Thomas L. Wilborn

April 3, 1995

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


The United States and the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (DPRK) signed an unprecedented framework agreement in October 1994 to halt the latter s nuclear weapons program, establish low-level diplomatic contacts between Washington and Pyongyang, and reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula. In this study, the author argues that it also places the United States, South Korea s historic ally and partner with South Korea in the Combined Forces Command, in a new and unfamiliar role as mediator of conflict on the peninsula.

The author contends that the responsibility for imple-menting this complicated agreement, which involves sensitive political issues for all nations involved, falls primarily on the United States. He contends that U.S. performance of its responsibilities under the agreement will profoundly affect the strategic environment of Northeast Asia.

SSI is pleased to offer this monograph as a contribution to the ongoing dialogue on U.S. strategy in Asia and the Pacific.

                              WILLIAM W. ALLEN
                              Colonel, U.S. Army
                              Acting Director
                              Strategic Studies Institute


On October 21, 1994, the United States and the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (DPRK) signed an Agreed Framework which is designed to provide the procedure to resolve the dispute over North Korea s nuclear weapons program. If and when successfully executed, it will satisfy U.S. negotiating objectives, but, in the process, propel the United States into the center of North-South conflict. For South Korea, in addition to the explicit benefits of the provisions, it will facilitate more frequent and meaningful communication between the two halves of the now divided peninsula and a gradual, rather than chaotic, path to unification.

Generally, the Agreed Framework obligates North Korea to:

An international consortium led by the United States (Korea Energy Development Organization [KEDO]), with South Korea and Japan paying most of the costs, will have provided North Korea with:

The United States and the DPRK each agreed to:

As of the end of February 1995, Pyongyang has complied scrupulously with technical aspects of the agreement, but has resisted the resumption of dialogue with Seoul. It also was threatening to reject the contract with KEDO, presumably to be presented in April, which will specify South Korean LWR power plants.

Washington s obligations to implement the agreement would be challenging under the best of circumstances, when all the principal parties shared a broad political consensus. But only a limited consensus exists, with serious differing interpretations of several provisions of the Agreed Framework. Moreover, there may be significant political changes within all of the governments United States, ROK, Japan, China, Russia, and the DPRK involved in carrying out the agreement. Therefore, to see that North Korea s nuclear weapons program is terminated, North- South dialogue is resumed, and all of the other requirements of the Agreed Framework are met, Washington necessarily will be involved in sensitive and extremely difficult negotiations. It must simultaneously be a mediator between the DPRK, a long-time enemy, and the ROK, a long-time ally, and continue to be ally and friend of South Korea. How the United States performs this role will not only affect the global campaign against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, North-South confrontation on the Korean peninsula, and regional stability, but also U.S. credibility among allies everywhere.

To view the complete study in an Adobe Acrobat format, click


SOURCE: US Army Strategic Studies Institute