Six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear weapons program are set to resume this Thursday on the heels of failed talks in December and Kim Jong-il's provocative nuclear test in October. TNI takes a look back at other crucial junctures in America's dealings with the DPRK.
In 2003, TNI contributing editor Ted Galen Carpenter argued against pre-emptive action against North Korea, writing that America could contain and co-exist with a nuclear North Korea:
"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."
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In 1994, amidst the crisis that produced the Agreed Framework, James Fallows analyzed the gulf separating American and South Korean perceptions of North Korea-and its negative impact on American foreign policy:
"Everyone knows that Americans should pay more attention to events outside their country's borders, especially now that we live in the Interdependent Age. But maybe the reverse is true. Maybe the old, clubby foreign policy establishment had it right when trying to conduct foreign policy out of the public view.
That, at least, was my working hypothesis after traveling to Seoul this summer, during the showdown over North Korea's nuclear ambitions. The more attention the issue received in the U.S. press, the closer to true disaster the whole episode moved. It was only when mainstream Americans--and, even more, the commentators who hector them on TV programs and the op-ed pages--were distracted by other questions that the serious negotiation could begin. Apparently no one has figured out how to interest the American public in international trends without exaggerating, oversimplifying, or warping the reality of events to fit domestic U.S. preoccupations of the moment."
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