Relations between North Korea and the United States - North Korea Essay Example

Relations between North Korea and the United States

Introduction

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The relations between North Korea and the United States go back to the Korean War in 1950s. The United States always took interest in the Korean peninsula after the end of World War II. The US presence in the Korean Peninsula had been a bone of contention between both the countries for decades. The Cold War politics raised the hostility between them to a large extent. The United States maintained the policy of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula to protect its friendly countries such as South Korea and Japan. However, North Korea pursued its nuclear programs against the wishes of the United States and other neighboring countries. That led to a conflict with the United States and other major powers in the world that support nuclear proliferation.

Historical Background

Despite the hegemony of China in East Asia, Korea remained independent until the 19th century. The power struggle between China and Japan made Korea vulnerable to attacks. It remained under the Japanese control for a long time. “The surrender of Japan in August 1945 resulted in the division of Korea into two zones. The 38th parallel divided Korea into South and North. There have been discussions between the USA, the UK, China and Soviet Union to determine the fate of Korea”[1].

Finally, the Korean issue was referred to the UN General Assembly in 1947. “Elections were held in the South in 1948 under the UN observation and the Republic of Korea was established. The North established the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the support of the erstwhile USSR”[2].

Being a Communist State, North Korea always received support from the Soviet Union whereas the United Nations and the United States provided their full support to South Korea for its commitment to democracy and non-aggression policy. “Clashes between North Korea and South Korea erupted soon after the establishment of D.P.R.K. North Korean forces invaded South Korea in 1950. As a result, the United Nations sent its troops. The United States provided the largest contingent of forces to help South Korea. Although negotiations began in 1950, hostilities continued until 1953”[3].

The US Policy towards North Korea

During the Cold War era, North Korea held proximity towards the Soviet Union, while South Korea established a friendly relationship with the United States. The United Stated never approved North Korea’s ambitious propaganda of annexing the South into its fold. North Korea pursued missile and nuclear programs, thus inviting the wrath of the world community including the United States.

In the recent years, there have been efforts to unite both South Korea and North Korea again. “The United States is in support of the peaceful reunification of Korea. But it wants the reunification on terms acceptable to the Korean people”[4]. The US believes that a constructive dialogue between the authorities of South Korea and North Korea is the need of the hour to resolve all long-standing problems.

The United States is particularly concerned over North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights abuses. It wants to bring back North Korea into the international community. The reluctance of North Korea to put a halt to its nuclear programs and its threats to the neighbors put the world community in a binding spot in the recent years.

Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

“When North Korea joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985, it was a non-nuclear weapon state. There have been reunification efforts since 1971. However, the breakthrough was achieved in 1992, when both South Korea and North Korea signed a joint declaration for a non-nuclear Korean peninsula”[5]. North Korea failed to fulfill its commitments made to the international community by declining to implement an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the inspection of its nuclear facilities. It resulted in a stand-off between North Korea and the international community led by the United States.

“In 1993, North Korea announced its intention to withdraw from the NPT”[6]. Concerned over the new developments, the United Stated took the initiative and made the UN Security Council to pass a resolution two months later. “The UNSC resolution urged North Korea to cooperate with the IAEA. It asked North Korea to implement the declaration signed in 1992 between North Korea and South Korea. The resolution also urged all member countries of the UN to encourage North Korea to resume dialogue on the nuclear issue”[7].

The United States had realized that the isolation of North Korea in the international community will provide it more opportunities to pursue its nuclear ambitions. Hence, it always tried to put pressure on North Korea to comply with the UN regulations. “After North Korea announced its desire to withdraw from the NPT, the US was the first country to take the initiatives and open talks with that country in 1993. The diplomatic offensive made by the US yielded results when an agreement was signed in 1994. It was known as the Agreed Framework for the resolution of the nuclear standoff”[8].

“Under the Agreed Framework, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program and allow monitoring of its nuclear sites by the IAEA. Both sides agreed to co-operate each other in order to replace North Korea’s graphite-moderated reactors with light-water power plants. The US also agreed to provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea every year until the first reactor was built. The US and North Korea agreed to safely store the used fuel from the reactor and dispose it in a safe manner”[9]. The main objective of the agreement was to ensure a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

After the signing of the agreement, the United States eased economic sanctions against North Korea. Both the countries worked in tandem to resolve all the issues related to denuclearization. “In 2000, the US and North Korea launched new negotiations called the Agreed Framework Implementation Talks. They held bilateral talks for a comprehensive missile agreement”[10].

Relations between the US and North Korea under George Bush

The US policy towards North Korea took an interesting turn when George W. Bush became the President of the United States in 2001. “The Bush Administration put the nuclear and missile talks on hold and announced its intention to review the US’s North Korea policy”[11]. It wanted discussion with North Korea on broader issues like missile development, missile export and human rights violations along with the nuclear talks.

“After the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the United States took a strong posture on the countries pursuing nuclear programs. The US President George W. Bush even named North Korea as part of an “Axis of Evil””[12].

However, the US was against any immediate military action. South Korea and Japan were concerned that North Korea might launch attacks on them if the United States plans any military action against that country. Hence, the United States decided to step up diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.

“The fresh dialogue between the US and North Korea resumed in October 2002. The dialogue began on a confrontational note with the US delegation charging North Korea that it had a uranium enrichment program. North Korean official admitted about the existence of such a program”[13]. The uranium enrichment program violated North Korea’s obligations under the NPT. It was also against the terms of the 1992 Denuclearization Declaration and the 1994 Agreed Framework. “The United States wanted North Korea to terminate the program before the progress of dialogue. However, North Korea backtracked from its earlier admission and denied the existence of any uranium enrichment program. In November 2002, the heavy fuel oils shipments to North Korea were suspended”[14].

After the collapse of talks, North Korea terminated the freeze on its plutonium-based nuclear facilities and expelled IAEA inspectors. “In 2003, it announced the withdrawal from the NPT and resumed reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium to be used for weapons of mass destruction”[15]. North Korea maintained that it was taking the extreme steps to develop a deterrent against the hostile policy of the United States.

The United States sought a peaceful end to North Korea’s nuclear program. It roped in North Korea’s neighbors in order to persuade North Korea to return to negotiating table. The US proposed multilateral talks to reach a permanent settlement. Although North Korea initially opposed such a process, under pressure from its neighbors and China, it agreed to such talks.

“Several rounds of six-party talks involving the US, China, South Korea, North Korea, Japan and Russia were held in Beijing that called for the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear programs”[16]. Although North Korea always maintained contradicting approach on the nuclear issue, the United States and other countries succeeded in continuing the dialog process to achieve the objective of denuclearization of Korean Peninsula.

“After several rounds of negotiations, North Korea finally agreed to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. It also agreed to return to the NPT and comply with the IAEA standards. The other parties promised to provide economic and energy assistance to North Korea in return of its commitment towards denuclearization”[17].

Political and Ideological Differences between the United States and North Korea

The United States and North Korea have both political and ideological differences between them. Democracy is the essence of the political system of the United States. Democracy and human rights have been high on the agenda of the US foreign policy for decades. Being a capitalist country, the US always opposed the growth of Communism and countries that have communist form of governments. On the other hand, North Korea remained a communist country since its establishment in 1948. During the Cold War era, North Korea supported the Soviet Union, the main rival of the United States.

During the Korean War in 1950s, the United States and North Korea were on opposite sides. After that, the relations between these countries have never been easy. The atmosphere of distrust always kept the two countries on the brink of hostility. The political and ideological differences between them came in the way of normalizing relations.

“As part of its foreign policy in East Asia, the United States had deployed more than 35 thousands troops in South Korea. As most of North Korea’s one-million strong army was stationed near the border with South Korea, both the US and North Korea viewed each other with suspect”[18].

The powerful written Constitution of the United States has found many followers in the world. Several democracies in the world emulated the US Constitution because of its strong values and advocacy of democratic system. The US Constitution granted equal power to the citizens and made the executive and legislature accountable. The US Supreme Court has been hailed all over the world for its balancing act.

On the contrary, North Korean Constitution designated Central People’s Committee (CPC) as the government’s top policymaking body. “The CPA makes all the policy decisions and supervises the cabinet. In North Korea, actual power lies in the CPA, not in the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The legislative body, Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), is the highest organ of state power”[19]. Unlike other democracies in the world, North Korea’s judiciary is accountable to the SPA.

Foreign Relations

During the Cold War era, North Korea maintained a proper balance between China and Soviet Union to extract benefits. As both the Soviet Union and China were communist countries, North Korea felt comfortable in dealing with them. “However, during the 1980s, the relations between the Soviet Union and China strained because of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan”[20]. In such a scenario, North Korea had a tough time in maintaining cordial relations with both the countries. “In 1990, South Korea established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union. That resulted in a significant drop in the Soviet aid to North Korea”[21].

“Despite the sharp decline in the military and economic aid, North Korea continued to follow its policy of military independence”[22]. It always took independent stance on its foreign policy and issues related to the country’s security. The presence of the United States in the Korean Peninsula always put pressure on North Korea. East Asia has been an integral part of the US foreign policy. In a bid to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, the United States always kept a watchful eye on North Korea and its policies.

The United States considered North Korea a threat to the peace in East Asia. The United States had established a permanent base in that region to counter the Soviet expansion in the region. However, the military ambitions of North Korea made its task difficult. The United States tried hard to persuade North Korea in the peace process. Only due to the efforts of the United States, other countries such as China, Russia and Japan put pressure on North Korea to participate in multi-party talks and follow the international guidelines.

Conclusion

Only the nuclear and missile issues were not responsible to create a rift between the United States and North Korea. The fundamental differences between the two countries’ ideologies and political systems complicated the negotiating process. Their relations never reached a point of comfort and they accused each other of being hostile. Despite of all the bitterness, they decided to work together in order to bring peace in East Asian region and reduce the threat of war. Although the incumbent administration in the United States, had taken a tough posture on North Korea, it did the best to find out a peaceful solution in the interest of global community.

Bibliography

Bandow, Doug. “Nuclear Issues Between the United States and North Korea.” In North Korea After Kim Il Sung.  Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998.

Bee, Ronald J. Nuclear Proliferation: The Post-Cold-War Challenge. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1995.

Chung, Young Chul. North Korea and Northeast Asia. Pacific Affairs, Vol. 76, 2003.

Council on Foreign Relations. U.S. Policy Toward North Korea: Next Steps. New York: The Council, 1999.

Dong, Wonmo, ed. The Two Koreas and the United States: Issues of Peace, Security and Economic Cooperation. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000.

Dorn, Bryan. North Korea: A Threat to Regional Stability? Bryan Dorn Reviews North Korea’s Nuclear Weapon and Ballistic Missile Programmes. New Zealand International Review, Vol. 30, 2005.

Harrison, Selig S. “Toward a Nuclear-Free Korea.” In Korean Endgame: A Strategy for Reunification and U.S. Disengagement, 195-283.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Lee, Hy-Sang. North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress. Wesport, Conn: Praeger, 2001.

Lindsay, James M. and Michael E. O’Hanlon. Defending America: The Case for Limited National Missile Defense. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2001.

Litwak, Robert S. “North Korea: Limited Engagement by Necessity.” In Rogue States and U.S. Foreign Policy: Containment After the Cold War, 198-237. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center, 2000.

Nahm, Andrew C. “The United States and North Korea since 1945.” In Yur-Bok Lee and Wayne Patterson, eds. Korean-American Relations 1866-1997. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999.

Park, Han S. North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

Perkins, Alvin A. U.S. Policy Towards North Korea With Respect to Ballistic Missiles. Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2001.

Sokolski, Henry D., ed. Planning for a Peaceful Korea. Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2001.

Scobell, Andrew. China and North Korea: From Comrades-In-Arms to Allies at Arm’s Length. Strategic Studies Institute, 2004.

[1] Andrew C. Nahm, “The United States and North Korea since 1945.” In Yur-Bok Lee and Wayne Patterson, eds. Korean-American Relations 1866-1997 (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999).
[2] Andrew C. Nahm, “The United States and North Korea since 1945.” In Yur-Bok Lee and Wayne Patterson, eds. Korean-American Relations 1866-1997 (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1999).
[3] Wonmo, Dong, ed, The Two Koreas and the United States: Issues of Peace, Security and Economic Cooperation (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000).
[4] Bryan Dorn, North Korea: A Threat to Regional Stability? Bryan Dorn Reviews North Korea’s

Nuclear Weapon and Ballistic Missile Programmes (New Zealand International Review, Vol. 30,

2005).
[5] Ronald J. Bee, Nuclear Proliferation: The Post-Cold-War Challenge (New York: Foreign Policy

Association, 1995).
[6] Doug Bandow, “Nuclear Issues Between the United States and North Korea.” In North Korea After Kim Il Sung (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998).
[7] Young Chul Chung, North Korea and Northeast Asia (Pacific Affairs, Vol. 76, 2003).
[8] Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. Policy Toward North Korea: Next Steps (New York: The Council, 1999).
[9] Alvin A. Perkins, U.S. Policy Towards North Korea With Respect to Ballistic Missiles (Carlisle

Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, 2001).
[10] Hy-Sang Lee, North Korea: A Strange Socialist Fortress (Wesport, Conn: Praeger, 2001).
[11] Han S. Park, North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002).
[12] Han S. Park, North Korea: The Politics of Unconventional Wisdom (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002).
[13] Bryan Dorn, North Korea: A Threat to Regional Stability? Bryan Dorn Reviews North Korea’s

Nuclear Weapon and Ballistic Missile Programmes (New Zealand International Review, Vol. 30,

2005).
[14] Bryan Dorn, North Korea: A Threat to Regional Stability? Bryan Dorn Reviews North Korea’s

Nuclear Weapon and Ballistic Missile Programmes (New Zealand International Review, Vol. 30,

2005).
[15] Bryan Dorn, North Korea: A Threat to Regional Stability? Bryan Dorn Reviews North Korea’s

Nuclear Weapon and Ballistic Missile Programmes (New Zealand International Review, Vol. 30,

2005).
[16] Andrew Scobell, China and North Korea: From Comrades-In-Arms to Allies at Arm’s Length

(Strategic Studies Institute, 2004).
[17] Andrew Scobell, China and North Korea: From Comrades-In-Arms to Allies at Arm’s Length

(Strategic Studies Institute, 2004).
[18] James M. Lindsay, and Michael E. O’Hanlon, Defending America: The Case for Limited National Missile Defense (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2001).
[19] Henry D. Sokolski, ed, Planning for a Peaceful Korea (Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies

Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2001).
[20] Selig S. Harrison, “Toward a Nuclear-Free Korea.” In Korean Endgame: A Strategy for

Reunification and U.S. Disengagement, 195-283 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).
[21] Robert S. Litwak, “North Korea: Limited Engagement by Necessity.” In Rogue States and U.S.

Foreign Policy: Containment After the Cold War, 198-237 (Washington, DC: Woodrow

Wilson Center, 2000).
[22] Doug Bandow, “Nuclear Issues Between the United States and North Korea.” In North Korea After Kim Il Sung (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1998).

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