Towards a New Korea Policy for the United States
Recommendations by the June 15th Korean American Committee
for Peace and Unification of Korea, March 6, 2009
“And so to all
other peoples and governments who are watching …….know that America
is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future
of peace and dignity.”
concerned Americans of Korean descent working for greater friendship between the
United States and Korea as well as for a peaceful unification of Korea,
we are deeply moved by President Obama’s above message in his inaugural address.
Koreans came to the US,
and became citizens of this newly adopted land, thereby becoming Korean Americans. We were educated and disciplined in Korea and have been tempered and nurtured in the
US. We suffered from painful internecine war, have been
living through agonies and sadness of ten million separated family members (many
of us still are separated from family members in North Korea) and struggle for unification
of the divided Korea. Therefore, Korean
Americans have first-hand experience and sentiments of the motherland people,
and have deeper understanding of its past and recent history and aspirations.
would like to present our honest and sincere opinion, and recommendations for
the US and peace in East Asia to the Obama Administration and the US Congress.
As historical background, we are also attaching three essays of a Korean
American’s observations and insights on the US-Korea relations and two ‘Korea Policy
Recommendation’ submitted to the Clinton Administration in1999.
II. Three Essential
1) New Perspectives on North Korea
After over half a century, it is
time to realize that
disregard, malign neglect, belligerent
isolation, ambivalent engagement and
regime change policy of the US
toward North Korea
have all failed. What is needed at this time is
a fundamental change in the US
leaders’ perception on and approach to North Korea, and
deal with it as is. A specialist on Korean peninsula wrote, “North Korea’s negative image as ‘uncooperative,’ ‘untrustworthy,’ or ‘deceitful’
is a devil of America’s
own creation. The US
became a victim to the devil of its own creation.”
From North Korea’s
perspective, North Koreans have been living in their
divided half of Korea
with the South defining the North as the main enemy and
under military and nuclear threat of
for over half a century. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have died
of famine; millions more suffer poverty
and despair out of isolation.
It can be said that US policy of animosity has in a way brought out a nuclear North
The US leaders may
need to look back why the 1994 Framework
Agreement with North Korea
did not materialize. The Obama administration should be ready to reaffirm the spirit of the US-DPRK Joint Communiqué of October 12,
2000, in which both governments pledged “to make every effort in the future to
build a new relationship free from past enmity.”
The US is now at a crossroad of opportunity to reformulate a fundamental change in its policy and alter the underlying nature of US-North Korean relations: from confrontation to
dialogue and engagement, from regime change to mutual respect and recognition.
2) Ending the Korean War
Since 1974 North Korea had
proposed a peace treaty and normalize its relationship with the US. The US, however maintained policy
of disregard and neglect to North Korea’s
plea. It was only when North Korea was suspected of pursuing nuclear weapons programs that the US could no longer afford to ignore it. This situation led the US to sign the 1994 Agreed Framework.
As agreed, North Korea
froze its nuclear reactors. However, construction
of the LWR power plants that the US pledged had not progressed on schedule. The US did not move toward
normalization of political and economic relations either.
meanwhile did not collapse, as anticipated by US officials, and the Clinton administration
changed its containment to an engagement policy belatedly in late1999.
The year 2000 saw significant progresses: the first
ever North-South Korea Summit meeting on June 15 and the US-DPRK Communiqué of
October 12. Secretary of State M.
Albright made a historic visit to Pyongyang
and paved the path for a summit meeting between Bill Clinton and Kim Jong Il. With George W. Bush as the next president however,
fledgling engagement policy backpedaled to harsh containment policy thereafter.
The Agreed Framework was scrapped after James Kelly of the State
Dept. visited Pyongyang
in October 2002, a month after Japan’s
Pyongyang Declaration envisioning normalization with North Korea.
its plutonium program in 2003 and test launched a long range missile and did
nuclear test in 2006. This
repercussions by North Korea
has been partly the result of measly US implementation of the agreed
items in the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. Subsequently the Bush administration had changed
its policy of regime change to bilateral dialogue in the last two years of his
From the North
Korean perspectives, in view of their past dealings with the US, it may be impossible for them to give up their weapons of
deterrence, in the absence of a peace treaty ending the Korean War formally. It is about time the US
plays a leadership role in negotiating a peace treaty so that a new era of peace,
disarmament, reconciliation and cooperation can begin
in earnest on the Korean peninsula. A peace treaty is one
of the provisions in the Sept. 19, 2005 Joint Statement, not to mention
the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement.
3) Source of Problems:
Division of Korea
The source of all the problems arising form the Korean peninsula is the division of the country . Overcoming
the division and achieving unification is a civic
religion to Koreans of both sides and overseas. The South
Korean public will support a bold effort of the US to
engage the North. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is
likely to pursue close relations with the US over
confrontation with the North. On
the contrary, if the US coerces
North Korea to the brink of military
attack, the South Korean public sentiment will be against the US, as shown in the case of former South Korean
President Kim Young-Sam during the Clinton
era, when a war nearly broke out.
the crisis in Iraq
and Afghanistan, the US still has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea. The American military presence - at an annual cost of billions of dollars for the US taxpayers -- is a drain in US
defense spending. Phased
withdrawal of US troops should be a part of the disarmament process in the Korean
peninsula. The US may need to sidestep so
that South and the North can revert
to their own process of reconciliation and
cooperation, without the direct
involvement of the US
confounding triangulation of problems.
Diplomatic Relation with North
President Obama should send an envoy of
the highest level to Pyongyang soon to pursue direct negotiations with North Korea, in a step
towards a comprehensive new deal covering the resolution of security,
political, economic issues on the Korean peninsula that underlie nuclear issue.
It should start with a simple step: an unconditional offer to exchange liaison offices
and end the Korean War formally. The envoy should discuss earliest possible summit meeting
with Kim Jong Il. It will install trust between the parties and insure the
prospect for future roadmap of relations between the two
In return for a new political, economic, and strategic relationship
with Washington, Pyongyang needs to agree to satisfy international norms of
behavior regarding proliferation matters along with nuclear and missile tests, and then move to eliminate such programs of
international concern. Fostering sufficient mutual trust between the two will encourage North Korea to
forgo its nuclear arsenal pursuant to the will of the late Kim Il Sung on the eventual denuclearization.
Korea nuclear issue already
has agreed-on solution formula that it can attain a rather immediate
achievement. The Obama administration has a chance to make history by ending the
60-year conflict that divides the Korean peninsula, and reversing an isolated nation from the
global community thereby fostering peace in the US, East Asia and for the Korean
people of the North-South and including over 2 million Korean Americans.
Signing of Peace Treaty
countries should initiate process of ending the Korean War. A declaration of ending Korean
War should be signed by the US, North
and South Korea, and China. An agreement should be worked out among North Korea, South
Korea and the U.S. for mutual
arms reductions in the Korean peninsula. The
U.S. objective of
dismantling North Korean nuclear and chemical weapons programs and missile
system can also be attained within the scope of this measure.
reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and to improve the atmosphere for
further diplomatic talks aimed for a negotiated settlement towards signing
a peace treaty, it is suggested that all parties concerned – DPRK, ROK and the
US -- suspend all military-related activities that are seen by the others as
being provocative and threatening.
The earliest possible summit meeting with Kim Jong Il is
highly desirable in view of the unique North Korean political system. At the summit, an agreement
on the road map can be concluded, which would then be subject to Six-Party approval. There should be a commitment on the establishment
of full diplomatic relations as Pyongyang dismantles its fuel-fabrication
plant, reprocessing facility and reactor at Yongbyon. Korean peace treaty and abandonment of nuclear weapon program before the end of Obama's first
term should also be committed.
on the United Nations human rights
issue should also be addressed at the meeting.
Obama can also encourage dialogue between the North and South in tandem with
the inter-Korea 1992 Basic Agreement, June15, 2000 and October.4, 2007 Joint
Declarations. The US should also encourage bilateral talks with Japan to implement the 2002 Pyongyang
Declaration on normalization of relations between Japan
and North Korea.
4. Strict Implementation by Action for Action
Allthe agreed items in the previous Joint Statements at the Six-Party Talks and
any other future agreements should be carried out by “action for action”
principle, such as the beginning of construction of conventional
power plants as North Korea
dismantles its nuclear programs and begins to turn over its nuclear material
and weapons. North Korea should
finalize the process of dismantling
all nuclear facilities and materials and clear histories
of produced plutonium, HEU and Syrian connection matters.
5. A Regional Security Organization
Thereshould be a conference among the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, Japan for the purpose of establishing a
North East Asia Security Organization as envisaged in the September 19, 2005 Joint
Statement. The new organization can be
assigned to facilitate international arrangements commensurate with the
Korean unification and further to stipulate principles and procedures for
the maintenance of peace in Northeast Asia.
The 60-year-old division of Korea has
been inflicting immeasurable inhumane tribulations to the Korean
people. Yet it is the Koreans themselves who
have to strive to achieve
view of closely tangled tripartite relations, an earnest full engagement with North Korea by the US is the elixir of solution. From the start a comprehensive engagement, embracing the direct bilateral dialogue while coordinating the 6-Party
Talks members, will lead to
fruitful outcome. The Obama administration should invest serious resources for the goal, and not repeat
the mistakes of the preceding administrations.
The US steps could be withheld
or reversed if Pyongyang does not
follow through on its commitments. Between the US
and North Korea,
which would be able to take risks without significantly jeopardizing their
national security? The US
would be with a much greater margin of safety. For the North, it is a matter of survival or
extinction. Even in pursuing our own national interest, if it is not based on the international justice
and moral value, it will quickly lose respect and support of other countries as it did in the immediate past administration.
We all saw our demise in Vietnam
because we failed to understand
Vietnamese history and nationalism.
So are the Iraq of today
and possibly Afghanistan.
Deeper understanding of Korea's
history and the nature of its national sentiment would lead the US to
enjoy a genuinely beneficial relationship with the Korean people. President Obama and Vice President Biden have the opportunity to
usher in a new chapter in the history of Northeast Asia. As president Obama said:
“We are ready to lead once more,” and yes, we can!