“Democratic Inconsistency” in the North Korean Nuclear Crisis
Key Words: Democratic Inconsistency, North Korean Nuclear Crisis, U.S. Foreign Policy
According to democratic peace theory, contracts with de-mocracy are more durable because they acquire “law-like” qualities. Compared to the “fickle” nature of dictatorships, democracy is a more “consistent” -- thus more “reliable” -- partner. There is an interesting puzzle, however, in the North Korean nuclear crisis. For the past 15 years, the US has been quite inconsistent. While the Clinton administra-tion tried to “buy up” the North Korean nuclear program through the 1994 agreement, the Bush administration re-versed earlier policies and refused to negotiate with an “axis of evil.” During its last years, however, the Bush ad-ministration reversed its own policy, reviving an “un-dated” version of the 1994 agreement. Moreover, such “democratic inconsistencies” do not seem isolated incidents in that South Korea -- another democracy -- has displayed similar “zigzags.” By investigating these policy “zigzags,” this paper attempts to theorize “democratic inconsistency” and analyze the North Korean nuclear crisis from such a viewpoint.
On August 5, 1993, Robert Gallucci presented “a new ace in the hole” to North Korea -- “a presidential guarantee” for light water reactors. Officially, the North Korean delegation complained that the presidential letter was “only a promise.” Off the record, they “took great notice.” After the initial enthusiasm subsided, however, one North Korean wondered: “What would happen if a Republican president took office?” (Wit et al., 2004: 272-274). In that moment, the North Korean diplomat sensed the inconsistency built into democracy. A regular change of power in democracy means frequent review, revision, and even reversal of earlier policies.
Democracy is said to have many “advantages.” It “avoids tyranny,” “guarantees more freedom,” “brings more economic growth,” and so on (Dahl, 1998: 44-61). The advantage of democracy goes beyond domestic politics because it brings “peace” in foreign relations. The so-called “democratic peace theory” has received a warm embrace among politicians. According to President Clinton, a key to global peace is to spread democracy because “democracies don’t attack each other” (The Economist, April 1, 1995). President Bush has also emphasized the importance of a stable democracy in Iraq because “democracies don’t go to war with each other.” Likewise, President Obama argues that “we benefit from the expansion of democracy” (The Washington Post, March 2, 2008).
One of the core elements of the Democratic Peace Theory is that agreements with democracies are “durable.” A contract with a democracy, especially when ratified by the legislature or supported by public opinion, acquires “law-like” qualities. Compared to “fickle” dictators (e.g. Hitler’s surprise abrogation of the Nazi-Soviet Pact), democracies are more “consistent” -- thus more “reliable” -- partners.
From such a viewpoint, there is an interesting puzzle in the North Korean nuclear crisis. For the past 15 years, the United States has been inconsistent over the North Korean nuclear crisis. While the Clinton administration was willing to “buy up” the North Korean nuclear program through the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Bush administration reversed Clinton’s policy and refused to negotiate with the “axis of evil.” During its later years, however, the Bush administration reversed its own policy, reviving an updated version of the 1994 agreement. Moreover, such “democratic inconsistency” is not an isolated incident. South Korea -- another democracy -- has engaged in similar zigzagging during the same period. By analyzing these “zigzag” moments, this paper questions the argument that democracies are consistent and reliable. Instead, it is attempted to theorize “democratic inconsistency” and analyze the North Korean nuclear crisis from such a viewpoint.
II. Democratic Peace Theory
A. First Generation: “Democracies Do Not Fight!”
The birth of the Democratic Peace Theory has an interesting story. It was “discovered by accident” (Lipson, 2003: 1). “The observation of novel empirical facts” came without appropriate explanations (Mousseau, 2009: 55). As Jack Snyder -- one of the first to “discover” -- points out, democracies have “moderating” effects on foreign policies, whereas dictatorships are “the most recklessly expansionist” (Snyder, 1991: 308-311). As a result, democracy is “inherently peaceful,” “dovish,” and “peace-loving” (Mearsheimer, 1990: 30; Russett, 1993: 30; Walt, 1998: 39). Simply put, democracies do not fight (Morgan and Campbell, 1991; Lake, 1992; Schweller, 1992).
Unfortunately the theory “lack[ed] a convincing theo-retical foundation.” It did not explain why democracies did not fight (Owen, 1994: 88). Moreover, there was the historical inaccuracy of its claim because democracies had been as “belligerent” as non-democracies (Small and Singer, 1976; Chan, 1984; Weede, 1984; Garnham, 1986; Maoz and Abdolali, 1989; Bremer, 1992). The “consistent evidence” that democracies were as “war-prone” as dictatorships nullified the claim that democracy was inherently peaceful (Russett, 1993: 30). In the twentieth century alone, England went to war more frequently than Germany (Strachan, 2000: 342). Also problematic was the age of imperialism when “democratic” powers of Europe waged wars for less than noble reasons (Rosato, 2003: 588). For these reasons, the first generation of the Democratic Peace Theory was “overlooked” (Lipson, 2003: 1).
B. Second Generation: “Democracies Do Not Fight Each Other!”
In its second incarnation, the Democratic Peace Theory offered a significant revision: that is, democracies did not fight each other. Even though democracies had fought many wars, “liberal states have yet to engage in a war with one another” (Doyle, 1983: 213). As a result, the “dovishness” of democracy was found only “in relations between democracies” (Russett, 1993: 31). Moreover, the new version had a causal mechanism that could explain why democracies did not fight each other: norms and institutions.
According to the “normative” explanation, democratic values and principles were “the source” of democratic peace (Owen, 1994: 93). One of the core principles of democracy was the “peaceful resolution of conflict” (Maoz and Russett, 1993; Dixon, 1994; Weart, 1998). The use of violence was illegitimate in democracies because such governments were “to monopolize the use force” (Weber, 1978: 55-56). As a result, when democratic countries externalized their norm of peaceful conflict resolution, “zones of peace” appeared among democracies (Russett, 1993: 32). Moreover, there were “institutional” constraints. Unlike a dictatorship, there was a “structural division of power” in democracy (Layne, 1994: 9). Such an institutional design made it harder for a democracy to go to war (Doyle, 1983; Morgan and Campbell, 1991; Morgan and Schwebach, 1992; Russett, 1993; Owen, 1994). There were many “brakes” that could stop a democracy from going to war.
Although interesting, the second-generation Democratic Peace Theory has a serious problem. If a democracy prefers peaceful conflict resolution and if there are many institutional brakes within a democracy, then democracy should refrain from war “whether the adversary is democratic or not” (Layne, 1994: 12). If norms and institutions were the answer, a democracy should be more peaceful “toward all other states, not just other democracies.” As a result, “we still lack a convincing ex-planation about why democracies do not fight each other” (Lipson, 2003: 2-3. Emphasis added).
C. Third Generation: “Democracies Almost Never Fight Each Other!”
Critics have pointed out cases in which democracies have fought each other (Layne, 1994; Rosato, 2003). In re-sponse, the Democratic Peace Theory in its third version claims that “democracies almost never fight wars against each other” (Lipson, 2003: 1). In spite of the few wars involving democracies, one should not ignore “the statistically significant absence of war between democracies” (Mousseau, 2009: 52).
Although the expression “almost never” does not sound academic, the argument is reasonable. In social sciences, any theory that contains “never” or “always” is bound to fail. Social phenomena are not like apples that “always” fall from trees. Instead, scholars find general tendencies. For instance, Defensive Realism does not argue that a balance of power will always be maintained. Instead, there is a strong tendency for it to be maintained, or once disrupted, it “will be restored” (Waltz, 1979: 128). Likewise, John Mearsheimer does not argue that there will always be conflicts among great powers. Instead, his “offensive realism” maintains that conflict is more likely as great powers are driven by “the principle of power maximization” (Mearsheimer, 2001: 29-40). In a similar way, when the expression “almost never” is reformulated, democratic peace theory sounds better; namely, there is a strong tendency among democracies not to fight each other.
The most significant contribution of the third-generation Democratic Peace Theory is its causal mechanism. Using contract theory, Charles Lipson argues that peace among countries is like having a “contract” not to fight. A “peace contract” may exist in the form of an explicit military alliance or an implicit understanding not to fight. “Anarchy” means, however, that contracts are “necessarily incomplete” because “there are no effective global courts to punish violators.” Any deal must be “self-enforcing,” with the constant danger of betrayal. Such possibilities are especially dangerous because “betrayal can be a matter of life and death.” As a result, when a country makes peace contracts, it has to ask a critical question. Whom should it choose as a peace partner, a democracy or a dictatorship? (Lipson, 2003: 4-5)
According to Lipson, democracies are more “credible, reliable and durable” partners. First, democracies can guarantee “long-term commitments” because “their constitutions are designed to make some policies very difficult to reverse.” Second, a division of power entails a “slow” decision-making process. As Machiavelli points out, their “slow motion will make [republics] always have more trouble in resolving than the prince, and because of this have more trouble in breaking faith” (Machiavelli, 1996: Book I, Chapter 59). Finally, the “transparent” nature of democracy “lowers the risk of devastating surprise.” When there is growing opposition to a certain treaty, its partners could see that the treaty would not survive, especially if the opposition is likely to win the next election. As a result, the “uh-oh” moment will come earlier with enough warning. For these reasons, democracies are more “reliable” (Lipson, 2003: 6-15).
In addition to its theoretical innovation, the recent ver-sion of the Democratic Peace Theory has brought some interesting derivatives. For instance, there is some evidence for a “war-winning democracy;” that is, democracies win when they fight non-democracies (Desch, 2002, 2003; Lake, 2003; Reiter and Stam, 2003). Moreover, some scholars suspect that the root cause of democratic peace may lie in its economic system; that is, democratic peace may be a side effect of capitalism. As a result, there may be “capitalist peace,” “contract peace,” and so on (Gartzke, 2007; Gelpi and Grieco, 2008; Gleditsch, 2008; Mousseau, 2009). Although some of these expressions, such as “capitalist peace,” are catchy, the idea is hardly new. They are recent updates of the Economic Interdependence Theory -- the idea that deepening economic interdependence dampens conflicts among trading partners (Keohane and Nye, 1977; Rosecrance, 1986; Milner, 1988).
III. Why Democracies Can Be Inconsistent
The literature on criticism of the Democratic Peace Theory is rich (Layne, 1994; Spiro, 1994; Gates et al., 1996; Thompson, 1996; Farber and Gowa, 1997; Rosato, 2003; Rasler and Thompson, 2005; Ward et al., 2007). Though interesting, criticisms of the theory are not analyzed because it is beyond the scope of this paper to examine whether democracy brings peace or not. Instead, the goal is to question democracy as a consistent and reliable partner. In particular, we will theorize why democracy can be inconsistent and then analyze the North Korean nuclear crisis from such a perspective.
According to Lipson, democracy is more consistent in keeping promises, compared to a “fickle” dictatorship. The often-quoted example is the surprise abrogation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In 1939, Hitler shocked the world by making a deal with Stalin. The deal allowed Hitler to focus on Western Europe. When he conquered Western Europe, Hitler then turned to the east, launching Operation Barbarossa. For Hitler, the Nazi-Soviet Pact was merely “an updated version of Germany’s Schlieffen Plan” to avoid a dual-front war (Lipson, 2003: 97). As a result, Stalin was caught off guard when Nazi soldiers began to march toward Moscow. In fact, Stalin was so shocked that he looked like a living corpse for a few days (Suny, 1998: 310).
Although the Nazi-Soviet Pact is often used to illustrate the “fickle” nature of dictatorships, there was nothing “fickle” about it. Hitler began planning for the invasion even before the ink on the Nazi-Soviet Pact was dry (Weinberg, 1994: 179-190). As a result, there was no sudden “change of heart” on Hitler’s part. Instead, Hitler was good at hiding his real thoughts or misrepresenting his preferences. What Hitler’s famous betrayal illustrates is the importance of unknown intention, not his alleged fickleness. When a country makes a contract with another country, it cannot divine the intention of its partner “with 100 percent certainty” (Mearsheimer, 2001: 31).
Realism has long emphasized the importance of un-known intention in international politics. R. Jervis argues that countries cannot be sure of others’ intentions because “minds can be changed, new leaders can come to power, [and] new opportunities and dangers can arise” (Jervis, 1978: 168). It is these three factors of unknown intention -- change of minds, new leaders, and new circumstances -- that constitute the source of inconsistency in foreign policy. As a result, we can identify three types of inconsistent foreign policy:
• Type I Inconsistency Inconsistency due to “change of minds”
• Type II Inconsistency Inconsistency due to “new leaders “
• Type III Inconsistency Inconsistency due to “new circums-tances”
Of these three sources, the last one -- Type III (New Circumstances) -- will prompt any country, democratic or not, to revise its policies. As a result, democracies and dictatorships will be inconsistent as they try to exploit “new opportunities” or avoid “new dangers” in the face of new environments. Instead, major differences between them should be found in the “change of minds” or “new leaders.” Among these two factors, Type I Inconsistency (Change of Minds) -- is what democratic peace theorists focus on to illustrate the “fickle” nature of dictatorships. When a country makes a deal with a dictatorship, whether or not the agreement will be respected is subject to the dictator who could change his mind at any moment. By contrast, when democracy signs a treaty, its promise “come[s] from institutions that transcend individual leaders” because the treaty, once ratified by the legislature or supported by the public, acquires “law-like” qualities. Democracy has “the constitutional capacity to make enduring commitments” (Lipson, 2003: 12). As a result, contracts with democracy are “more likely to be carried out [and] harder to reverse” (Ibid.: 77). Contracts with democracy are more consistent because its institutional ar-rangements make it harder to make the Type I Inconsistency (Change of Minds).
Although democratic leaders are more bound by institutional arrangements and public opinion, the importance of these constraints should not be exaggerated, especially in foreign policy. First, many international agreements are not presented for ratification, such as joint communiqués, protocols, and so on. Reneging on these agreements is much easier. Second, even when a treaty is ratified by the congress, regular elections mean that the congress may change its composition later. In the U.S., a congressional election every two years brings a different distribution of seats with periodic revisions of policies. Finally, the relationship between public opinion and political leaders is not one-sided. Just as politicians are influenced by public opinion, they can also shape public opinion. For instance, Stalin was portrayed initially as a horrible dictator, then as “Uncle Joe” when America allied with him against Hitler, and back to a communist dictator when the Cold War began (Ambrose, 1997: 150). For these reasons, we should expect much less difference between democracy and dictatorship when it comes to Type I Inconsistency (Change of Minds).
Finally, there is the last element of unknown intention -- “new leaders” coming to power. It is Type II Inconsistency (New Leaders) that highlights the biggest difference between democracy and dictatorship because there is a regular change of power in democracy. This aspect of democracy, however, is often ignored by democratic peace theorists. Or, when it is discussed, they produce counter-intuitive arguments:
“The limitations [on a policy reversal] are strongest when parties regularly rotate in power. … Paradoxically, the rotation of national leadership … gives the party in power real incentives to uphold the precedent that ‘our country keeps its bargains.’ … Current leaders gain from strengthening the presumption that their own bargains will stand through future governments. … As long as both parties expect to share power … they respect foreign commitments already in place” (Lipson, 2003: 80, 101. Emphasis added).
The “paradox” Lipson refers to is questionable. When there is a frequent “rotation” of power, it raises (not lowers) the possibility of review, revision, or reversal of previous policies because the “new sheriff” comes with new ideas, new visions, new agendas, and so on. When a country is dominated by one party for several decades (i.e., Japan under the Liberal Democratic Party from 1955 to 1993), one should expect more consistency in its policies, compared to cases where two political parties with different ideological orientations compete for power (i.e., the United States) because in the latter case, there is a regu-lar change of “ruling philosophy.” Where a second-term presidency is prohibited (i.e., South Korea today), new leaders come even more frequently, with greater potential for inconsistent policies.
A regular election is the hallmark of democracy. It al-lows a peaceful change of power to “those who think differently.” A regular election is the institutional element of democracy that tests different policies, ideas, and philosophies. After all, if opposition leaders advocate the same policies of the incumbent, why should people vote for the opposition? Indeed, democracy has a built-in bias toward inconsistency as the “outs” have a strong incentive to differentiate themselves from the incumbent party, especially if the latter does not enjoy widespread public support. Both a dictatorship and a democracy may have inconsistent policies because “minds can change (Type I)” or “new opportunities and dangers can arise (Type III).” In addition, a democracy has one more element of inconsistency: “new leaders” coming to power on a regular basis (Type II). Democracy may have many advantages. Consistency does not seem to be one of them.
IV. North Korean Nuclear Crisis
For North Korea and the United States, the path to the 1994 Agreed Framework was anything but consistent, as each side advanced different proposals in order to test the other side. As a result, the test of consistency should be over what they have done after the 1994 agreement. The main goal of this section is to demonstrate that democratic consistency is nowhere to be found in the position taken by the Clinton administration, the initial Bush policy (“regime change”), and the eventual Bush position -- that is, going back to his version of the 1994 agreement. Indeed, the most remarkable aspect of U.S. foreign policy over the North Korean nuclear issue has been its lack of consistency.
A. Clinton Administration: 1994 Agreed Framework
On June 11, 1993, Kang Sok Ju asked a question that would torment Washington for years. “Was the United States more interested in finding out what nuclear activities had been conducted in the past or in preventing future nuclear activities?” (Wit et al., 2004: 60). There were two schools of thought in the Clinton Administration. According to the first school (History First), the priority should be to find out how many nuclear weapons North Korea had manufactured in the past. By contrast, the second school (Freeze First) emphasized the immediate freeze of the Yongbyon facility so that Pyongyang could not manufacture more nuclear weapons. Although the History First approach prevailed at first, the trend was reversed by Robert Gallucci after his “blunt March 9 memo” (Ibid.: 139-143). As a result, freezing first and then finding out past nuclear activities became the basic principle of the 1994 Agreed Framework.
According to the 1994 agreement, North Korea would “freeze” its Yongbyon nuclear reactor. In return, the U.S. would provide “a LWR [light-water reactor] project” with 2003 as a “target date.” In the meantime, Washington would annually provide 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil to “offset the energy foregone due to the freeze” of the Yongbyon reactor. After “a significant portion of the LWR project is completed,” North Korea should come into “full compliance” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over past nuclear activities. In return, the U.S. would provide a “formal assurance against the threat or use of nuclear weapons.” Also, the two countries would work “toward full normalization.”
Initial responses to the Agreed Framework were “negative” (The New York Times, October 19, 1994; The Washington Post October 19, 1994). The Clinton administration tried to reach prominent Republicans, such as Colin Powell, James Baker, Caspar Weinberger, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, and John McCain. The sales pitch failed. In an increasingly bipartisan environment, “supporting the Framework would have been tantamount to Republican suicide” (Wit et al., 2004: 337-339). Republicans believed that the agreement rewarded “bad behavior” (Pritchard, 2007: 3-4). R. Dole complained that “the North Koreans are having their carrot cake and eating it too” (Reuters, February 2, 1994). J. McCain also accused the Clinton administration of “appeasement” (Wit et al., 2004: 336-339). Likewise, J. Schlesinger called the agreement “a negotiated surrender” (The New York Times, October 24, 1994). As the Republican objection became clear, the seeds of its eventual collapse were planted. It would take six more years for the seeds to blossom but by then George W. Bush had won the presidential election.
B. The Bush Administration
“Pyongyang would have had a significant shock had any Republican succeeded President Bill Clinton” (Pritchard, 2007: 1). What happened under George W. Bush, however, brought shocks even to those familiar with Washington politics. From 2001 to 2007, the Bush administration put forward four different North Korean policies. First, it introduced new requirements to “improve” the 1994 Agreed Framework. It was the 1994 agreement on steroids because the Republicans regarded the original one as “too soft.” Second, the Bush administration designated North Korea as a member of the “axis of evil” as a target of a “regime change.” Third, the Bush administration took a step back to the Bold Approach of 2002. When new in-formation surfaced regarding the North Korean secret uranium program, however, the Bold Approach was stillborn. Washington then pursued 6-Party Talks on a multilateral basis. Finally, this policy was changed in late 2006 when the Bush administration went back to its version of the 1994 agreement. “Democratic consistency” was the last thing to be found in the North Korean policy of the Bush administration.
1. 1994 Agreement “on Steroids”: Type II (New Leaders)
As Americans went to the polls to choose their next president, North Korea issued a statement in which it hoped that the new president would pick up where the Clinton administration had left off:
“Multi-faceted contacts and dialogues have been under way be-tween the DPRK and the U.S. in recent years … [On 10 October 2000], a historic joint communiqué reflecting both sides’ will to make concerted efforts for the improvement of the DPRK-U.S. relations was issued. The document has not only an informative value but international legal validity. Accordingly, the DPRK and the U.S. are committed to implement the communiqué. The improved relations between the two countries are in line with the desire and interests of the two peoples” (KCNA, November 7, 2000).
Something was lost in translation because, in the original Korean statement, the last sentence was even more “appealing.” That is, “We are hoping for the earliest normalization between the two countries. We believe that Americans feel the same way.” Ironically, North Korea also made one of the favorite arguments of “democratic peace”: that is, the joint communiqué had “legal validity.” The message of North Korea was clear. As Lee Gun, North Korea’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said, “We hope the Bush administration maintains the engagement policy” of the Clinton era (Chosun Ilbo, February 8, 2001). North Korea was in for a big surprise.
Initially, President Bush seemed uninterested in North Korea. At one point, he even asked, “Why should I care about North Korea?” (Woodward, 2006: 14). Sometime between late 2000 and early 2001, however, Bush developed “newfound hate of North Korea” (Pritchard, 2007: 71). This newfound hate was evident when Kim Dae-jung visited Washington (Wit et al., 2004: 377). When Kim sought a guarantee that the new administration would pick up where Clinton had left off, Bush “really lit into Kim Dae-jung,” saying that he would not continue Clinton-like policies (The New York Times, March 8, 2001). The summit with “sparks” was the beginning of deepening troubles between the two allies becoming like “a king and queen who live separate lives within their marriage but still make public appearances on the balcony” (Joong-Ang Ilbo, March 1, 2006).
In the meantime, the Bush administration conducted a policy review of the North Korean nuclear crisis. Hard-liners at the Vice President’s office and the Pentagon were reportedly pitted against moderates at the State Department (The New York Times, June 7, 2001). Hard-liners or “neocons” included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Robert Armitage, and Robert Joseph. For them, the 1994 agreement was “exhibit A in what was wrong with American policy.” For instance, John Bolton felt that the agreement needed to be scrapped (Chinoy, 2008: 61-69). Vice President Cheney took a tough stance (Mann, 2004: 97). Robert Joseph “really hated the Agreed Framework,” calling it “the worst piece of diplomatic trash.” Accordingly, his goal was “to kill the Agreed Framework” (Chinoy, 2008: 44-47). On the other hand, officials at the State Department, such as Robert Carlin, Thomas Hubbard, and Charles Pritchard, held the moderate view that the 1994 agreement represented a positive step. Leading the moderates, Colin Powell considered neocons “just short of the loony fringes of the Republican Party” (DeYoung, 2006: 179). Under such “divided” circumstances, Charles Pritchard noted with irony that he was “described both as being hard-nosed toward North Korea during the Clinton administration and as being a dove during the Bush administration” (Pritchard, 2007: 9).
The original policy review was extremely harsh toward North Korea, reflecting the views of neocons. At this point, however, “fatherly advice” came from the senior Bush who suggested a more flexible approach (The New York Times, June 10, 2001). After this intervention, the final policy review announced on June 6, 2001 was “a compromise” between hard-liners and moderates. Instead of scrapping the 1994 agreement, President Bush demanded its “improved implementation” (Wit et al., 2004: 377-378). In particular, it required more accelerated inspections to discover how many nuclear weapons North Korea had produced in the past. For the Clinton administration, freezing first and then addressing past activities was the main principle of the 1994 agreement. The Bush administration revised the original agreement, placing “freeze” and “history” on equal footing. In addition, the “improved” framework should include a ban on the North Korean missile program -- a new demand not mentioned in the 1994 agreement. Finally, it required North Korea to take a “less threatening conventional military posture,” another new demand. In this way, the Bush administration sought to strengthen the “weak” 1994 agreement. Moreover, President Bush refused to affirm the 2000 joint communiqué that promised “no hostile intent” (The New York Times, July 3, 2001).
Obviously, North Korea would not accept the “improved” agreement. On June 18, 2001, North Korea issued a statement, calling the new policy “an attempt to disarm the DPRK.” In spite of promises by the Clinton administration, the relationship between the two countries was deteriorating because of “the U.S. hostile policy.” To reverse this trend, Pyongyang called on the Bush administration to return to the 1994 framework “as agreed upon” (KCNA, June 18, 2001). Pyongyang wanted President Bush to pick up where the Clinton administration had left off. For those in the Bush administration with their “ABC (Anything But Clinton)” mentality, however, the nostalgic reference to the Clinton years was “like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull” (Pritchard, 2007: 12-15).
In our discussion, the initial policy of the Bush administration -- the 1994 agreement “on steroids” -- is importance because it captures the essence of the “Type II Inconsistency (New Leaders).” The new policy was not a response to a dramatic change or “new environment” in international politics. After all, 9/11 was still several months away. Likewise, the policy shift was not a response to changing behavior by North Korea. The critical informa-tion regarding its highly enriched uranium (HEU) program would not surface until mid-2002: that is, a year after the initial policy review. As officials in the State Department noted, “North Korea had not done anything different” (Chinoy, 2008: 49). Instead, the new policy was the result of politics in Washington. The Republicans won the election and they did not like the deal that the Democratic administration had made. The crux of the deepening crisis in early 2001 was that the band -- now with a Republican conductor -- changed its tune, but the dancer -- North Korea -- did not like the new tune. It was a typical case of “democratic inconsistency” caused by “new leaders coming to power” -- Type II Inconsistency.
2. “Regime Change” -- Type III (New Circumstances)
9/11 shocked the world with the tragic loss of 3,000 innocent lives. Immediately after 9/11, North Korea issued a statement, describing it as a “tragic incident,” adding that “the DPRK is opposed to all forms of terrorism” (KCNA, September 12, 2001). In addition to the official statement, North Korea conveyed a private message of condolence to the U.S. North Korea also signed several international protocols on terrorism (Associated Press, November 29, 2001). The message was clear. It did not want to be associated with 9/11. Again, North Korea was in for a surprise.
In early 2002, President Bush identified North Korea as a part of the “axis of evil.” In the following National Security Strategy, the Bush administration argued that the main threat to America was “global terrorism” by “the embittered few.” Against these terrorists, the traditional strategy of deterrence would not work because the “so-called soldiers” of terrorism sought “martyrdom in death.” As a result, the Bush administration would not “hesitate to act alone.” The U.S. would launch “preemptive” attacks against “terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them.” Senior officials soon talked about “regime change” to remove the “axis of evil.”
David Frum, President Bush’s speechwriter, came up with the expression “axis of hatred.” Michael Gerson changed it to “axis of evil” to echo the catchphrase of Reagan’s “evil empire.” The initial draft of the presidential address did not include North Korea in the “axis of evil.” When Condoleezza Rice read it, however, she added North Korea “to avoid focusing solely on Iraq” (Newsweek, February 19, 2007). That is, North Korea was added so that President Bush would not sound anti-Islamic. Although the Newsweek report revealed an interesting back story, it would be naïve to believe that North Korea was added solely for “political correctness.” Rather, North Korea was added because it was believed to fit the main characteris-tics of the “axis of evil” (Woodward, 2006: 339-340).
As if the “Bush doctrine” was not threatening enough, a secret Pentagon document was leaked revealing a potential U.S. plan to use nuclear weapons against North Korea (Wit et al., 2004: 378). In addition, while briefing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage testified that North Korea was not fulfilling the 1994 agreement. When the committee Chairman Richard Lugar (Republican) asked for evidence, Armitage admitted that he “did not have evidence of cheating.” Nonetheless, he “did not have confidence Pyongyang was going to comply.” In disbelief, the ranking Democrat Senator Joseph Biden asked, “Is this a doctrine of preemptive breach of the contract?” (Chinoy, 2008: 77-78). The lack of evidence did not stop the Bush administration from declaring on March 20, 2002 that Pyongyang was in violation of the Agreed Framework.
The beginning of the Iraq War intensified the aggressive approach of the Bush administration. For a moment, the controversial doctrine of “preemptive war” and “regime change” seemed to be working. When the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled, John Bolton urged the members of the “axis of evil” to draw “the appropriate lesson.” Likewise, a senior Bush administration official said, “This is just the beginning. I would not rule out the same consequence of events for Iran and North Korea” (The New York Times, March 23, 2003). Practically, North Korea was told “to take your number.”
Pyongyang took neither “the appropriate lesson” nor “its number.” Instead, it regarded the Bush doctrine as “little short of a declaration of war” against North Korea as “the second target of anti-terrorism war” (KCNA, February 2, 2002). Although “it is quite understandable that the U.S. cannot sleep in peace, terror-stricken by Al Qaeda,” its linking the DPRK to such an organization is “an expression of total ignorance” (KCNA, April 19, 2004). Pyongyang argued that the “regime change” was invented by “the Bush group keen on … spread[ing] the Afghan war to the Korean peninsula.” If “the U.S. nuclear forces strong enough to destroy the world scores of times are deterrent forces,” how could “the DPRK’s forces” pose a “threat [of] terrorism”? The Bush administration reflected “a gangster-like logic of a typical rogue and a kingpin of terrorism” (KCNA, February 23, 2002). As Kang Sok-ju argued, “If we disarm ourselves because of U.S. pressure, then we will be-come like … Afghanistan’s Taliban, to be beaten to death” (Pritchard, 2007: 25). North Korea was not going to be another Iraq or Afghanistan.
During their first summit, Kim Dae-jung was caught off guard by Bush’s “newfound hate” of North Korea. After all, he was told by Secretary Powell a day before that President Bush would “pick up where President Clinton and his administration left off” (The Washington Post, March 7, 2001). For their second summit a year later, however, President Kim was ready:
“You can have dialogue even with evil if it is necessary … It’s not for making friends; it’s for pursuing your national interests. … Three Republican presidents -- Eisenhower, Nixon, and Rea-gan -- had conducted dialogue with hated communist adversa-ries. Even as President Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, he also had dialogue. … So then, why not North Korea? … North Korea was consistently asking for dialogue with the United States. So why can you not have that option of dialogue?” (Chinoy, 2008: 74).
The above was President Kim’s recollection of the summit. Considering that Kim built his legacy on the “sun-shine policy” toward North Korea (South Korean version of President Clinton’s “engagement”), what was remarkable about the exchange was that it was practically a conversation between the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. It demonstrated how far the Bush approach “digressed” -- from the viewpoint of President Kim -- or “evolved” -- from the viewpoint of President Bush -- from the Clinton approach. Whether it was a di-gression or an evolution, the new policy of the “axis of evil” and “regime change” revealed another moment of de-mocratic inconsistency. It was a classical case of “Type III Inconsistency (New Circumstance)” in which the Bush administration introduced a major policy shift in a traumatic post-9/11 environment.
3. Killing the Agreed Framework: Type III (New Circumstances)
After months of harsh talk, President Bush took a step back in mid-2002, signaling “a less confrontational approach” (Wit et al., 2004: 378). Known as the Bold Approach, Washington offered a security guarantee and economic aid if Pyongyang would dismantle its nuclear program (The Washington Post, January 15, 2003). The Bold Approach revealed yet another moment of inconsistency because North Korea was not doing anything different at the time. Instead, there was a “change of heart” at the White House. That is, the Bold Approach was a great example of “Type I Inconsistency (Change of Mind)” due to preference changes. What happened was that President Bush, persuaded by Secretary Powell, revealed his “gut feeling” that it was time go for a “bold approach.” Other than its name, however, nothing was forthcoming about the new policy. Instead, officials were told, “Think creatively; we’ll know it when we see it” (Pritchard, 2007: 25). When completed, the Bold Approach was similar to the earlier 1994 agreement “on steroids” with an emphasis that Pyongyang should “go first” (Chinoy, 2008: 92).
While officials at the State Department were busy po-lishing up details of the Bold Approach, new information about a secret North Korean uranium program surfaced. The new information would eventually torpedo not only the Bold Approach but the 1994 agreement itself. As a result, the period from the initial halt of the Bold Approach to the eventual collapse of the 1994 agreement in late 2002 illustrated the “Type III Inconsistency (New Circumstances)” because from the viewpoint of Washington, the new information about the secret HEU (highly enriched uranium) program changed the fundamental matrix of the North Korean nuclear crisis.
Earlier, there were suspicions that Bhutto’s visit to Pyongyang in 1993 initiated their nuclear-missile exchange program (Corera, 2006: 87). “Disturbing signs” also appeared around 1997-1998 (Wit et al., 2004: 378-379). All these suspicions, however, remained sketchy until 2002 when “the key alert” came from “the rarest of assets -- an agent inside North Korea.” According to Chinoy, four senior U.S. officials separately confirmed the existence of the mysterious agent (Chinoy, 2008: 84). When prior data were re-analyzed given the new information from the secret agent, a new picture of the HEU program emerged. Also, a North Korean plot was revealed in 2002 to import “214 ultra-strong aluminum tubes” for reprocessing uranium (The Washington Post, August 15, 2003). By mid-2002, the CIA was confident that North Korea had an updated model of “Pakistan’s older centrifuges” (Tenet, 2007: 283-284). When the CIA briefed the White House, “you could see the light-bulbs going on around the room” (Chinoy, 2008: 101-102).
Much has been written about what followed after the White House briefing, especially the James Kelly visit to Pyongyang during which Kang Sok-ju allegedly admitted the covert HEU program. For hard-liners, the “admission” was a moment of vindication. As John Bolton argued, the 1994 agreement was “a snare and an illusion, giving us the impression of security when in fact the North Koreans were undoubtedly screwing us.” As a result, it was time to consider other options, including “military and other contingency plans” (Bolton, 2007: 107-108). Indeed, the Bush administration soon scrapped the 1994 agreement. In the words of a senior official, the framework was “dead” (The New York Times, October 20, 2002). When Secretary Powell refused to use “the four-letter word [dead]” (The Washington Post, October 25, 2002), another senior official emphasized that Powell did “not represent the administration view” (The Washington Post, October, 26, 2002).
Although caught off guard by the Kelly visit, North Korea soon rebounded. After criticizing the “high-handed and arrogant attitude” of Kelly (KCNA, October 7, 2002), North Korea emphasized that the U.S. had long lost “its right to talk about the implementation of the framework” because it had not fulfilled its obligations. For instance, “only a big hole was dug at the LWR construction site after 8 years,” the Bush administration “pursued the hostile policy” instead of “full normalization,” and it listed North Korea “as a target of its preemptive nuclear attack.” Simply put, the United States “observed none … of the framework” (KCNA, October 25, 2002). Although North Korea had “kept its nuclear facility frozen for the last 8 years” (KCNA, November 26, 2002), Washington now sus-pended its heavy oil supply, “the only one of the four articles of the framework that has been observed” (KCNA, November 22, 2002). As a result, there was “total collapse of the Agreed Framework” (KCNA, November 25, 2002).
There has been a great deal of second-guessing over the covert HEU program. First, in spite of Kang’s “admission,” the U.S. delegation admitted that “at no point did [he] explicitly confirm the allegations” (Chinoy, 2008: 119-121). Second, some pointed out that the 1994 agreement “did not explicitly refer to uranium enrichment, much less prohibit it” (Wit et al., 2004: 379). In that sense, North Korea might have violated “the spirit of the Agreed Framework” but not the agreement itself (Pritchard, 2007: 44). Finally, there were questions regarding U.S. intelligence. When the U.S. briefed Chinese officials about the HEU program, “the Chinese were not impressed.” In fact, one of the U.S. officials who presented the case “found it less than compelling” (Chinoy, 2008: 222-223).
In spite of lingering questions, there were many reasons to suspect the charges of a clandestine uranium program. First, although he did not flatly admit its existence, Kang Sok-ju presented his argument in such a way that all eight members of the U.S. delegation came to a consensus that Kang had “defiantly admitted to having an HEU program” (Pritchard, 2007: 38). Second, although it did not explicitly mention uranium enrichment, the 1994 agreement confirmed the 1991 North-South De-nuclearization Declaration banning uranium enrichment (Wit et al., 2004: 379). Moreover, if an HEU program was not covered by the 1994 agreement, why was North Korea pursuing it covertly? The clandestine nature of the operation revealed that Pyongyang was well aware of its violation. Finally, it was estimated that North Korea began its secret program around 1997-1998. The timing was ominous because Pyongyang raised angry voices at the time that America was not fulfilling its obligations. For instance, Pyongyang accused Washington of violating the 1994 agreement by “threatening the use of nuclear wea-pons” (KCNA, February 7, 1997; April 14, 1997; November 9, 1997; March 15, 1998; May 11, 1998), not working toward a “peace agreement” (KCNA, August 9, 1997; August 16, 1997; August 23, 1997; September 4, 1997; September 24, 1997; December 3, 1997; March 31, 1998; May 9, 1998), making “no progress in the LWR construction” (KCNA, March 6, 1998; March 15, 1998; March 30, 1998; May 8, 1998; July 18, 1998; August 13, 1998; September 12, 1998; October 13, 1998), and “not providing heavy fuel oil on promised schedules” (KCNA, May 8, 1998; August 13, 1998; September 12, 1998; September 13, 1998; October 2, 1998). As a result, North Korea suspected that the 1994 agreement was “a Trojan wooden horse” (KCNA, October 13, 1998). That is, Pyongyang wondered “whether [the U.S.] had willingness to implement the framework … or put a signature to it without sincerity, calculating that the DPRK would col-lapse” (KCNA, October 25, 2002). “If the U.S. does not intend to keep its commitment,” however, “we have no [intention] of keeping up our nuclear freeze” (KCNA, February 7, 1997). As these official statements indicated, 1997-1998 seemed a perfect time for North Korea to re-consider its commitment to the Agreed Framework.
Questions and second-guessing over the HEU program lingered for several years. When the UN condemned the second North Korean nuclear test in 2009, however, North Korea finally confirmed its HEU program. In response to UN Resolution 1874, North Korea threatened to restart its uranium enrichment process. In its own words, “enough success has been made in developing uranium enrichment technology to provide nuclear fuel to allow the experimental procedure” (KCNA, June 13, 2009). As it turned out, North Korea was caught “red-handed” in 2002 although it took seven years to confess its crime (Reiss and Gallucci, 2005: 142-145). With the official admission, there was no more lingering doubt about the secret HEU program. What was still unclear, however, was the inten-tion of North Korea. Did it plan to cheat all along? If so, it would be a classical case of an “untrustworthy” dictatorship, the North Korean version of Hitler. Or, was it the case of “dictatorial inconsistency” due to a change of mind? That is, after signing the 1994 agreement in good faith, North Korea might have had second thoughts over concerns about the U.S. commitment. Time will tell whether the covert program reflected a consistent North Korean plan to cheat or a sudden change of heart.
4. “Back to the Future”: Bush Version
“We will take this path and it will not be good for you” (Pritchard, 2007: 37). After such a warning, Pyongyang expelled IAEA inspectors, withdrew from the NPT, and reprocessed about 8,000 spent fuel rods (Wit et al., 2004: 379). For the next four years, the Bush administration pursued 6-Party Talks with no real progress (DeYoung, 2006: 474). There were two stumbling blocks. First, Washington insisted that North Korea dismantle its nuclear facilities before the U.S. would reciprocate; that is, “take” should come first whereas “give” might come later. Moreover, “what to give” was never specified whereas the list of “what to take” was long. As one official put it, “we’re not going to paint … [a] road map” (The Washington Post, February 16, 2004). According to Pyongyang, however, such demands were “very abnormal.” If it disarmed first before negotiation, Pyongyang would be “empty-handed” (KCNA, October 25, 2002). To accept such demands was to “surrender” (KCNA, August 30, 2003; August 24, 2004). Second, the Bush administration refused to hold bilateral negotiations. Given the North Korean emphasis on bilateralism, the exclusively multilateral approach of the 6-Party Talks was doomed (Pritchard, 2007: 57). As North Korea pointed out, it was “like asking a third person to eat a porridge which we two have made” (KCNA, May 2, 2005). Washington became so rigid that even when Pyongyang announced its imminent nuclear test, officials delivered stern warnings “on the phone” to avoid bilateral contact (Chinoy, 2008: 291).
While 6-Party Talks were going nowhere, Pyongyang warned that it would “use this time 100 percent effectively to strengthen our nuclear deterrence” (Newsweek, May 17, 2004). North Korea meant it. By 2005, North Korea was in “rapid, extensive preparations for a nuclear weapons test” (The New York Times, May 6, 2005). On June 1, 2006, North Korea then “kindly … invite[d] the head of the U.S. delegation … to visit Pyongyang” (KCNA, June 2, 2006). The “kind” invitation was the last gesture for negotiations. On October 3, 2006, North Korea delivered the bombshell that its nuclear test was imminent (KCNA, October 4, 2006). Six days later, it “conducted an underground nuclear test” (KCNA, October 10, 2006), while alluding to a possible negotiation because “Kim Il-sung’s last in-struction” on his deathbed was “the denuclearization of the entire peninsula” (KCNA, October 12, 2006).
Satellite photograph (2002) of Yongbyon nuclear facility, site of North Korea’s 2006 underground test
With a mushroom cloud over North Korea, the failure of the Bush policy became clear. When President Clinton signed the 1994 agreement, North Korea was estimated to have one or two nuclear bombs. The estimation did not change when President Bush took office six years later. While the Bush administration was pursing the fruitless 6-Party Talks that often degenerated into a childish fight of “You go first … No you go first,” North Korea declared itself a nuclear power (KCNA, February 1, 2005), warned its nuclear test, and detonated its nuclear bomb. “By any objective evaluation, the Bush administration’s stated goal of halting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has not been achieved” (Pritchard, 2007: 161). At best, it was “amateurish” (The New York Times, January 21, 2004). At worst, it was an “utter failure” (Chinoy, 2008: 293). President Bush defined his presidency with the “axis of evil” speech. Six years into his administration, however, one of the “axes of evil” conducted a nuclear test. “That’s quite a legacy for a president sworn to keep the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous regimes (The New York Times, September 2, 2006).
The North Korean nuclear test put the ball in Washing-ton’s court. There were, however, other balls to deal with -- the Iraq war. By 2006, the U.S. was bogged down, with no end in sight. As initial public support for the war waned, confident voices of the neocons disappeared. On November 7, 2006, the Bush administration then suffered a severe blow as Democrats gained control of both houses of Congress. Within days, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld resigned. Also, the influence of Vice President Cheney declined. When it became clear that the “Democratic” Senate would not confirm his appointment, John Bolton stepped down from his UN ambassador post. Discouraged by these developments, Robert Joseph planned to resign. As a result, the influence of neocons “rapidly diminished” (Pritchard, 2007: 158).
Under such circumstances, President Bush “suddenly reversed his policy, again” both in form and substance (Wit et al., 2004: 379-380). As far as “substance” was concerned, he decided to revive the 1994 agreement. As far as “form” was concerned, he agreed to bilateral negotiations. After years of deadlock, “in just two days of bilateral meetings,” a deal came (Chinoy, 2008: 320). The final outcome was the “Initial Actions” on February 13, 2007, followed by the “Second-phase Actions” on October 3, 2007. During the “initial phase,” North Korea would “shut down and seal” -- or “freeze” in the terminology of the 1994 agreement -- the Yongbyon facility. In return, the U.S. would arrange the delivery of “50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil.” During the “second phase,” North Korea would provide a “complete” list of its nuclear programs, including “the uranium issue.” Also, “facilities at Yongbyon … are to be disabled” with the eventual dismantlement of “all nuclear facilities.” In return, the U.S. should remove North Korea from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, a step “toward full diplomatic relations.” Finally, Washington would arrange the delivery of 100,000 tons of heavy fuel oil.
The 2007 February/October agreement was a complicated example of “democratic inconsistency.” First, the new agreement became possible because neocons were replaced by those with more moderate views at the White House after the defeat of the Republicans at the 2006 November election. As a result, there were many “new leaders” within the Bush administration who began to voice different ideas from its previous policy (Type II Inconsistency). Second, there were “new circumstances” in late 2006, such as the North Korean nuclear test, a major bogdown in Iraq, the crushing defeat at the November election, and so on (Type III Inconsistency). Finally, President Bush under these circumstances began to have a second thought or “change of mind” in his policy over the North Korean nuclear crisis (Type I Inconsistency). As a result, the 2007 agreement by the Bush administration revealed all three different sources of “democratic inconsistency.”
There were “striking similarities” between the new 2007 agreement and the old 1994 agreement -- a point Democrats and Republicans were quick to make (The Washington Post, 13 February 2007). Democratic Senator Joseph Biden noted that the “new” deal would “take us back to the future” (The New York Times, February 14, 2007). Likewise, conservative magazine National Review asked why the Bush administration “agree[d] to the same framework” which it had killed earlier (National Review, February 14, 2007). When pressed by reporters about the similarity between the two deals, White House spokesman Tony Snow said the new deal was “stronger” because the U.S. was not the only other party to sign it (The New York Times, February 13, 2007). Apparently, it was the same deal with six signatures instead of two.
Exactly how far the Bush administration strayed from the “axis of evil” approach, the “regime change” policy, or even the multilateral principle of 6-Party Talks was best illustrated by criticism from the architects of those earlier policies; that is, the neocons who were furious about the new deal (The Washington Post, April 26, 2008). In particular, John Bolton wrote a series of scathing criticisms. Calling it “a charade” and “a hollow agreement” (The New York Times, February 13, 2007), Bolton argued that the new agreement “contradicts fundamental premises of the president’s policy … for the past six years” (The Washington Post, February 13, 2007). Moreover, it would send “the wrong signal to would-be proliferators” such as Iran -- that is, “If we hold out long enough … eventually [we will] get rewarded” (The New York Times, February 13, 2007). As a result, the 2007 agreement was “what Powell would have loved” (Bolton, 2007: 311). Or, it was “something out of Bill Clinton’s or Jimmy Carter’s playbook” (The Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2008).
As many critics -- whether Democrats or Republicans -- pointed out, the 2007 agreement was the “Bush version” of the 1994 Agreed Framework. The irony is that it had taken six years for President Bush to return to practically the same deal that had existed when he first took office. During the “detour,” there were many “inconsistent” moments, such as the initial policy review that produced the Agreed Framework “on steroids,” its “axis of evil” approach that produced the policy of “regime change,” its emphasis on the multilateral principle of the 6-Party Talks that produced nothing, and finally its decision to go back to the “Bush version” of the original agreement. During the detour, North Korea continued to develop its nuclear arsenal and even exploded a nuclear bomb. Much has been written about the “failure” of the Bush administration in this respect. It is now time to talk about “democratic inconsistency” as well.
Critics may argue that the Bush era is a poor choice for drawing general conclusions about “democratic inconsistency.” After all, it was called the “Bush Revolution” -- a unique period in U.S. foreign policy in which the White House influenced by neocons operated in the traumatic post-9/11 environment (Gordon, 2006: 75). As a result, critics would argue that the Bush case does not really prove “democratic inconsistency.” However, this paper has not intended to provide proof. Rather, the Bush case is used to demonstrate why a democratic government can be inconsistent in its foreign policy. Indeed, debating, proving, or rejecting the proposed theory should wait for a series of “large-N” studies that would hopefully follow. This paper is the beginning of such a long process, not its end.
In the meantime, it is interesting, as well as promising, to note that while Washington was zigzagging, South Korea --another democracy -- was zigzagging in a similar way. For instance, the “conservative” Kim Young-sam government (1993-1998) was unhappy with the 1994 Agreed Framework, which was seen as extending the life of the collapsing North Korean regime (Wit et al., 2004; Pritchard, 2007). With the inauguration of the “liberal” Kim Dae-jung administration, however, things changed rapidly. In particular, Kim’s “sunshine policy” was a dramatic departure from the traditional anti-communist policy of South Korea. Devised by the Kim regime (1998-2003) and inherited by the Roh Moo-hyun government (2003-2008), the “sunshine” policy comes from the famous fairytale about a bet between the sun and the wind to unclothe a traveler. Harsh measures by the wind fail to unclothe the traveler, whereas the warm glow of the sun unclothes the traveler. In a similar way, the proper approach to North Korea is not to use the harsh methods of the wind (e.g. “axis of evil” or “regime change”) but to rely on the warm glow of the sun (thus, “sunshine” policy) so that the traveler will take off his clothes voluntarily (that is, North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons and open itself to the outside world). Based on such a “warm” approach, a historic summit was held between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il on June 14, 2000, followed by another summit between Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il on October 2, 2007. Détente between the two Koreas was in full swing.
In recent years, however, there has been a major turna-round as “conservatives” have come back to power. On the North Korean issue, the policy of the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration (2008-2013) is outlined in the “Pihaek, Gaebang, 3000 Vision,” which annulled the sunshine policy of its predecessors. If North Korea first gives up its nuclear program (Pihaek) and opens up its country to the outside world (Kaebang), then the Lee administration would provide aid to North Korea so that its per capita GNP would reach US$ 3,000 in ten years. According to the Lee administration, this is the only way for “mutual survival and co-prosperity.”
The problem with the “new” vision is that it is actually an old approach that was tried and failed. The idea that North Korea should go first by giving up its nuclear program before economic aid and a security guarantee was tried by the Bush administration until late 2006, when Bush finally reversed his own policy and returned to the 1994 agreement. As a result, the Lee regime is unlikely to achieve within its five-year term what the Bush administration failed to accomplish in six years, especially when we consider that compared to the United States, South Korea has few “carrots” or “sticks” to deal with North Korea. Indeed, it remains to be seen how long the Lee regime will be able to maintain its initially “aggressive” approach to North Korea. A safe bet would be that in the face of a cold response from North Korea and deteriorating relations between the two countries, the Lee administration will find its way to a slightly moderated version of the sunshine policy under a different name, yet without admitting so publicly. Otherwise, the Lee administration will be left “outside the loop” while critical nuclear issue are dealt with bilaterally between the United States and North Korea, especially with the Obama administration unlikely to repeat the “axis of evil” approach of the Bush years. Indeed, with a “new ruling philosophy” in Washington and Seoul, we are likely to witness more “democratic inconsistency” in the coming years.
Hyung-min Joo is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at Korea University, Korea. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, U.S.A. Recent publications include “Visualizing Invisible Hands: The Shadow Economy in North Korea” (2010) and “The Soviet Origin of Russian Chauvinism: Voices from Below” (2008). E-mail: email@example.com.
The publication of this article is supported by a generous grant from Korea University and East Asia Institute. My deepest gratitude goes to those who have provided insightful comments and suggestions, including anonymous reviewers. This is a revised and expanded version of an article that was originally published in Korea Observer.
Recommended citation: Hyung-min Joo, "'Democratic Inconsistency' in the North Korean Nuclear Crisis," The Asia-Pacific Journal, 41-4-10, October 11, 2010.
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