Council on Foreign Relations,
Washington, DC, October 7, 1998.
Hon. Bill Clinton,
President of the United States of America,
The White House, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. President. We are members of an independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations to examine U.S. policy toward the Korean Peninsula. In this letter we write from our deep concern about the sustainability of U.S. policy after the discovery of what may be an underground nuclear facility in North Korea. At the very least, this development contradicts the American people's expectations of North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework. At worst, it represents an outright violation of the accord and a continuing determination by the DPRK to develop nuclear weapons that would threaten the entire region. The credibility of existing arrangements with Pyongyang has been further undermined by the August 31 launch of a North Korean ballistic missile over Japan, even assuming it was just a missile to launch a satellite. Thus far, negotiations aimed at clarifying North Korean adherence to the Agreed Framework have yielded little. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress is close to eliminating funding for the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), which also could lead to a collapse of the Agreed Framework.
In our opinion, the Agreed Framework is a necessary--but not sufficient--component of a policy designed to enhance stability on the peninsula. Unless and until it is proven that North is violating the accord, it should remain a centerpiece of U.S. policy. Although the Agreed Framework does not, in itself, address the larger threat represented by North Korean terrorism, missiles, conventional weapons, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), we recognize that these issues will be more difficult to address if we unilaterally dismantle the Agreed Framework and attempt to start over from square one. We also recognize that any unilateral U.S. move that precipitates the collapse of the Agreed Framework would seriously complicate our relations with Seoul and Tokyo. Moreover, we note that an end to the Agreed Framework would allow North Korea to accelerate any nuclear weapons program by utilizing the facilities at Yongbyon, which are now effectively capped by the bilateral agreement.
However, in view of the deteriorating situation, we urge you to consider the following steps:
1. Order a careful examination of current U.S. policy, in light of new circumstances, to include: our interpretations of North Korean intentions; the effectiveness of our coordination with allies; our long-term policy objectives; integration of our disparate negotiating instruments with Pyongyang into a more comprehensive approach; and a consideration of our posture, should the North Korean nuclear effort remain active or the Agreed Framework collapse. This examination should be completed within 60 days.
2. As part of the examination, it is essential to clarify North Korean intentions with regard to the suspect underground facility and adherence to the Agreed Framework. Future funding for KEDO, in our view, should therefore be conditioned on: North Korean clarification of the underground facility and any other suspect sites, with full inspections as required; completion of all canning of the fuel rods at Yongbyon; and a firm deadline for completion of both requirements, set sometime before delivery of FY 99 Heavy Fuel Oil is completed in October 1999.
3. Appoint a senior person (or persons) from outside government to lead this examination of U.S. policy. This person should have the stature necessary to establish bipartisan support in the Congress and to work closely with our South Korean and Japanese allies on a common approach. This senior person should convey directly to those at the center of power in Pyongyang the seriousness with which the United States views recent North Korean actions and should test North Korean actions and should test North Korean willingness to engage in more constructive approaches to our long-standing confrontation.
4. If North Korean adherence to the Agreed Framework is credibly reaffirmed, then the re-examination of longterm U.S. policy on the peninsula should also consider a decision to eliminate on a case by case basis those trade sanctions on North Korea implemented under the Trading with the Enemy Act. This step would complement Seoul's approach to the North, which is designed to expose North Korea to external forces for gradual change by allowing a limited degree of private cultural and economic interaction with the North. It must be emphasized, however, that such moves are unthinkable without Pyongang's clarification of its adherence to the Agreed Framework, and that failure on North Korea's part to do so will lead eventually to a collapse of the accord in any case.
In sum, we believe: (a) that the actions of North Korea and mounting opposition to the Agreed Framework could lead quickly to a new crisis; (b) that recent developments require a re-examination of our approach to North Korea; (c) that the Agreed Framework shall remain the cornerstone of building a new relationship with North Korea only if North Korea can provide access to demonstrate that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.
We believe the gravity of the situation requires no less than these steps, and that the longterm viability of U.S. policy toward the peninsula will be put at risk by short-term fixes designed only to obtain funding for the Agreed Framework.
Morton Abramowitz, James Laney, Richard L. Armitage, Daniel E. Bob, Jerome A. Cohen, James Delaney, William Drennan, L. Gordon Flake, Micael J. Green, Donald P. Gregg, Morton H. Halperin, Frank S. Jannuzi, Richard Kessler, Robert A. Manning, Marcus Noland, Sam Nunn, Donald Oberdorfer, Kongdan Oh, James J. Przystup, Robert W. RisCassi, Jason T. Shaplen, Stephen J. Solarz, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, William Watts, Donald S. Zagoria.