Prospects for peace on the Korean
Peninsula appear more uncertain following a recent deadly naval
clash between North and South Korean ships in the Yellow Sea over
border intrusions and fishing rights. North Korea's Stalinist
regime often provokes the South and resists entering talks with
Seoul on reunification issues despite receiving large amounts of
international aid and support. When President Bill Clinton welcomes
South Korean President Kim Dae Jung to a summit in Washington,
D.C., on July 2, the Administration will have an opportunity to
focus on new policy initiatives that link any future "rewards" for
North Korea to clear concessions from Pyongyang that will lead to
Korean Peninsula--the most heavily militarized spot on earth--is
the only place where an outbreak of war would result in the swift
and heavy loss of American lives. The $419 million in aid that the
United States has sent to North Korea since 1995 has not reduced
the threat of conflict on the Peninsula. Despite a tattered economy
and rampant starvation, North Korea maintains one of the world's
largest standing armies. Its forward-deployed forces require the
continued presence of 37,000 U.S. troops in South Korea at a cost
to the American taxpayer of about $3 billion per year. And the
tension surrounding the June 14 incident in the Yellow Sea, in
which a North Korean boat was sunk and 30 soldiers from the North
may have died, caused the United States to reinforce its military
forces in South Korea with aircraft and submarines.
North is not a willing partner in achieving peace. Stories about
North Koreans' infiltrating the South and even attacking the
South's government officials have been reported for decades, and
several serious North Korean provocations have occurred in the past
two years. Moreover, Pyongyang is rapidly developing
intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that may soon be
capable of reaching the United States, and it continues to sell
long-range missile technology to rogue regimes like Iran. The
North, in effect, uses the threat posed by its nuclear weapons and
long-range missile development program to extort U.S. and
Despite such belligerence, the Clinton
Administration generally submits to the North's bribery diplomacy.
The occasional concessions the Administration extracts from North
Korea come at a great price. For example, Pyongyang recently
allowed the United States to inspect a suspected nuclear weapons
site after the Administration promised to provide $200 million
worth of grain. But this and other concessions failed to promote
the paramount U.S. goal of tension reduction on the Peninsula. In
fact, the North's military threat has grown in recent years, even
as Pyongyang has become one of the largest recipients of U.S.
foreign aid. Since 1995, the Administration has spent nearly half a
billion dollars on the North in the form of humanitarian food
assistance, money for the right to search for the remains of U.S.
soldiers lost in the North during the Korean War, and energy
assistance required under the 1994 U.S.-North Korea nuclear deal
known as the Agreed Framework.
Administration's current policy toward North Korea has failed. The
North continues to threaten South Korea, refuses to engage in
meaningful dialogue with the South, and continues to build
dangerous missiles. Members of Congress understandably are
increasingly frustrated with Administration policies that give aid
to Pyongyang and produce no results. The July 2 summit offers the
Administration an important opportunity to change these policies by
considering steps to:
- Promote discussions with South Korea,
Japan, and other allies on a substantial package of trade and aid
offers to North Korea.
This package should be based on a consensus of the donors, and the
aid should be targeted to North Korea's real needs. For example,
assistance to Pyongyang for light-water nuclear reactors should be
reconsidered and perhaps spent instead on conventional power plants
and upgraded power transmission lines.
- Make future aid to North Korea
dependent on real concessions.
A substantial package of trade and aid offers to the North must be
linked directly to Pyongyang's efforts to reduce military tensions,
abandon its ICBM program, and resume peace talks with the South.
Future North Korean missiles could reach the United States, and
Pyongyang's trafficking in missile technology is allowing rogue
states like Iran to pose a growing threat to Israel.
- Consider forming a "peace corps" for
Such an organization would ensure that future international
assistance gets to the North Korean people who most need it.
- Appoint a senior U.S. negotiator as a
special envoy to Pyongyang to oversee these policy adjustments and
to coordinate policy with all concerned countries.
This official would provide consistent U.S. policy leadership in
North Korea and work with U.S. allies to coordinate a united
approach toward Pyongyang.
Daryl M. Plunk is a
former Senior Fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage