A Half-century of US-Korea Policy: Inching Toward US-DPRK Rapprochement

  • David Satterwhite

Abstract

The July 1994 death of DPRK President Kim Il-Sung signalled the passing of an era in Korean and global politics. As nemesis of the US longer than any other leader — personifying the Stalinist enemy image long after the ideology itself had ceased to be a threat — Kim’s demise might have been welcomed in the West with a sense of relief and closure. Instead, his half-century at the helm ended just months too soon, for crucial elements of an evolving new order surrounding the peninsula were left unsettled, tantalisingly within reach yet likely to be more difficult to achieve in his absence. The ironies of this situation require explanation. How had an ageing dictator, worshipped at home and ridiculed abroad, come to possess the key to Northeast Asian regional security? How had mounting fears of a DPRK nuclear weapons’ capability brought the US a step closer to normalisation of relations with north Korea after decades of hostility? Despite the cold war’s end elsewhere, however, how might myopic habits — between rival Korean regimes, and on the part of the US — doom the peninsula to continued tensions, making a mockery of Korean aspirations for peace and unification?

Keywords

Petroleum Amid Explosive Flare Expense 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Reference is to the statements by US President Bill Clinton and DPRK representative to North-South talks Park Yong-Soo in July 1993 and March 1994, respectively. President Clinton’s remarks, made first during a visit to the DMZ, threatened north Korea with the ‘destruction of their society as they know it’ if the DPRK were to provoke hostilities on the peninsula. President Clinton reiterated this position in November 1993 at the White House, following meetings with ROK President Kim Young-Sam. Clinton said: ‘… [I]f North Korea … were to attack … they would pay a price so great that the nation would probably not survive as it is known today’ (quoted in the US-Korea Review, Vol. II, no. VI, Dec. 1993/Jan. 1994, p. 7). Mr. Park’s threatening remarks, from the eighth working-level meeting at Panmunjom between south and north Korea, were that ‘Seoul … will become a sea of fire’ if a new war were to break out in Korea (quoted widely, but see excellent discussion by Minn Chung, ‘Seoul Will Become a Sea of Fire’, Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, vol. 26, Nos 1–2, 1994).Google Scholar
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    The establishment of liaison offices in each other’s capital had been discussed previously (see, for instance, ‘US Plans Office in North Korea’, New York Times, 11 September 1994, p. 9); these plans were set in motion with the 21 October 1994 Agreement, and were moving steadily toward establishment in 1995.Google Scholar
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    The IAEA inspections indicated possible discrepancies and underreporting of plutonium extracted by north Korea, leaving open the potential that more than the DPRK’s claimed 100 grams of plutonium had been separated from other reactor wastes. See, on this point, David Albright, ‘How Much Plutonium Does North Korea Have?’, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Sept/Oct, 1994, pp. 46–53.Google Scholar
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    The then-Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, Mr James Woolsey, took pains to clarify this point in numerous interviews in 1993 and early 1994, stating that the estimates from limited intelligence sources on north Korea included the possibility that the DPRK had already acquired one or more nuclear devices, but that this was not a certainty. See, for instance, his comments as reported in the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 27 February 1993, p. 472, ‘Nuclear Powers Still Multiply, Woolsey Warns Congress’.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • David Satterwhite

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