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North Korea

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First colonized by Japan, Korea became a flashpoint of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II. Tensions continued to rise between the Soviet-allied North and the US-allied South, erupting when northern forces crossed the 38th parallel in 1950 and the fierce Korean War began. The US won the support of the United Nations as it intervened in the war. Hostilities finally ended in 1953 with an official demilitarized zone separating North Korea and South Korea but the once-prosperous North was left utterly devastated. The United States has since maintainted a strong military presence in South Korea, a country that has had an increasingly prosperous economy and status as an "Asian Tiger." Meanwhile, North Korea has stagnated in the grip of an especially inward-looking dictatorship headed by Kim Il Sung and then his son Kim Jung Il.

Following the 9/11 attacks in the US, Washington put North Korea on the "axis of evil" list and has since contended that North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons poses a serious threat to the world. The US initially refused to participate in multi-party talks on disarmament – organized by European countries and Asian neighbors as a way to engage North Korea – but later opted to join the six-party negotiations. However, negotiations have repeatedly failed due in part to disagreements between the US and North Korea.

In October 2006, North Korea realized a nuclear test that triggered reactions in the UN. The Security Council imposed Sanctions on Pyongyang and an embargo on military and technological material. This page follows US threats and justifications for intervention, and rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang.

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North Koreans Arm Ethiopians as US Assents (April 7, 2007)

Shortly after successfully pushing for the imposition of strict UN sanctions against Pyongyang, the US allowed Ethiopia to purchase arms from North Korea, in violation of the UN ban. According to the New York Times, the US allowed the deal to take place, because it sees Ethiopia's intervention against the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia as being part of the "war on terror."

Bush's Bellicose Policy on N. Korea (January 4, 2007)

This Asia Times article argues that the Bush administration since taking office in 2001 has caused irreparable damage to US-North Korea relations. Relations deteriorated markedly after the new administration ended the Clinton era policy of rapprochement, favoring instead a hard line, unilateral approach as demonstrated in 2002 when US President George W. Bush labeled North Korea a member of the "axis-of-evil."


Preventing Nuclear War in Korea (October 15, 2006)

By consistently refusing to engage in bilateral talks with North Korea, the Bush administration exacerbates the nuclear crisis, says this ZNet article. The author argues that North Korea actively pursued nuclear technology because of the threat posed by the US large stockpile of nuclear weapons and the "legacy" of US threats to attack with nuclear weapons. If the US and other nuclear powers adhere to their commitment to eliminate their nuclear weapons arsenals under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, then other countries will not feel a great need to develop nuclear technologies.

North Korea Eases the Heat on Iran - For Now (October 11, 2006)

North Korea's nuclear test, reportedly conducted on October 9, 2006, deflects international scrutiny from the Iranian government's nuclear ambitions. This Asia Times article claims that the UN Security Council will not consider any resolution sanctioning Iran's actions when the North Korean regime, as the article argues, engages in blatant acts of provocation. Additionally, the US may increase its military presence in East Asia and decrease US forces in the Persian Gulf. The article concludes that the situation created by North Korea will cause a rift among Iranian politicians - hardliners see it as an opportunity to further Iran's nuclear program while moderates see the increased national security risks and push for the cessation of nuclear activities.

Bush's Tough-Talkin' Korean Bungle (October 10, 2006)

The hostile rhetoric of the Bush administration toward North Korea encouraged Pyongyang to actively develop its nuclear capabilities. By including Kim Jong-il's government in the "axis of evil" and disregarding Iraq's claims that it had no weapons of mass destruction, Washington has fueled the North Korean regime's desire to "protect itself" from a perceived US threat. This Consortium News article concludes that the tough US position toward North Korea since 2002 threatens rather than enhances international peace and security.

US Warns North Koreans about Nuclear Test (October 5, 2006)

This New York Times article reports on the ultimatum Washington issued in response to the North Korean government's announcement that it would conduct a nuclear missile test. Christopher Hill Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs stated that North Korea "can have a future or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both." Following the announcement, the White House urged China to discourage North Korea from this course of action and senior Bush administration officials discussed imposing economic embargoes on the North.

The Axis of Intervention (July 27, 2006)

This Foreign Policy in Focus article cites a growing trend towards unilateral military action as opposed to multilateral diplomacy in solving conflicts. The US and Israel have justified "preventative war" under the "War on Terrorism." Meanwhile, Japan threatens to preemptively attack North Korea, jeopardizing its "peace constitution." This dangerous policy threatens to undermine the institutions of international law and global agreements such as the Geneva Conventions.

US Says No to Talks with North Korea (June 21, 2006)

The United States rejected North Korea's requests for talks, as tensions heighten over a possible North Korean long-range missile test. The US activated its missile defense system while the US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, denounced the request for talks saying, "you don't normally engage in conversations by threatening to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles." (Associated Press)

US Escalating Spy Flights over North Korea (May 1, 2006)

North Korea accused the US of provocation by massively increasing aerial espionage activities over North-Korean territory during high-level inter-Korean talks in Pyongyang in late April 2006. According to this Daily Times article, "US spy planes had flown an average of more than five missions a day over North Korean airspace during April, totalling 160 sorties for the month." It is doubtful that such an escalation will help resolve the problems on the Korean peninsula.


North Korea Nuclear Goals: Case of Mixed Signals (July 25, 2005)

The New York Times takes an in-depth look at the dispute between the US and North Korea over the Asian country's purported weapons of mass destruction. Beginning with the US alerts this year on suspicious activity, the authors chronicle the intelligence steps and missteps in trying to ascertain North Korea's nuclear status and intentions, and the way the experience of the CIA in Iraq has affected its assessments in this case. Stressing the need to avoid an Iraq-style debacle, the article outlines how such assessments are "vulnerable to politics and to the imprecision of intelligence."

North Korea's Leader Says He's Ready to Resume Talks to End Nuclear Standoff (June 18, 2005)

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il has indicated his desire to resolve the nuclear crisis and allow inspectors into his country if the US recognizes North Korean institutions and ends its hostile rhetoric. South Korean sources cite Mr.Kim as saying "if the United States firmly recognizes North Korea as a partner and respects it, North Korea can return to six-party talks." This direct intervention suggests he is "seeking assurances…that [North Korea] would not be attacked first by the United States." (New York Times)

US May Be Trying to Isolate N. Korea (May 28, 2005)

Experts say the US is "gearing up for the next phase" in its dispute with North Korea. The US has suspended a program to recover the remains of its soldiers killed in the Korean war and terminated the contract of a US executive supplying power to the country, in moves designed to "tighten the screws" on the Pyongyang regime. According to the Los Angeles Times, North Korea may interpret this "shutting down [of] anything that is in any way remotely beneficial to North Korea" as a sign that the US administration is "contemplating a preemptive strike."

No Policy Is Not Good Policy (May 23, 2005)

Newsweek writer Fareed Zakaria argues that the US has two conflicting "impulses" on North Korea—regime change and nuclear disarmament—rather than any good policy. China and the US agree that North Korea should not have nuclear weapons, but their disagreements over the Kim Jong Il regime have led to an "international stalemate." This article claims that North Korea is "destined to fail" and that the US should employ "constructive diplomacy" rather than active threats.

US Has Put Food Aid for North Korea on Hold (May 20, 2005)

As tensions rise over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, President George W. Bush has halted all food-aid shipments to the country. Washington defends the move, citing concern over adequate monitoring and delivery of the food-aid program. Critics argue that the US is using food "as a weapon," to deter the country from developing nuclear arms. North Korea has depended on food-aid from the US ever since famines in the mid-1990s killed around 2 million. (Wall Street Journal)

US Is Warning North Koreans on Nuclear Test (May 16, 2005)

After North Korean officials claimed they removed 8,000 spent nuclear reactor fuel rods for "bomb-grade" plutonium processing, the US said for the first time that it would take "punitive action" if Pyongyang conducts a nuclear test. Japan said action would include possible UN sanctions, but US officials failed to give specifics. Imposing sanctions would require the consent of veto-wielding China, which says their government "does not have tangible achievements" in ending North Korea's nuclear program. (New York Times)

Moon's Dance (April 20, 2005)

The US and North Korean governments both have acknowledged the "New York channel," a "back door conduit" for bilateral meetings. This AlterNet article also suggests that conservative media owner Reverend Moon may play a large role in the two countries' relations by meeting officials and investing millions of dollars on both sides. But the true motives of Moon, whose "anti-communist" and "anti-American" sentiments reflect his prophecy that the US will "bow down" to the Unification Church, remain a key question in the ties between Washington and Pyongyang.

Negotiate with North (April 20, 2005)

This Baltimore Sun editorial argues that Washington "got most of what it wanted" with North Korea's nuclear disarmament, and that the rising threats coming from the White House will further push North Korea to arm itself rather than make the regime collapse. By pursuing aggressive policy instead of negotiating, the Bush administration has "put Washington on a collision course not just with Pyongyang but also with America's allies in Asia."

South Korea Rejected US Plan on North (April 16, 2005)

The long-standing military alliance between South Korea and the US once included a plan for "military responses" to a collapse of the Kim Jong Il regime in North Korea. But the South Korean government, anxious to have first priority over what it considers "rightful territory" should North Korea fall, called off the plan by citing "South Korea's sovereignty." (Los Angeles Times)

Doomed to Fail (February 22, 2005)

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter writes in the Baltimore Sun that the Bush administration must separate nonproliferation policies from those of regime change. Using Iraq as an example, Ritter warns that weapons of mass destruction do not serve as a good excuse for military intervention. Iran and North Korea have begun to develop nuclear weapons because of US aggression, he says, and the world could see a "nuclear apocalypse" if the US does not back down.

Rice Urges North Korea to Reconsider Talks (February 10, 2005)

On her first trip to Europe as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice reiterated the Bush administration's attitude towards foreign policy by delivering strong words to North Korea and Iran on their nuclear weapons capabilities. With respect to North Korea, Rice claims that the US is capable of militarily dealing with the threats but that President Bush has "personally offered his assurance" that the US will not do so unless Pyongyang fails to disarm. (Washington Post)

Caught in the Mud: Round Two of Bush vs. North Korea (February 2005)

The Bush administration's hard-line policies towards North Korea have fueled economic isolation, failed to improve the country's human rights record, and led its government to call off six-party talks and declare nuclear capabilities. Rather than focus on regime change, says Foreign Policy In Focus, Washington needs to "use carrots as well as sticks" to halt nuclear proliferation and better integrate North Korea in the economic and political world.


Missile Test Shuts Down and Delays US Shield (December 15, 2004)

The Pentagon persists in its attack on the "axis of evil" with a $10 billion a year missile defense system to respond to a threat from North Korea. The system, a revamped program resembling President Reagan's Star Wars program, intends to "counter North Korean missiles that could be tipped with nuclear, chemical or germ weapons." (Reuters)

The Next War (January 5, 2004)

In "An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror," Washington's hawks Richard Perle and David Frum present an agenda for how to proceed in the "War on Terror." The authors propose a US sponsored regime change in Iran, a military blockade of North Korea, and "economic quarantine" for Syria, and state that France should be treated as an "enemy." (TomPaine)


China's Support for North Korea Lies in its Fear of the United States (September 3, 2003)

According to the Power and Interest News Report, China's policy toward North Korea partly depends on its wish to stop the increasing US influence in East Asia.

Peace: The Real Solution to Famine in North Korea (July 23, 2003)

Christine Ahn argues that five decades of suspended war between the US and North Korea, as well as US-led sanctions against the country, keep North Korea mired in poverty. (ZNet)

Rumsfeld Calls for Regime Change in North Korea (April 23, 2003)

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has circulated a classified discussion paper calling for regime change in North Korea. The paper deviates from State Department plans to disarm Kim Jong-il with diplomacy and its promise not to overthrow his regime. (Daily Telegraph)

US Plan to Bomb North Korea (April 22, 2003)

US has produced a blueprint to bomb Yongbyon if plans to reprocess spent nuclear fuel rods to make atom bombs go ahead, says the Australian. The Pentagon plan would be acted upon if it were deemed that such reprocessing could provide North Korea with enough plutonium for six nuclear weapons by October. (Australian)

More Wars Ahead, Americans Think (April 15, 2003)

According to a New York Times/CBS News Poll, a majority of US citizens thought it was "very or somewhat likely" that the Bush administration would turn its military forces on North Korea, Syria and Iran.

North Korea 'Ready for War' (April 11, 2003)

The result of the US war on Iraq gives other countries the will to take pre-emptive measures to defend their territories. The situation has incited North Korea and Russia to think about military means to defend their national interests. (BBC)

North Korea 'Convinced It's Next' (April 9, 2003)

As the US believes Pyongyang has one or two nuclear bombs and could make several more within six months, North Korea thinks it will be next on Washington's list of targets, says a UN official. (Herald Sun)

Practice to Deceive (March 27, 2003)

This Washington Monthly article argues that the Bush administration sees the invasion of Iraq as a first move to reorder the power structure of the entire Middle East. Undersecretary of State John Bolton, said that after defeating Iraq, the US would "deal with" Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Is North Korea Next? (March 24, 2003)

As the US government prepared its war on Iraq, many people pointed out that North Korea presented a far more imminent threat to US security. This Foreign Policy in Focus article argues that the Bush administration may soon clear up this "inconsistency in its foreign policy by applying its Iraq logic to East Asia."

US Shaping North Korea Sanctions (February 27, 2003)

The Pentagon and the US State Department are developing detailed plans for sanctions against North Korea. The sanctions will include halting the country's weapons shipments and cutting off money sent there by Koreans living in Japan. (New York Times)

Rumsfeld Was on ABB Board During Deal with North Korea (February 24, 2003)

The Swiss-based ABB Company claims that US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was involved with the company when it signed a $200 million contract with Pyongyang to deliver equipment and services for two nuclear power stations in North Korea. (Swissinfo)

UN Gives North Korea One Last Chance (January 7, 2003)

The International Atomic Energy Agency urges North Korea to allow the return of nuclear inspectors or face sanctions by the UN Security Council. Meanwhile the Korean Central News agency warns: "If the US unleashes a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, it will not escape its destruction." (Guardian)



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