In the National Interest on North Korea: Comments and Perspectives

As "hawk engagement" believers had always expected, Kim Jong-il has now dropped the cooperation ball.

As "hawk engagement" believers had always expected, Kim Jong-il has now dropped the cooperation ball. . . . Both Seoul and Tokyo decreed that any hope Pyongyang might have for inter-Korean economic cooperation or for a large "normalization" package of Japanese aid hinges on satisfactory resolution of the North's current violation. . . .

In effect, this would be the last round of diplomacy for the North to get out of its own mess. Were it to fail, then a coalition to isolate and minimize contacts with the regime would follow. No doubt there are dangers associated with such an option, not least of which is North Korean agitation, but "hawk engagement proponents" would argue that the likelihood of Kim Jong-il's compliance are marginally higher than they were in the last near-war crisis in June 1994. This is because the regime in Pyongyang today has much more to lose in the current situation than it has to gain by resorting to truculent behavior. This was not the case in 1994. The Pyongyang that opposed the U.S. then, in the plainest of terms, had absolutely nothing to lose. Confronting it would have elicited a violent reaction. Since 1994, however, the North has accumulated substantial gains in terms of diplomatic outreach, economic aid, food aid, and energy. Consolidating and building on these gains, Bush hawks calculate, should therefore lead the North to find a way out of the current impasse. Given the high stakes involved, one hopes that Kim Jong-il makes the right calculation.

 (Victor D. Cha , "Isolate North Korea?" )


Notwithstanding the constraints on a tough policy toward North Korea, Washington must be as severe as possible in dealing with Pyongyang. At a minimum, after its own years of obstruction and lying (including, like Iraq, violations of the armistice agreement that ended its last war with the U.S.), Kim Jong-il's government cannot be rewarded with new assistance or weak monitoring of its compliance with whatever agreement may be reached. More significantly, however, the Bush Administration must launch a major diplomatic effort with South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia to suspend economic contacts with North Korea, including all economic assistance, until Pyongyang renounces nuclear weapons and accepts strict new monitoring. This effort should include a clear statement by the administration that while the United States may not choose to pursue simultaneous military action against Iraq and North Korea, Pyongyang could well be next in line if diplomacy is insufficient in eliminating its nuclear arsenal. Doing less will only encourage more of the same from North Korea in the future. Worse, it could also contribute to other hostile regimes' nuclear temptations.

(Paul J. Saunders,  "Iraq, North Korea, and the Law of Unintended Consequences")


Once one appreciates the relevant contexts, it becomes clear that the operative difference between North Korea and Iraq is that we can act decisively to prevent Iraq from becoming a much bigger problem than it already is, and-without hubris and overreach, and with maximally feasible allied support-we should do so. Our Korea options are far more limited, which is one reason among several for adopting a dispassionate, low-keyed tone. The administration is wise not to let the North Koreans define circumstances as a crisis, or as a bilateral U.S.-North Korean affair. With every additional spasm of bellicosity, Pyongyang further irritates and alienates the only countries conceivably useful to it: China, Russia and, less so, Japan and South Korea. Such a dynamic may eventually lead to greater practical cooperation between the United States and these countries, so why interrupt the spectacle of North Korean communists publicly chewing on their boots?

(Adam Garfinkle,  "Under the Snow" )

The Korean problem seems to be the most pressing regional issue that could warrant increased security cooperation between Moscow and Tokyo, and this, in turn, could lead to tangible improvements within the entire framework of Russian-Japanese relations.  Although Russia and Japan publicly support the existing formats of talks with North Korea, their pessimism over their efficacy has been growing. In the "Moscow Declaration" (December 1, 1998) Russia and Japan agreed on the  "the importance of creating in future a negotiating mechanism with the participation of all interested parties, including Russia and Japan, on maintaining security and confidence building in Northeast Asia."  For a long time, Russian diplomacy has viewed the Korean process as a prelude to the establishment of a permanent security dialogue in Northeast Asia. Not surprisingly, Moscow reacted positively to the recent proposal by Japan's Defense Agency Chief regarding the creation in Asia of a security structure with the participation of Japan, Russia, the United States, China, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. . . .