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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Backgrounder: U.S. May Shift Strategy on North Korea

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Esther Pan, Staff Writer
May 24, 2006

What’s the latest development in U.S. strategy toward North Korea?

On May 17, the New York Times reported that the Bush administration is considering shifting its stance toward North Korea. Instead of insisting that North Korea completely and verifiably disarm and renounce nuclear weapons before agreeing to negotiations, as they have in the past, U.S. officials now say they could consider negotiating a formal peace treaty with Pyongyang—to replace the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War—while talks continue on the nuclear program. However, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the negotiations on a peace treaty would go forward only if North Korea came back to the six-party talks and committed itself to disarming. In September 2005, the participants in the six-party talks—China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and Russia—signed a provisional agreement that committed Pyongyang to giving up its nuclear program in return for international assistance. But the details of carrying out the agreement were left to future talks, which have stalled.

Has the administration policy toward North Korea been effective thus far?

Many experts say no. "This administration has lacked a North Korea strategy since it came into office," says Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt scholar in political economy at the American Enterprise Institute. "They've had an attitude about Kim Jong-Il—negative—and an attitude about North Korea having nuclear weapons—negative. But they've lacked a coherent strategy to link attitude to outcomes."

Robert Gallucci, dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, says, "The story of the last five years is that this administration is divided on how to deal with North Korea."


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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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