea on a list of terrorist-sponsored states.

North Korea postponed a ballistic missile launch until early July 2006. North Korea gained nothing in exchange for delaying their missile tests for eight years. Nothing but symbolic relief of economic sanctions mentioned above. Negotiations on missiles, which had come very close to an agreement at the end of the Clinton Administration, were dismissed with the advent of the Bush Administration in 2001. The Bush Administration believed the establishment of Missile Defense was the most vital matter at hand. North Korea had been provided with a large amount of foodstuffs in the meantime, but this only self-negated the U.S.’s policy of ‘food aid does not coincide with politics.’

While North Korea endured antics from the U.S., Pyongyang was fulfilling the 1994 Agreed Framework and the 1999 Berlin Agreement. From the beginning, the Bush Administration neglected the U.S.-D.P.R.K. Joint Communique that consisted of comprehensive and fundamental solutions for the relationship between two countries. Bringing the missile negotiations to a halt, the Bush Administration declared to establish the MD based on the “North Korean threat.” Furthermore, the U.S. specified the North as a target of preemptive nuclear attack in the Nuclear Posture Review(NPR) report, and identified Pyongyang, which had nothing to do with 9.11 terror attack, as ‘an axis of evil’ in January 2002. Some say that it was because ‘North Korea was confidentially developing a nuclear weapon using highly-enriched uranium,’ but the Bush Administration mentioned nothing about this matter, and rather was providing heavy fuel to North Korea for its implementation of the Agreed Framework until November 2002.

The U.S. is also partially responsible for the launch of ballistic missiles in July and October 2006, and the first nuclear test of North Korea. Not long after the conclusion of 9.19 Joint Statement, the U.S. imposed the Banco Delta Asia sanctions on North Korea. The U.S. also failed to withdraw the nuclear attack plan targeted at the North after the 9.19 Joint Statement in which the U.S. specifies that it will never pose any nuclear threat against Pyongyang. Eventually the U.S. opened a dialogue with North Korea after neoconservatives retreated from office after the defeat of the Iraq War. The Denuclearization process has progressed at a fast pace since 2007 when direct dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang took place.

Temporary default on the closing of Yongbyon nuclear reactors under the 2.13 agreement from the six-party talks in 2007 is understood in the same context. The U.S. at that time promised to resolve the BDA problems within 30 days. But the U.S. failed to meet the deadline, and as a result, North Korea refused to close the Yongbyon nuclear reactors. As soon as the BDA sanction was relieved, however, North Korea carried out its promise right away. A similar example happened in late 2008. North Korea threatened to stop disabling Yongbyon nuclear reactors under the 10.3 agreement of the six-party talks and to go back to its original state in the middle of August. A large number of domestic and foreign experts related the North’s firm action to the health of Kim Jong-il, but it was the U.S.’s failure to fulfill its promise of removing North Korea off the terrorist-sponsored states listing. Once the U.S. implemented its promise, North Korea resumed the disabling process, as well.

The rupture of six-party talks in December 2008 should be examined from different perspectives as well. It is known that it was the North’s rejection of verification protocol on nuclear declaration that broke down the six-party talks, but no such regulation was included in the six-party talk agreement at that time. Nevertheless, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan asked for a full-scale de facto inspection. North Korea condemned such a move as ‘a domiciliary visit,’ arguing that inspection should be mentioned at the last phase of the talk. The Lee Myung-bak Administration led a hardline policy, connecting the issue of energy provision with the North’s acceptance of verification protocol. The policy recognized that the North Korean regime would not be able to last long after Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke

It is necessary to reconstruct the situation of the Korean Peninsula in 2009. The North’s long-range rocket launch in April and the second nuclear test in May 2009 were the key events that led Seoul and Washington to bring an end to the “North Korean Pattern.” But the U.S. and South Korea were not the only one to feel disappointed and frustrated. North Korea was deeply disappointed at the Obama Administration, not to mention the Lee Myung-bak Administration. The U.S. was about to participate in the “Key Resolve” exercise, a joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S., while planning to send a special envoy to North Korea in late February 2009. North Korea asked for the drill to be cancelled through general-level talks with the UN, The U.S. turned down the request. In addition, leading members of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces, the Korean Minister of Defense and the USFK Commander, often mentioned Kim Jong-il’s health problem, publicly alluding to the necessity to deploy the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces in case of emergency in North Korea.

A strong reaction from South Korea, the U.S., and Japan against the North’s satellite launch exacerbated the circumstance. It was a space launch vehicle that North Korea launched, later confirmed by the U.S. intelligence agency. On April 5th, the North launched a rocket just before the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly, gathered to reselect Kim Jong-il as the Chairman of the National Defense Commission, and the Day of the Sun on the birthday of the late Kim Il-sung. This means that the satellite launch was for internal purposes. The U.S. preferred the interpretation of North Korea’s actions as “attracting Washington’s attention” or “soothing a crying child,” to justify taking this issue to the UN Security Council. It was the first time ever for any country to be forwarded to the UN Security Council for a satellite launch, and thus the North reacted fiercely.

Such cases show how unrealistic the North Korean pattern of ‘provocation→dialogue→reward’ is. If North Korea’s satellite launch was an attempt to hold a talk with the Obama Administration, it could have achieved its goal without launching a satellite as the U.S. offered to send a special envoy to Pyongyang in February. Yet the North turned down the offer and launched a rocket in response. The North also requested suspension in food aid that resumed at the end of the Bush Administration. It is confirmed that the objective of a rocket launch was neither to attract attention from the U.S. nor to receive additional food aid.

Sadly, the Obama Administration has pursued a policy of inaction, indifference, and incompetence under the name of “strategic patience,” simplifying the past 15 years (1993-2008) of negotiations on the North into a “North Korean Pattern.” In the meantime, North Korea has strengthened its nuclear and missile capacity, and the Korean Peninsula is entangled in a state of deadlock and crisis. The Lee Myung-bak Government should have dedicated itself to resolving the problem, but instead was obsessed with unification by absorption.

Looking closely at the history of this period, one can find three significant patterns distinct from “North Korean pattern.” Firstly, the North’s ‘provocation,’ ‘misconduct,’ and ‘brinkmanship’ did not come from nowhere; rather, they were reactions towards the U.S.’s failure to keep promises and ignoring calls for dialogue. Secondly, it has been shown that only when North Korea takes ‘provocative actions’ such as missile launches or nuclear tests that the U.S. pays serious attention to Pyongyang. Thirdly, the U.S. acted as if the reward for cooperation and implementation of agreement would be tremendous, but has been very tightfisted in rewarding North Korea for implementations of the agreement.

In addition, the prevalent analysis of the North seeking more economic aid through brinkmanship is far from objective. If it was aid that North Korea pursued, it is hard to explain why the North pursued a rocket launch or nuclear test when threatened with aid suspension. A stubborn stance on the Mt. Geumgang Tour and the Kaesong Industrial Complex is hard to understand as well. Conscious of these issues, North Korea specifies that a nuclear problem is not a matter of economic bargain.

It is important to point out that this critical analysis is not to side with North Korea in any way. I would like to stress that South Korea and the U.S. need to wake up from the “North Korean Pattern” myth. The reality is that North Korea has continued to strengthen its nuclear and missile capacities while South Korea and the U.S. were distracted by the idea of the “North Korea Pattern.”

* Jinhyun Lee and Kate Lehman contributed to translating this article into English.


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