North Korea's Nuclear Threat Challenges the World and Tests America's Resolve

Report Arms Control

North Korea's Nuclear Threat Challenges the World and Tests America's Resolve

February 23, 1994 23 min read Download Report
Richard Fisher
Distinguished Fellow in China Policy

(Archived document, may contain errors)

No. 129 February 23, 1994


INTRODUMON The most critical foreign policy challenge now facing President Bill Clinton is bow to termi- note North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Former President George Bush started to con- front North Korea's nuclear challenge in 199 1. His effort, and a year of intense diplomatic ac- tivity by the Clinton Administration and the Republic of Korea (ROK), has not yet convinced North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program Pyongyang's reluctance to fiffill a Decem- ber 29 agreement with Washington to allow another round of inspections of its nuclear facili- ties by the International Atomic Energy Agency (LAEA) almost caused a showdown in the United Nations Security Council. While this was averted by Pyongyang's concession on Febru- ary 15 to allow a now round of inspections, the crisis is not resolved. The Administration must continue its diplomacy to convince Pyongyang to surrender all reprocessed weapons-grade nu- clear fuel; allow full and regular IAEA inspections; and implement the mutual nuclear inspec- tions treaty signed by the North and the South two years ago. If diplomacy fails, the options open to the United States and South Korea are grim. If Wash- mgton and Seoul seek economic sanctions to compel nuclear inspections, they risk war In a speech on January 1. 1994, North Korean leader Kim 11-sung warned that pressures or ducats would lead to -catastrophe@"I But bowing to this threat by continuing negotiations is also risky. Prolonged diplomacy may give North Korea the time it needs to build nuclear weapons. And this could lead to grave new dangers of nuclear texrorisni and prolifmdon. One option the United States must avoid is muddle and indecision. President Clinton must continue to work with South Korcan President Kan Young Sam to convince North Korea to abandon -its nuclear ambitions. But if Pyongyang refuses to comply, both Washington and Seoul must prepare -a program of political and-economic sanctions, as well as military meas- ures, to deter possible North Korean aggression.

1 Pam relame, D=oa=c PeopWs Repubhc of Korm PernuawntMuman to &c United Nations. January 1. 1994.

Government estimates of North Korea's nuclear capabilities in Washington and Seoul range from grave to frightening. According to South Korean officials, Pyongyang has acquired enough plutonium to build one to three weapons. Others estimate that North Korea already pos- sesses one or two,nuclear -weapons. But one point is not debatable: very soon North Korea will have the ability to produce several nuclear weapons annually. For example, when a 50 mega- watt reactor in the Yongbyon nuclear research complex reaches full operation, perhaps as early as next year, North Korea will be able to make enough plutonium for about six Hiroshima- sized bombs a year. These weapons would then be controlled by Kim 11-sung, who conceived the 1950-invasion ef South Korea, which Gost the lives-of F Americans and three million Koreans. 2 Kim has brought his country to the brink of economic collapse but still maintains a million-man military machine. He also is responsible for numerous acts of terrorism against South Korean soldiers, c-iVilians, and government leaders. Threats to America. If North Korea is allowed to produce nuclear weapons, Americans may then face unprecedented threats at home and abroad. For example, North Korea could sell nu- clear weapons to terrorist states like Iran, Libya, and Syria. In Asia, U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea might quickly lose confidence in U.S. nuclear guarantees and possibly seek their own nuclear deterrent against North Korea. Thus, North Korea might precipitate an unravelling of the U.S.-led security network that has preserved stability in Asia since 1945. The Clinton Administration's failure to explain what is at stake in Korea risks losing crucial American public support for U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula. Clinton's public silence surely conveys a lack of American determination to North Korea's rulers. The Clinton Administration must now exercise the leadership worthy of a great power. It must articulate goals that clarify America's and its allies' determination to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. Washington should begin now to coordinate with Seoul and Tokyo a program of political and economic sanctions against North Korea. Washington also should seek China's cooperation with any program of sanctions, as China is North Korea's larg- est trading partner. Moreover, to deter possible North Korean aggression, the U.S. should make judicious military reinforcements to ensure the safety of the 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea. Steps Washington must take to end North Korea's nuclear threat should include: Stating that the principal U.S. policy goal is to prevent North Korea from both acquir- ing and using nuclear weapons. Explaining to the American people the potential dangers posed by a nuclear weapons- armed North Korea. Declaring that North Korea can expect improved economic and diplomatic relations with the U.S., South Korea, and Japan if it opens its nuclear facilities to inspections that lead to the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. V Working now with U.S.- allies in Seoul.and Tokyo to formulate a graduated, and if needed, sustained program of political and economic sanctions against North Korea if it refuses to fulfill its nuclear inspection obligations.

2 U.S. deaths figure from The World Almanac, 1992 (New York: Pharos Books, 1991), p. 702. Seeking, but not -depending on, China's cooperation with ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Reinforcing U.S. armed forces -in and around South Korea to deter possible North Ko- rean aggression.

DIARNISHING RETURNS OF DIPLOMACY Since 1988, Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, and the International Atomic Energy Agency have la- bored hard to convince Pyongyang- to end 4ts nuclear-weapons frogram. Seoul and Washington began contacts with Pyongyang in 1988 to upgrade relations. In part as a gesture to the North, U.S. troop levels in South Korea were reduced in 1990 and 1921. as was the size of the annual U.S.-ROK "ream Spirit" military exercise. These and many more inducements, however, have not changed North Korean behavior. North Korea has refused to meet its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which Pyongyang signed in 1985, obstructed LAEA inspections, and has repeatedly re- buffed South Korean attempts to improve relations. In May 1991, two U.S. diplomatic objec- tives were outlined by then-U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz: submission by Pyongyang to all inspections by the IAEA as required by the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and elimination of a suspected plutonium reprocessing plant. But after nearly three years, Wash- ington, Seoul, and Tokyo still are seeking the objectives outlined by Undersecretary Wol- f0witz.3Highlights of this three-year campaign include:

Late 1991 through 1992: Cooperation In late 199 1, Washington and Seoul offered three inducements to Pyongyang to gain its coop- eration in allowing nuclear inspections. First, the U.S. withdrew its tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea. Second, Washington and Seoul canceled their annual "Team Spirif ' large- scale military exercise for 1992. Third, Washington agreed in December 1991 to the first-ever high-level diplomatic meeting with Pyongyang. This meeting took place in January 1992 when Undersecretary of State Arnold Kantor met with a North Korean representative in New York. The result of Washington's late 1991 -early 1992 diplomacy was two agreements that offered hope that the looming crisis could be resolved. In late December 199 1, Pyongyang and Seoul signed an agreement pledging that they would: (1) not possess, manufacture, or use nuclear weapons; (2) not possess plutonium reprocessing facilities; and (3) negotiate a system of mu- tual nuclear inspections. By June 1992 the North was refusing to negotiate for mutual North-South nuclear inspec- tions. But the North did sign a January 1992 agreement with the IAEA to allow "safeguards," the placement of monitoring cameras and seals on nuclear equipment, and to allow IAEA nu- clear inspections. In 1992 the IAEA.made six inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities. Pyongyang subsequently denied the IAEA's assertion that it was constructing a large pluto- nium reprocessing plant, and in September 1992, the North declared it would finish building the suspected reprocessing plant.. The North broke off nuclear inspection talks with South Ko- rea at the end of 1992.

3 Larry A. Niksch, "Pyongyang Lowers the Stakes," The Asian Wall Street Journal, December 9,1993. 1993: North Korea limits IAEA access North Korea was fearful that the IAEA had learned too much from its initial 1992 inspec- tions about the extent of the North's plutonium reprocessing. Last year, Pyongyang began a se- ries of delaying tactics. When the IAEA pressed, in March 1993, for "special inspections" of two nuclear waste dumps, Pyongyang declared on March 12 that it intended to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. At this point, the new U.S. Administration of Bill Clinton began a series of low-level bilateral meetings to convince North Korea not to withdraw from the NPT and -to begin regulal IAEA inspections.. After two sets of negotiations in June and July, longyang agreed to "suspend as long as it considers necessary" its withdrawal from the NPT. It also agreed to negotiate simultaneously with Washington, Seoul, and the IAEA on the nuclear issue. Washington offered "assurances against the threat or use of force, including nuclear weapons," that the U.S. had never offered to any other nation.5 The only 1993 LAEA visit North Korea permitted was in August to re- place film and batteries in some monitoring cameras. The agency was not allowed to monitor nuclear fuels or wastes to check for possible plutonium reprocessing. IAEA requests for regular inspections in September and October were rejected by the North. By early December, the IAEA said that it could no longer provide any "meaninigul assurances" that North Korea was -mot making more plutonium for non-peaceful purposes.

1994: Continued North Korean obstruction and the U.S. package deal. The impasse created by North Korea's refusal to honor its agreement was broken by a No- vember 11, 1993, proposal by Pyongyang to negotiate with the IAEA to "ensure the continuity of safeguards."7 Pyongyang also offered to negotiate with the United States a "packag solu- tion" in which Washington would renounce any "hostile policy" against Pyongyang. Pyongy- ang, for its part, would comply with safeguard agreements and remain committed to the NPT. This offer led to a flurry of talks between Pyongyang and Washington, which after consult- ing closely with Seoul, produced a tentative agreement announced on January 5 of this year. According to the U.S. State Department, Pyongyang agreed to permit one more round of nu- clear inspections by the IAEA of seven nuclear sites that it had not visited since 1992. When those inspections began, Washington and Seoul planned to announce the suspension of the an- nual "Team Spirit" military exercise, and Washington and Pyongyang would begin a third round of talks in which the U.S. expected to seek regular inspections by the L4,EA and a re- sumption of talks between North and South Korea. It is not clear from the Clinton Administration's statements what degree of access it sought to North Korean nuclear sites. Recent Administration statements indicate Washington was seeking only access necessary to insure "continuity of safeguards."9 If true, then the Administration

4 Douglas Jehl, "North Korea Says It Won't Pull Out of the Arms Pact Now," The New York Times, June 12, 1993, p. 1. 5 Ibid. 6 R. Jeffrey Smith, "U.S. Analysts Are Pessimistic On-Korean Nuclear Inspections," The W-ashinglon -Post, December 3, 1993, p. A35. 7 Press Release No. 43, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Permanent Mission to the United Nations, November 12, 1993. 8 Ibid. was limiting its goals to the--- - - RUSSIA changing of -film -and batteries I PEOPLES REPUBLIC E in LAXA cameras. And during 11: OF CHINA January, as Pyongyang and the E LAEA discussed a new round of IAEA inspections, a new im- K pas NORTH se loomed. By mid-Janu- 0 R.. MY, the North contended that Taechong KOREA it had agreed-to- pertnit only re- stricted visits to verify "safe- Yongbyan guards" like cameras. The 'IAEA coun't'e'r'ed that'it would co Pyonvang not send an inspection team un- less North Korea agreed to all 10 1VM::',jM @z 0 of the IAEA's requests. Seoul Wk Pyongyang avoided a potential -g IAEA recommendation that SOUTH the United National Security PAP KOREA ,Ceuncil seek sanctions to com- pel inspections by agreeing on February 15 to a new round of W AN R JAP IAEA inspections. Left still to be resolved, however, is whether North Korea in time will accept full and regular nu- North Korea"s Nuclear Development Centers clear inspections of all its nu- clear facilities by the IAEA, and eventually by South Ko- rea. Outstanding important issues also include the surrender to the LAEA of weapons-grade nu- clear fuel the North may already have produced, and the dismantling of nuclear fuel reprocess- ing facilities in North Korea.

DOES NORTH KOREA HAVE NUCLEAR WEAPONS? North Korea's refusal to permit comprehensive LAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities adds to international uncertainty about the North's nuclear weapons program. It increases rea- sonable speculation in Seoul and Washington that Pyongyang may very soon, if it does not al- ready, possess nuclear weapons. During his confirmation hearing on February 2, Secretary of Defense William Perg said, "it is possible they could make one or even two devices, perhaps even nuclear bombs." Another serious assessment was offered last September by South Ko-

9 Lynn Davis, "North Korea: No Capitulation," The Washington Post, January 26, 1994, p. A2 1; R. Jeffrey Smith, "North -KoreaFaces Inspecfion Deadline," The Washington Post, February 7,1994,p..A13;Nyan.Chanda, "Bomband. Bombast," Far Eastern Economic Review, February 10, 1994, p. 17. 10 David E. Sanger, "North Korea Reported to Balk at Inspection Terms," The New York Times, January 21, 1994, p. A5. 11 Secretary of Defensedesignate William Perry, remarks before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, February 2, 1994. rean President Kim- Young Sam, who North Korea7s Nuclear Weapons Potential told Japanese re- Location & Facilit y Begins Opemtion Weapons Potential porters that North Korea may have Yongbyon: 5 Megawatt Reactor 1986 May yield enough spent fuel to make enough plutonium plutonium for one bomb a year may to make up to three shut down soon to yield more plutonium. nuclear weapons. 12 50 Megawatt Reactor 1995? May yield enough spent fuel to make plutonium for 4 to 6 bombs a year. What is not in SrnaA Reprocessing Plant '1990? Capability unknown. doubt is that, if un- Large Reprocessing Plant 1996? May reprocess enough spent fuel to make checked, North Ko- Taechon- plutonium for 10 bombs a year. rea's nuclear weap- 200 Megawatt Reactor 1996? May yield enough spent fuel to make ons producing capa- Pyongyang: - plutonium for 16 to 20 bombs a year. bilities will grow Reprocessing Plant 1975? Experimental facility, capability unknown. quickly. The IAEA suspects that a 5 S-rm 7he &dkdn Of Me Ammk SdendsM Namrbw 199Z May 1993: Owsm ft Decenber 8. 1993. megawatt reactor in North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear research complex has already produced enough weapons- grade plutonium to make one to three weapons. Under construction in Yongbyon is a 50 mega- watt reactor, which could begin operation in 1995, and a 200 megawatt reactor near the city of Taechon-northwest of Yongbyon-that could begin operation in 1996. 13 The new Yongbyon reactor may produce enough spent uranium fuel that, after chemical reprocessing, can produce 40 to 60 kilograms of plutonium a year-enough to make four to six bombs. Likewise, the Taechon reactor may be able to produce 160 to 200 kilograms of plutonium a year-enough for sixteen to twenty bombs. 14 Also under construction in Yongbyon is a large spent-fuel re- processing facility that may be completed in 1996. Since the mid-1950s, North Korea has built about twenty known nuclear facilities-reactors, research sites, uranium mines, and uranium processing plants. 15 And since North Korea long has placed important military facilities under- ground, it is reasonable to expect there may be other nuclear facilities buried in the North. Mssfles and Chendcal Weapons. In addition to its large nuclear weapons program, North Korea also has invested heavily in the production of missiles and chemical weapons. In 1987 North Korea began producing Soviet-designed SCUD-B missiles with about a 200-mile range. 16 The North is credited with possessing at least 30 SCUD missiles, but could have hun- dreds. 17 North Korea has sold scores of SCUD missiles to Iran. With possible financial assis-

12 Korea Herald, September 26, 1993, p. 2. 13 Kim Hong-muk, 'Energy Institute Reports Status of DPRK Nuclear Facilities," Tong-A-11bo, July 8, 1993, p. 2, in FBIS-East Asia, July 9, 1993, p. 28. 14 Numbers of bombs are based on estimates of 10 kilograms of plutonium per bomb. David Albright and Mark Hibbs, "North Korea's Plutonium Puzzle," Bulletin of ihi.Atondc S&extists,'November'1992, p.38. 15 "Study Details DPRK Atomic Power Facilities," Choson Ilbo, December 15, 1993, p. 6, in FBIS-East Asia, December 15,1993,p.35. 16 Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., "New Developments in North Korean Missile-Program," Jane's Intelligence.Review, August 1990,p.343. 17 International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance,'] 99j-1994 (London: Brassey's, 1993), p. 160; Bill Gertz, "Patriot missile does not provide full protection from SCUD attack," The Washington Times, January 28, 1994, p. A6. tance from Iran, North Ko- Balance of Forces on the Korean Peninsula rea has devel- oped and -is U.S. Forces Other U.S. Forces now producing ARMY North Korea South Korea in ROK in Asia a modified 600- Men 11000,000 520.000 28,000 (2nd Div) in Japan: mile range Tanks 3,700 1.800 116 18,300 Marines Armored PersonneiCaMers 2,500 1.550 138 in Hawaii: SCUD called Artillery 2,300 3,500 48 18,0W " Troops the "Nodong- Self-propelled Artillery 4,500 900 0 I." From North Multiple Rocket Launchers 2.280 140 36 Surface-to Surface Missiles 30-100+ 12 0 Korea, this nU'S- Surface-toAir Missiles 100,000 850 0 sile can reach 'Helicopters "290 585- - 200+ all of South Ko- AIR FORCE Combat Aircraft 730, indudev. 445, includes: 84, includes: in Japan: rea and Osaka, 14 MiG-29 48 F-16 72 F-16 36 F-15C Japan's second 46 MiG-23 96 F-4 12 OA- 10 18 F- I 5E 160 MiG-21 190 F-5 24 F-16 largest city. 180 MiG- 19 +60 combirt aircraft on North Korea 240 MiG- 17 U.S.S. Independence may also be NAVY 36 Su-25 -working on a Aircmft Carriers 0 0 6 1,200-mile Cruisers 0 0 29 Submarines 25 4 34 range variant of Destroyers 0 9 17 the SCUD. The Frotes 3 29 14 Patrol Craft 387 120 North may not Amphi lous CnIft 231 14 now be capable Now These are approdmae esdmates. of building a Source: Miltary Balancee 1993-1994; Department of Defense. nuclear war- head for its SCUDs, but it may be capable of making less complex chemical warheads. 18 North Korea's chemical warfare arsenal is large and poses a grave threat to South Korea and to U.S. forces there. A 1991 U.S. Defense Intelligence A ency report noted that North Korea may have a chemical weapons stockpile of 250 metric tons. 19


North Korea may be in its terminal and most dangerous phase of existence. Perhaps the most plausible reason for its expensive nuclear weapons program is that North Korean leader Kim Il- sung regards nuclear weapons as the only means to preserve his regime. Thus, North Korea's large military threat to South Korea must be taken very seriously. Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger recently noted that North Korea's isolation and economic decline creates "a classic situation for their going to war.',20 Kim II-sung has promised many times to reunify Ko- rea under his rule. For this purpose, Kim has amassed a 1. 1 million-man armed forces and a weapons arsenal that. outnumbers South Korea's -armed forces. in men, tanks, armored personnel

18 Defense Intelligence Agency, North Korew-The-Foundationsfor Military Strength (Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office), 1991, p. 60. 19 Ibid. 20 Remarks to The Heritage Foundation symposium, "Me U.S. Response to Possible North Korean Aggression," December 15,1993. carriers, artillery, rocket artillery, long-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, combat aircraft, and small amphibious assault ships. While North Korean weapons are largely inferior in quality to those of South Korea and the United States, their numbers, when combined with the advan- tage of surprise, make North Korea a dangerous foe. To help achieve surprise, many North Ko- rean army, air force, and navy units are based underground. Surprise would be assisted by North Korean ground forces, which have been heavily mechanized in the last decades, and by North Korea's special forces troops - which number 100,000 according to the Pentagon. Some U.S. analysts estimate that there ;;;;y be only 24 hours warning before a North Korean inva- 21 sion. Terrorist History. Kim's volatility and disregard for human life are proven by his long- standing policy-of -violenceand terrorism. Kim-2-sung.played a leading role in starting the 1950 to 1953 Korean War. Kim sponsored attempts to assassinate South Korea's president in 1968, 1970, 1974, 198 1, and 1983. Just before the 1988 Summer Olympic games in South Ko- rea, North Korean agents blew up a South Korean airliner, killing 115 passengers. The dismal condition of North Korean society is a testament to Kim II-sung's lack of regard for his own countrymen. Life in North Korea is characterized by power and plenty for the rul- ing elite. The vast majority, however, face relentless indoctrination and grinding poverty. 22 Ac- cording to South Korea's National Unification Board (NUB), a government agency that coordi- nates policy on North Korea, North Korea's economy contracted a total of 16.5 percent from 1990 through 1992. 23 North Korea is unable to import sufficient energy and food to keep its people warm in the winter or properly fed at any time of the year. The NUB believes that fuel shortages force North Korean factories to operate at 40 percent of capacity. Also, the NUB esti- mates North Korea had a grain shortfall of 1.24 million tons in 1992. Two meals a day are com- mon in North Korea and reports of isolated food riots are increasing.

NORTH KOREAN NUKES: GLOBAL AND REGIONAL THREATS Should it obtain nuclear weapons, North Korea could unleash a new age of nuclear terrorism and undermine long-term political stability in Asia. For Americans, the most dangerous threat is that North Korea will sell some of its nuclear weapons or production technology to other ter- rorist regimes. North Korea's traffic in SCUD missiles with Iran and Pyongyang's past support for terrorist organizations in the Middle East, Africa, and South America offer ample prece- dent. Whether Middle East terrorists use these weapons or not, the sale of nuclear bombs to ter- rorist states will surely help finance North Korean development of longer-range ballistic mis- siles that eventually may be armed with nuclear warheads. With these missiles, North Korea and its radical allies in the Middle East could threaten a larger number of countries. North Korean success in building atomic weapons also would be a serious blow to global nu- clear nonproliferation. North Korea will have proved to other potential nuclear proliferators that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency are not obstacles to their -own nuclear ambitions.-The consequences for Americans and -their-allies could be very costly. The cause of nuclear nonproliferation might then require repeated military

21 Barton Gellman, 'Trepidation at Root Of U.S. Korea Policy:' 7he Washington Post, December 12, 1993, p. A49. 22 See Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., ed.,'@Orwell's Nightmare: Human Rights In North Korea," Heritage Lecture No. 394, May 20, 1992. 23 "Hellish Life in Workers' Paradise," Business Korea, November 1993, p. 26. confrontations to stop would-be proliferators. Failure to confront nuclear proliferators might then force Americans and their-allies to chose between political capitulation to or possible at- tacks by future nuclear-armed rogue states. Destabilizing Asia. A nuclear-armed North Korea also might quickly destabilize Asia. Ab- sent a strong American response to North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons, South Korea and Japan may soon doubt the strength of U.S. nuclear and military guarantees. Japan and South Korea could decide to protect themselves by building their own nuclear weapons. Such nuclear proliferation in Asia may lead to reduced American public support for current military commitments in Asia, and, possibly, to i@Fithdrawgd of U.S.'forces in Asia. An American strate- gic withdrawal from Asia would devastate U.S. power and prestige in the Far East, and spur a regional. arms -race. - @_11 . - _

AMERICAN LEADERSHIP IS ESSENTIAL American political leadership continues to be a critical factor in preserving peace in Asia and in advancing U.S. interests there. American sacrifices in Northeast Asia since 1945, including the loss of 55,246 Americans during the Korean War, plus the cost of maintaining forward de- ployed forces in South Korea and Japan, helped win the Cold War in Asia against the former .,Soviet Union. In early January, South Korean President Kim Young Sam told the President of The Heritage Foundation, Edwin J. Feulner, Jr., that America's military presence is "the most helpful factor" for preserving peace on the Korean Peninsula. Some 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea demonstrate America's current commitment to South Korea's safety. Now that North Korea is posing an even greater threat by building nuclear weapons, America must exer- cise the leadership to convince-and if that fails, to compel-North Korea to dismantle its nu- clear weapons program. Economic Interests. Should North Korea succeed in building a nuclear arsenal, the U.S. and South Korean strategic cooperation will be threatened. This cooperation is the foundation of South Korea's economic prosperity and its democratic system. South Korean President Kim Young Sam is now pursuing far-reaching political and economic reforms that will facilitate greater U.S. trade and investment. South Korea is America's eighth largest trading partner; to- tal two-way trade exceeded $30 billion in 1992. 24 North Korea could reverse South Korea's tre- mendous economic and democratic progress by precipitating a new conflict. Such a conflict would also damage the economy of Japan, which is South Korea's largest trading partner and America's second largest. Unification. North Korea's possession of a nuclear arsenal also postpones peaceful reunifica- tion with South Korea. Korea's unification under a democratic system is the best outcome on the Korean peninsula for Koreans and Americans. Ending North Korea's nuclear threat is the first requirement for the eventual reunification of Korea. A resolution of North Korea's nuclear challenge will require placing this issue at the top of the Clinton Administration's foreign-policy agenda. To date, the Administration's policy to- ward North Korea has lacked consistency. In late November, President Clinton said that "North 9925 Korea cannot be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb. But by January his own State Depart

24 Richard D. Fisher and Jason E. Bruzdzinski, eds., U.S. and Asia Statistical Handbook, 1993 (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 1993). ment was- backing away from this unequivocal statement, claiming that the President "misspoke." And the Administration's failure to clearly state its goals has invited criticism that threatens to undermine American public support for its policies. For example, failure to explain adequately the December 29 tentative agreement on nuclear inspections with North Kbrea re- sulted in criticism that the U.S. was settling for a one-time LABA inspection, when in fact it had not. 26 Even more serious are questions that while it tentatively convinced North Korea to open seven sites for inspection, as it announced on January 5, the Administration also agreed to in- spections limited to ensuring "continuity of safeguards." This means that instead of full inspec- tions required -by the IkEA; -the Clinton Administration.may-have settled for a much lower standard, limited to the changing of film in monitoring cameras. Such vague demands by Wash- ington may have encouraged Pyongyang to dictate its own terms to the IAEA, thus contribut- ing to the current impasse. An American policy toward NortiMorea, that re-establishes U.S. leadership and advances U.S. interests must: State that the piincipal U.S. policy goal is to prevent North Korea from both ac- quiring and using nuclear weapons. A clear statement of America's paramount goals is the first requirement for a successful pol- icy to address North Korea's nuclear challenge. Such a statement is the first element in building American public support for future U.S. actions, sustaining the cooperation of America's allies, and assuring North Korea of America's resolve. The Clinton Administration should make clear whether its goals are limited to ensuring "continuity of safeguards" or also include ending North Korea's nuclear weapons-producing capability. The Administration invites criticism by failing to respond to the implications of U.S. intelligence estimates that North Korea may have one or more nuclear weapons. If the North possesses nuclear weapons, the U.S. goal must be to have North Korea peacefully surrender those weapons and discard its nuclear weapons-making capability. Off Explain to the American people the potential dangers posed by a nuclear weapons- armed North Korea. The Clinton Administration has not adequately explained to the American people the gravity of North Korea's nuclear challenge. The President and Administration officials have offered only sound bites of policy statements during media interviews. The Administration should ex- plain fully to the American people the history of America's commitment to peace on the Ko- rean Peninsula. North Korea's history of volatility and the danger of a North Korean surprise at- tack warrant a serious effort to warn Americans and their allies of the dangers they face. The Clinton Administration also must make a greater effort to build bipartisan support for its North Korean policies. Former Reagan National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen has suggested that many former Republican Administration officials would be ready to help the Clinton team. 27 Their experience and cooperation are available. They should be enlisted.

25 NBC, "Meet The Press," December 7,1993. 26 This criticism forced an embarrassing clarification by Undersecretary of State Lynn Davis, op. cit. 27 Remarks to The Heritage Foundation symposium, 'The U.S. Response to Possible North Korean Aggression," December 15,1993. Declare that Ndrth'Korea can expect improved economic and diplomatic relations with the United States, South Korea, and Japan if it opens its nuclear facilities to in- spections that lead to the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program. North Korea should be told that it must open all of its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency and to South Korean inspectors. But Pyongyang must be made to un- derstand that inspections are not enough. Bill Clinton should put Pyongyang on notice that the crisis it started will not be resolved until it turns over to the IAEA all of its reprocessed weap- ons-grade plutonium and dismantles its nuclear weapons reactors and reprocessing plants. Pyongyang also should be told that it will be rewarded once it begins IAEA inspections and mutual inspections with South Korea. The rewards North Korea can expect will be tied to the degree of progress it demonstrates in dismantling its nuclear weapons program Full IAEA in- spections should be rewarded with greater diplomatic recognition. Greater economic relations with South Korea and Japan must be linked to inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities by South Korea. Normalization of full relations with the United States, South Korea, and Japan must be linked to the dismantling of North Korea's nuclear weapons facilities. Work with U.S. allies in Seoul and Tokyo to formulate a graduated, and if needed, sustained program of political and economic sanctions against North Korea if it re- fuses to fulfill its nuclear inspection obligations. The possibility remains that diplomacy alone will not convince North Korea to end its nu- clear weapons program. Washington should work now with its allies to prepare a graduated pro- gram of political and economic sanctions in case they are needed. The first level of sanctions should include political condemnation at the United Nations. If the U.N. refuses to condemn North Korea, then Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington need to demonstrate their shared resolve by issuing public statements that declare the three nations' intention to resolve the crisis. These declarations should be accompanied by a large U.S.-South Korean military exercise. Economic sanctions should be pursued if political condemnation does not prompt North Ko- rea to agree to nuclear inspections. Economic sanctions should include a pledge by Seoul, To- kyo, and Washington to suspend all trade with North Korea. Of critical importance would be a pledge by Japan to stop all financial assistance to North Korea from the Korean community in Japan. This community sends to the North some $600 million to $1 billion every year. Together with its trade, Japan is a source for about $2 billion to $4 billion a year in foreign exchange and needed goods for North Korea. 28 This foreign exchange allows North Korea to purchase much of the supplies that are critical to its economy and military machine. V/ Seek, but do not depend on, China's cooperation in ending North Korea's nuclear weapons program. It is also time for Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo to vigorously press Beijing to join them in seeking an -end toNorth_ Korea's nuclear weapons program. For many months China has been urging South Korea and the United States to- craft a diplomatic solution to North Korea's nu- clear challenge. China has long opposed sanctions against North Korea. China should now be told that if sanctions become necessary,. its cooperation will be expected. As North Korea's

28 Michael Green, "Nippon Nightmare," 7he International Economy, November/December, 1993, p. 32; Richard P. Lawless, 'Tokyo's Ties to Pyongyang's Threat," The Wall Street Journal, December 28, 1993, p. 10.

largest trading partner, accounting for 75 percent of its oil imports, China's cooperation with any future economic sanctions may ensure their success. However, Washington should not de- pend on China7s cooperation with economic sanctions. It is far more important to secure Ja- pan's cooperation. ReWorce U.S. armed form In and around South Korea to deter possible North Korean aggression North Karam timatsthatfutureeconomic saction would lead to war must not be ignored. To deter North Korea, Washington must modernize and reinforce American military forces in Northeast Asia. North Korean bluster must not be allowed to deter the United States from . F isd wing its 37,000 troops in North Korea. To counter North Korean SCUD missiles, al- ready announced plans to deploy the Patrzot missile defense system should be completed. Armed with chemical warbeads, North Korean SCUDs could incapacitate South Korean air- bases and ports, thus preventing retaliatory airstrikes and rapid U.S. reinforcements. The United States also should be ready to deploy Patriot missiles to Japan. U.S. forces in South Ko- rea also require modem Apache attack helicopters and additional A- 10 attack aircraft to counter North Korea's numerical advantage in artillery, tanks, and armored personnel carriers. U.S. Air Force units in South Korea and Japan should be given additional F- 15 and F- 16 fighters, plus mom in-flight reftwIng tankers.

CONCLUSION North Korea's nuclear challenge requires that the Clinton Administration step up to its inter- ibili national leadership respond ty. North Korea must not be allowed to use threats of war to force the United States to settle for lea than full inspections of all suspected nuclear facilities by the IAEA. and then by South Kore& And the Clinton Administration must insist that North Korea comply with its nuclear inspection obligations promptly. given that North Korea may soon complete large nuclear reactors and sing plants that may enable it to build scores of nuclear weapons a year. But President Clinton also should add credibility to-Washington's -words. He should im- prove AmerWs military position in South Korea as the surest means of dete=g a possible North Korean attack And while Clinton should continue to work vnth South Korea and Japan to seek a diplomatic solution, he also should be prepared for a failure of diplomacy. This entails working now with Tokyo and Seoul to assemble a program of political and economic sanctions that can be imposed if necessary. It also means explaining to the American people how a nu- clm-armed North Korea would threaten vital American. South Korean. and allied security in- terests.

-Richard D. Fisher, Jr. Semior Policy Analyst


Richard Fisher

Distinguished Fellow in China Policy