The Limits of Diplomacy

A brief history of North Korea’s nuclear intentions:

A little over a decade ago, South Korea’s president at the time, Roh Tae Woo, after two years of intensive diplomacy, managed to hammer out the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Soon afterward it became clear the North was cheating on the agreement. At that point the United States set about doing its own probe of North Korea’s nuclear intentions through a diplomatic foray that was capped by the 1994 Washington-Pyongyang Agreed Framework. When that framework first began to wobble back in 1998 — under suspicion of renewed North Korean nuclear cheating — the Clinton administration resolved to look into North Korea’s nuclear intentions once again, this time through a process designed by William J. Perry, the former secretary of defense. Then, for five straight years, from early 1998 to early 2003, South Korea’s President Kim Dae Jung probed North Korea’s nuclear intentions through his diplomacy-intensive “Sunshine Policy.” During Nobel Peace laureate Kim’s final months in office, Pyongyang was caught once again cheating on its nuclear deals. Instead of scrapping the offending program, North Korea admitted the violation, declared the Agreed Framework dead and pushed its nuclear weapons program into overdrive.

Are we to believe that a deep mystery about North Korea’s true nuclear intentions lies buried within this story line, yet to be unearthed through further diplomatic exploration? The record suggests otherwise. Pyongyang has made it clear it will push its nuclear weapons project overtly when it can — and covertly when it must. With the right enticements, Pyongyang can be persuaded to promise to give up its nuke program. It just can’t be persuaded to actually keep the promise.


Those two grafs are from a Nicholas Eberstadt column in today’s Washington Post. The whole thing is today’s Required Reading.


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