There is a pervasive desire in the United States and throughout East
Asia to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear-armed power, for
the prospect of Kim Jong-il's bizarre and unpredictable regime having
such a capability is profoundly disturbing. Two factions have emerged
in the United States about how to deal with the crisis, and they
embrace sharply different strategies. Yet they share an important
underlying assumption: that North Korea is using its nuclear program
merely as a negotiating ploy, and that Pyongyang can eventually be
induced to give up that program.
One group thinks that Washington's top policy objective should be to
entice Pyongyang to return to the 1994 Agreed Framework, under which
the North Koreans agreed to freeze their nuclear program in exchange
for fuel oil shipments and Western assistance in constructing
proliferation resistant light-water reactors for power generation.
These advocates of dialogue think the United States should meet North
Korea's demand for a non-aggression pact and provide other
concessions to resolve the nuclear crisis. Individuals as politically
diverse as former President Jimmy Carter, Sen. Joseph Lieberman
(D-CT), former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft and Rep.
Curt Weldon (R-PA) have issued impassioned calls for a strategy of
dialogue and concessions. Those who advocate that strategy ignore an
important point, however: The United States has negotiated with North
Korea before, but each understanding or formal agreement seems merely
to pave the way for a new round of cheating and a new crisis.