North Korea’s recent diplomatic efforts to engage are not faring too well. To take them in order, the regime first undercut the Abe administration by broadcasting evidence of the exploratory Iijima visit; that faux pas will complicate relations with Japan for as long as Abe is in office, which could be a while. The visit to Beijing by special envoy Choe Ryong-hae showed China and North Korea to be deeply out of synch, with North Korea ignoring Chinese entreaties to send some concrete signal of their willingness to engage on the nuclear issue.
We interpreted the recent approach to South Korea as a way for the North to mollify the Chinese while finessing their demands to actually do something. Nonetheless, we thought Park was right to explore the offer as it might have helped generate movement of some sort. Pyongyang could not pull that off either. The talks were quickly revealed as little more than an effort to resume the cash flow from the South. The North Koreans ultimately offered up a low-level delegation and sought to focus the talks not only on reopening Kumgang and Kaesong but on the ultimately frivolous issue of joint “celebrations” of the 2000 summit.
Now we have the offer of talks to the US, reproduced in full below. The first 350 words of the 750-word proposal are given over to a standard scree accusing the US of fomenting all of the recent trouble. The offer, when it comes, is to hold high-level talks without preconditions. The talks can address “defusing military tensions, replacing the armistice system with peace mechanism and other issues of mutual concern including the building of a “world without nuclear weapons proposed by the U.S.”
The last point is important, because while the North Korean statement says that denuclearization is an objective, the time frame for achieving it lies over a very distant horizon. (“The legitimate status of the DPRK as a nuclear weapons state will go on and on without vacillation whether others recognize it or not until the whole Korean Peninsula is denuclearized and the nuclear threats from outside are put to a final end.”) Indeed, the North Koreans put the onus back on the US, suggesting that we will need to put things on the table before seeing any reciprocal action from Pyongyang (“The U.S. should stop nuclear threats and blackmail and all forms of provocations including “sanctions” against the DPRK, before urging it to show first its sincerity regarding the will for denuclearization to open the phase for dialogue.”)
What is the US likely to make of this offer? By chance, Glyn T. Davies, the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, gave a speech last week at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars that we also reproduce below. Davies tells the US side of the story, but also recounts in some detail the steps leading up to the Leap Year deal of 2012, including three rounds of direct bilateral talks (New York in July 2011, Geneva in October, and Beijing in late February 2012, following Kim Jong-il’s death in December). North Korea committed to suspending nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and both uranium and plutonium enrichment at its Yongbyon nuclear complex and promised to allow the return of international inspectors to monitor compliance. The United States offered security guarantees and food aid; although Davies denied that the aid was linked to the nuclear issue, you can draw your own conclusions. No sooner had this agreement been reached than the North Koreans decided to test it by attempting a satellite launch, leaving the US little choice but to walk away (including from the “non-linked” food aid).
What we have now is an offer that is less promising than what we had in 2012, and one that is loaded with poison pills. These include talks “without preconditions” that effectively would acknowledge North Korea’s nuclear status and conditions for a real commitment to denuclearization that appear to include lifting of multilateral sanctions, renouncing our commitment to extended deterrence and even the denuclearization of the United States.
Since the North Koreans have allowed us to set the venue and date of the talks, it would be appropriate to convene low-level talks in New York or Washington to see if anything has in fact changed; the Park administration did not ultimately pay any price that we can see by going one round with the North Koreans. If anything, the fiasco made the real state of play transparent. But we simply can’t see anything at all in Pyongyang suggesting that something has clicked. The North Korean offer is a complete non-starter.
DPRK Proposes Official Talks with U.S.
Pyongyang, June 16 (KCNA) — The spokesman for the National Defence Commission (NDC) of the DPRK issued the following crucial statement on Sunday:
The present U.S. administration is now asserting that the development of the situation depends on the DPRK, urging the DPRK to show the will for denuclearization first and stop “provocation” and “threats” in order to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. is misleading the public opinion and deceiving the world, trying to give impression that the DPRK is to blame for the tensions that have so far mounted on the peninsula.
The present south Korean authorities that have been accustomed to sycophancy and submission and the forces following the U.S. are dancing to its tune.
In this regard the NDC of the DPRK clarifies the following crucial stand upon authorization:
We state to the world once again that it is none other than the U.S. which has steadily strained the situation on the Korean Peninsula century after century and decade after decade.
It was the U.S. which provoked the war of aggression on the Korean Peninsula in the 1950s and it is again the U.S. which has systematically scrapped the Korean Armistice Agreement for the past six decades after the end of the war.
Entering into the first decade of the new century, the U.S. has persistently tried to ignite a war against the DPRK again.
From December last year, the U.S. has pulled up the DPRK, describing its legitimate and just satellite launch as a long-range missile launch and its military measures for self-defence to cope with the U.S. open aggression moves as sort of “provocation”. This fully discloses its nature as the worst provoker and aggressor.
The gangster-like resolution on “sanctions” which the U.S. masterminded and all the hostile acts that have been intensified following the adoption of the resolution were an intolerable and serious provocation against the army and people of the DPRK.
There is a limit to patience. The U.S. should no longer cling to acts of misleading the public opinion and deceiving the world while vociferating about the non-existent “provocation” and “threats”.
It will be a foolish calculation for the U.S. to think that its arbitrary practices reminding one of a thief crying “stop the thief” will work on the bright world today.
We state to the world once again that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is an invariable will and resolve of the army and people of the DPRK.
The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was behests of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il and a policy task which the party, state, army and people of the DPRK have to carry out without fail.
The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula does not only mean “dismantling the nuclear weapons of the north”. It is the complete one that calls for denuclearizing the whole peninsula including south Korea and aims at totally ending the U.S. nuclear threats to the DPRK.
As for the possession of nuclear weapons by the DPRK, it is the strategic option taken by the DPRK for self-defence to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
The legitimate status of the DPRK as a nuclear weapons state will go on and on without vacillation whether others recognize it or not until the whole Korean Peninsula is denuclearized and the nuclear threats from outside are put to a final end.
Therefore, the U.S. should stop nuclear threats and blackmail and all forms of provocations including “sanctions” against the DPRK, before urging it to show first its sincerity regarding the will for denuclearization to open the phase for dialogue.
We propose senior-level talks between the authorities of the DPRK and the U.S. to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region.
If the U.S. has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the U.S. mainland and the region, it should not raise precondition for dialogue and contact.
The talks can have broad and in-depth discussions on defusing military tensions, replacing the armistice system with peace mechanism and other issues of mutual concern including the building of a “world without nuclear weapons” proposed by the U.S.
The U.S. can set the venue and date of the talks to its convenience.
Consistent is the stand of the DPRK to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the region.
If the U.S. truly wants to realize a “world without nuclear weapons” and bring detente, it should positively respond to the DPRK’s bold decision and good intention, not missing the opportunity.
All the future developments entirely depend on the responsible option of the U.S., which has strained the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
“North Korea: Diplomatic Prospects for the Months Ahead”
Remarks by Ambassador Glyn T. Davies
Special Representative for North Korea Policy
2013 Washington Forum on Korea
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Friday, June 14, 2013
North Korea-also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK-has been no stranger to the headlines over the past year. Of late, the reason hasn’t been the extreme North Korean threats of the type we saw this Spring. Instead, it’s largely been driven by Pyongyang’s recent diplomatic outreach – what some label its “charm offensive” — in the region. Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen North Korea shift-in timeworn fashion, for those of you who have been following this over the years-out of yet another classical provocation phase and into engagement mode.
It made overtures to Japan with, thus far, few results. A short while later, it dispatched a special envoy to Beijing, the highest-level DPRK official to visit China since Kim Jong Un’s uncle Chang Song Taek last August. After the visit, the two sides characterized the result in differing terms.
On the inter-Korean front, having first created a crisis over the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, the DPRK then put out feelers to the Republic of Korea to discuss that and other issues. We’ve seen in recent days the difficulty the ROK has faced in overcoming North Korean posturing in order to start up those talks.
Beyond its three immediate neighbors, media reports state the North is willing to engage (quote) “relevant parties” (end quote) in dialogue, including, perhaps, in a Six-Party format.
Few of us, of course, forget that up until a few weeks ago, North Korea was nearly at the apogee of an almost unprecedented, multi-month stream of provocative threats and actions that spiked tensions on the Korean Peninsula to levels unseen since the 1990s. The North’s graphic threats of nuclear strikes on the territory of the United States and Republic of Korea, its announcement it would restart its Yongbyon nuclear complex, and its shutdown of Kaesong are just a few of the highlights.
And all of this occurred against the backdrop of the most provocative and dangerous of all of North Korea’s recent steps: its detonation four months ago, on February 12, of a nuclear weapon.
Sadly, we have all been here before with North Korea. That nuclear blast, North Korea’s third, defied existing UN Security Council prohibitions and brought down upon Pyongyang additional, tougher international sanctions. And of course we need only look back to December 12 of last year to find another of the North’s aggressive steps: its launch of an object into orbit using ballistic missile technology, an action that earned North Korea unanimous censure by the UN Security Council, and new sanctions.
As the DPRK has spurned its international responsibilities and commitments and ratcheted up its rhetoric, the international community has stood up, forging a remarkable consensus against North Korea’s dangerous, destabilizing actions. Over 80 countries and international organizations issued statements criticizing North Korea’s nuclear test.
The world is wise to the increasing threat North Korea poses to regional and global peace and stability; to international norms of behavior on everything from arms proliferation to human rights; and, indeed, to the very challenge championed by President Obama-and embraced by so many-of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons.
The United States has made clear that North Korea has a choice. We have offered Pyongyang an improved relationship with the United States and our help with its integration into the international community, provided North Korea demonstrates a willingness to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and address other concerns.
When did we do that? How did we do that? Starting in mid-2011 we invested nearly a year in engaging the North to explore a new future. But the DPRK responded by rebuffing our offer of a new relationship-and has since continued to punctuate its response with the missile launches, the nuclear test, and the yearlong cavalcade of threats.
Let me just spend a couple of minutes on this. It’s worth backing up to recall promising times and exploring in a bit more detail the series of U.S.-North Korea engagements that started in Summer 2011 and eventually culminated in what’s called the “Leap Day Understanding” of February 29, 2012. I’ll then talk briefly about what scuttled that deal, a useful reference point to some concluding thoughts on U.S. policy toward North Korea and diplomatic prospects for the months ahead.
The Path to “Leap Day”
Now, everyone in this room knows that when he came to office in 2009, President Obama directed his Administration to engage North Korea if it demonstrated a willingness to fulfill its commitments. In the months that followed, however, the DPRK responded with a series of provocations. It launched a long-range missile. It declared it would reverse disablement steps at its nuclear complex. It kicked out monitors from the International Atomic Energy Agency. It announced its withdrawal from the Six-Party Talks. And, in May 2009, for the second time, it tested a nuclear device, firmly establishing itself as the only country to test nuclear weapons in the 21st century.
That same year, North Korea also ended a U.S. food assistance program that was to provide a half-million metric tons of nutritional support for needy North Koreans. U.S. and international personnel were ejected from the country after just one-third of the food had been distributed.
And then it got even worse. North Korea in 2010 deepened the sense of crisis. It sank an ROK naval vessel, killing dozens of sailors. It shelled a South Korean island, taking the lives of both civilians and service people. And finally, Pyongyang revealed to the world a uranium enrichment program. North Korea chose defiance over our offer of diplomacy.
By mid-2011, however, Pyongyang appeared prepared to enter a period of serious diplomatic engagement, and the United States was quick to respond. We engaged the DPRK in three rounds of talks on three continents over the course of nine months. The purpose of this effort was to explore a possible resumption of the Six-Party Talks by concluding a bilateral understanding between the U.S. and DPRK. The first round took place in New York in July 2011, the second in Geneva in October, and the third and final in Beijing in late February 2012-just a few short months after Kim Jong Il’s death the preceding December.
The Beijing talks and resulting “Leap Day Deal” appeared successful in establishing confidence-building measures. It was modest and short, and it was not meant to cover everything. Instead, it was intended to test each side’s sincerity. North Korea committed to suspending nuclear tests, long-range missile launches, and both uranium and plutonium enrichment at its Yongbyon nuclear complex. It also promised to allow the return of international inspectors to monitor North Korean compliance with its nuclear pledge.
For our part, the United States pledged security guarantees. And at North Korean insistence, we also at the same time announced the start-up of a new nutritional assistance program.
But in a dramatic twist just two weeks later, in mid-March, North Korea scuttled the deal. Pyongyang announced its intent to launch a satellite to mark the mid-April centennial of founder Kim Il Sung’s birth. Within hours, all five of the other Six-Party states-the ROK, Japan, China, Russia and the U.S.-had condemned the DPRK’s announcement. In the days that followed, dozens of other nations joined us.
But despite a month of intensive public and private calls on the DPRK not to proceed with the launch, including strong efforts from China, Pyongyang went ahead with its attempt on April 13, using ballistic missile technology despite express prohibitions by the UN Security Council.
The Downward Spiral
The launch did more than put an end to almost nine months’ of American diplomatic effort. It also, sadly, ended humanitarian outreach we had been working on for quite some time. We had hoped to re-start the process of providing food assistance to vulnerable North Koreans- the very young and very old, who no longer get what they need from the regime. This was not because we linked humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. Rather, it was because we could not trust Pyongyang to live up to its end of the nutritional assistance deal.
At the international level, the launch triggered unanimous censure from the UN Security Council. With unprecedented speed, the Council-over the course of a weekend-adopted a strong statement condemning the launch and expanding existing UN sanctions.
By reneging on its commitments announced on February 29, North Korea not only spurned an improved relationship with the United States and a path back to Six-Party talks, but also made its priorities clear. It was choosing, yet again, confrontation over diplomatic collaboration and isolation over engagement.
And we saw this with increasing clarity over the past year, as I noted at the beginning of my remarks. North Korea’s flagrant, ongoing violations of UN Security Council resolutions; its December 12 rocket launch and February 12 nuclear test; and its stream of bellicose rhetoric and provocative actions have all dug the DPRK deeper into its international hole.
U.S. Policy Toward North Korea
So where does this leave United States policy? With a redoubled resolve to continue our principled approach to the North Korean challenge.
First and foremost, the United States will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state. We will not reward the DPRK for the absence of bad behavior. We will not compensate the DPRK merely for returning to dialogue. Doing either would only reinforce North Korea’s extortionist habits. We have also made clear that U.S.-DPRK relations cannot fundamentally improve without sustained improvement in inter-Korean relations and human rights. Nor will we tolerate North Korea provoking its neighbors. These positions will not change.
Second, the United States will not engage in talks merely for the sake of talks. Rather, what we want are negotiations that address the real issue at hand: North Korea’s nuclear program. Authentic and credible talks will first require a serious, meaningful change in North Korea’s priorities demonstrating that Pyongyang is prepared to meet its commitments and obligations to achieve the core goal of the September 2005 Joint Statement: the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.
Some question the importance we place on the nuclear issue. North Korea says it will no longer even talk about it, so why do we insist it must not merely talk about it, but act? Because North Korea’s advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs constitute a serious, growing, and unacceptable threat not just to our national security, but to the security of our allies, the stability of the region, and the global nonproliferation regime.
Ultimately, it can only be through the verifiable denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner that we-the United States, our partners in the Six-Party process, and the entire international community -will be able to durably address this global threat in any meaningful way.
Recognizing that this is not just a bilateral U.S.-DPRK issue, but a much broader one requiring a multilateral solution, a third key principle is our commitment to close and expanded cooperation with our allies Japan and South Korea-as well as with our partners China and Russia-to address the joint challenge presented by North Korea.
The U.S., ROK, and Japan share democratic values, a commitment to peace and stability in Northeast Asia, and a dedication to international cooperation and the rule of law. These are shared approaches essential in addressing the many aspects of the DPRK problem.
U.S.-ROK and U.S.-Japan bilateral cooperation, as well as close trilateral coordination, has been essential not only in responding to North Korea’s provocations and threats, but also in addressing a range of other issues. So it is now more crucial than ever that the United States, Japan, and the ROK continue to work together-along with China and Russia-to prevent North Korea from exploiting any perceived differences in our unified position.
A special word is in order on U.S.-China cooperation on North Korea. It has become a timeworn truism to say that Beijing has the central role to play on North Korea, given its economic, diplomatic, and historical ties with that country. Ultimately, there are no shortcuts to a solution to this problem that do not involve China – centrally involve China.
Because of that, we’ve enhanced our consultations with the PRC-whether at the UN, here in Washington, in Beijing or, at the seniormost level, just a week ago at Sunnylands in California.
Both the United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of cooperating to make progress toward our shared goal of a denuclearized North Korea. This is why you saw two rounds of important new UN sanctions in January and March of this year. It’s why you saw Ambasador Wu Dawei, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, visit Washington in April, and why I frequently travel to Beijing. And it why you’ve seen North Korea figure so prominently in so many of our recent high-level bilateral diplomatic engagements with China-most dramatically at last week’s summit between our respective leaders.
We have every expectation that Beijing will use its special relationship with the DPRK to encourage Pyongyang to choose a different path. And we very much look forward to continuing to work with our Chinese partners on this in the months ahead.
Lastly, I’d highlight one other key principle, second-to-none in importance. For those of you who have been following the news in recent months, it needs no elaboration: our steadfast commitment to the defense of our homeland and the defense of our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan-including through our nuclear umbrella and our conventional forces.
Diplomatic Prospects for the Months Ahead
I’d like to talk finally and briefly about diplomatic prospects for the period ahead. Up until late last year, there had been much talk about change occurring in the DPRK under Kim Jong Un, the world’s youngest leader. But despite his fresh image and promising initial rhetoric of a better future for North Korea’s people, Kim Jong Un’s changes have proven to be illusory-stylistic, not substantive.
He appears to have rooted his vision for his country firmly in the past: a small, privileged hereditary elite lavishing vast resources on long-range missile and nuclear projects-as well as luxuries for their own gratification-at the expense of the regime’s long-suffering subjects.
Indeed, we remain gravely concerned about the grievous human rights situation in the DPRK and about the well-being of the North Korean people, who bear the brunt of their government’s decision to perpetuate its self-impoverishing policies.The DPRK’s economy is largely stagnant. Its health-care infrastructure is abysmal. One in three North Korean children is chronically malnourished.
Reports suggest the regime has locked away between 100 and 200,000 citizens in a vast network of political prisons, where inmates are subjected to forced labor and inhuman conditions. Whole families have been condemned-in most cases without trial-when one member is condemned.
The courageous and charismatic Shin Dong-hyuk, whose life story is chronicled in Blaine Harden’s excellent book, Escape from Camp 14, was born in one of the most infamous political prison camps and spent the first 23 years of his life there. He was tortured and subjected to forced labor. He was forced to witness-at the age of 14-the execution of his mother and his brother. Addressing human rights in North Korea remains an essential component of U.S. policy going forward.
And while we have not yet seen North Korea take action to improve conditions for its citizens, we have seen the international community take strong measures to increase pressure on Pyongyang to improve its human rights record. The UN Human Rights Council recently established an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate North Korea’s widespread, systemic human rights violations. The resolution that established the Commission was introduced by Japan and the European Union, with the co-sponsorship of the United States, South Korea and many other nations.
This united step by the international community is meant to continue to sharpen the choices facing the North Korean regime. It must be said that we would welcome meaningful measures-economic and otherwise-that would improve the lives of the people of North Korea. Frankly, one way for Pyongyang to do this would be to undertake good-faith efforts to denuclearize, something that would offer tangible benefits to all parties involved.
We’ve been consistent on this score. Successive U.S. administrations have made clear we are open to improved relations with the DPRK if it is willing to take concrete actions to live up to its international obligations and commitments-though given the events of this past year, the bar for a resumption of meaningful engagement is certainly now higher.
President Obama made this abundantly clear during a major speech he gave in November in Burma. In a passage directed at Pyongyang, he said: “…let go of your nuclear weapons and choose the path of peace and progress. If you do, you will find an extended hand from the United States of America”
Just last month in his joint press conference with President Park in Washington, the President came back to this theme, exhorting Pyongyang to (quote) “take notice of events in countries like Burma, which, as it reforms, is seeing more trade and investment and diplomatic ties with the world.”
If North Korea ultimately wants to takes steps to join the international community, it needs to refrain from actions that threaten the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, and comply with its commitments in the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and its obligations under United Nations resolutions to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.
Ultimately, we will judge the DPRK not by its words, but by its actions-the concrete actions it takes to address the core concerns of the international community, ranging from human rights to nuclear proliferation. North Korea’s choice is stark. Meaningful steps toward denuclearization can lead to a path of peace, prosperity, and improved ties with the world, including with the United States. But if Pyongyang instead elects to push forward with its illicit WMD programs and continues to engage in destabilizing provocations, it will face only further international isolation-no matter how many “charm offensives” it launches.
We hope Pyongyang will make the right choice-for the sake of the North Korean people, for the sake of all Koreans, North and South, for the sake of the increasingly important Northeast Asia region, and for the greater good of our ever-more globalized, interconnected world.