Testimony of Ambassador James R. Lilley
U.S. Policy Toward North Korea
Committee on International Relations
Hearing on "U.S. Policy Toward North Korea"
September 24, 1998
I. The Roots:
The North Korean nuclear program was identified, documented and first acted on during the Reagan-Bush administrations, 1981-1993. Action did not start on the 20th of January 1993 as alleged by current administration policy actors and academic supporters. The major differences between then and now, and these are critical differences, are:
--South Korea took the lead in negotiations with the North on an equal basis and break-through agreements were achieved in 1991-92 which should form the basis of a Korean solution today.
--The U.S. did not permit North Korea to relegate the South to a supporting role—providing only money and manpower for U.S. negotiated agreements with North Korea without South Korea's direct participation.
--The U.S. did not pay money for access to North Korean nuclear facilities. The first unprecedented inspections were carried in 1992 by the IAEA.
--With Chinese cooperation, both Koreas entered the UN in 1991. North Korea had fought this proposition for 20 years insisting that only one Korea should enter the UN. It was a complete reversal of North Korean policy.
--The first direct meeting was held on our home turf in January 1992 in New York, not Geneva, between North Korea and the U.S. at a policy level. The North Korean clearly sought as a primary objective the continued contact with the U.S. at this level. On its part, the U.S. insisted that North continue the productive bilateral dialogue with the South and submit to challenge inspections of suspect nuclear related facilities. No additional high level contacts took place because the North Koreans did not satisfy these U.S. coalitions.
--President Bush announced a policy of denuclearization world wide which included the Korean peninsula. This move was long recommended by U.S., CINCs in Korea, and it defused a North Korean claim that the U.S. had nuclear weapons on the peninsula which implicitly justified their own nuclear program. The U.S. also cancelled Team Spirit in 1992, a major military exercise which had long became expensive and obsolete. This took away another North Korean argument for its own conventional force build-up.
II. The Current Problem and the Agreed Framework:
The Clinton Administration was faced with a major North Korean onslaught in 1993-94. Sensing a window of opportunity, the North Koreans threatened war, rattled sabres, demanded compensation, refused challenge inspection, suspended talks with the South, and threatened to pull out of the IAEA. These brinksmanship-like tactics were familiar to anyone who had carefully examined the North Korean negotiating record since the early 1950s. But this time they threw the Administration off balance and it eventually acceded to North Korean demands. This included continuing direct talks without the South's involvement and meeting the demands of North Korea for huge compensation to put a cap on a known nuclear weapon program which in fact was already in conflict with its international obligations. The North Koreans then got the Agreed Framework which was no foreign policy triumph, but a cave in to a starving and over militarized dictatorship committed to take over the successful southern half of the peninsula. We did not get access to nuclear waste sites which would have given us an indication of the amount of plutonium North Korea had, we did not get challenge inspections of suspect underground nuclear locations when there was evidence the North Koreans had set up a alternative sites. The North Koreans in fact never intended to give up their nuclear program which they deemed essential to their survival. The North Koreans refused to engage the South in meaningful talks and instead began a series of highly provocative moves to include sales of advanced missiles to the middle eastern enemies of the U.S., and to Pakistan, submarine infiltration of saboteurs into South Korea, invective against the South Korean government calling for its overthrow and expulsion of American imperialist troops.
Finally, our generosity inspired the North Koreans to demand more and more money and food from us. They could not believe we would give them unconditional food aid while they armed themselves against us. They demanded grain for meetings, money to stop missile exports, heavy oil or a resumption of their nuclear program. Every trick was used to con good-hearted Americans into giving them food while they pumped up their bloated military establishment. They held huge circuses of goose stepping military power while allowing us to see starving children. They built obscene monuments costing hundreds of millions of dollars while they begged for food aid, energy and outright gifts from around the world. They limited access to key areas of North Korean while they worked over gullible but well meaning Americans and Europeans. They cunningly and deliberately contrived missile demonstrations which were designed to intimidate neighbors and blow their own trumpet to their own people. While we curtailed South Korea missile and nuclear programs, the North Koreans raced ahead with theirs—a bad precedent.
--Credible deterrence must be or authoratatively and clearly established—there will be no war on the peninsula. North Korea would face total destruction if it starts a new war. We will not re-fight the Korean War. Desert Storm is our example of how future wars could be fought.
--The North Koreans cannot be permitted to get money while saying their Ju Che (self reliance system) is perfect and then begging for food. Their economic system must be reformed and modernized in return for aid. No other country has gotten away with getting aid without reform. Foreign money will go down a black hole unless North Korean does something constructive about its broken down socialist system.
--Proliferation must be curbed. Already around the globe countries are turning more and more to weapons of mass destruction (WMD) ignoring U.S. entreaties—India, Pakistan, China, Iran, Iraq are all engaged in the developing, testing or spreading of WMD. North Korea has exposed U.S. as a paper tiger. So other countries are recognizing that the U.S. fudges, waters down sanctions, looks the other way or intervenes to obstruct inspections. The U.S. has no international consensus to block proliferation. Japan has backed away from us and taken strong unilateral action on North Korea. European agencies have walked out on North Korea in frustration.
--South North negotiations on the future of the peninsula must be resumed. The South has legitimate worries about the North. It would be subjected to any direct military attack, its struggling economy depends on stability and North Korea could wreck this by provocation. The South wants our oil flows to proceed to placate North Korea while the South gets its house in order, and President Kim Daejung believes he can reach out to the North over time even if they frustrate his current moves towards reconciliation. A tough U.S. line could give South Korea greater room for maneuver and leverage with the North. South Korea legislators are in fact now lobbying our congress on oil for North Korea, because the Congress has been firm—the Administration less so.
--KEDO must be reviewed for its relevance to current problems. North Korea needs small coal fired power plants not huge reactors for which it has no power grid, it needs agricultural help. Fertilizer, reforestation, dams, de-collectivization , but not food give-aways which permit it to perpetuate its decaying system. KEDO, if it is to survive, must be part of an overall plan to deal with North Korea, not an isolated give-away.
--China is increasingly important in managing the North Korean problem. The North Korean recent missile test has set back China's crusade against TMD, a potentially severe blow to China's ambitions. China's cooperation should become therefore more effective.
The bottom line is we are unfortunately stuck with a bad deal concocted hurriedly under pressure and without an adequate understanding of North Korean modus operandi. The Administration has been obliged to justify a failed policy by often rationalizing North Korean bad behavior. We must instead pursue a more effective strategy for dealing with the North but we cannot yet throw out the baby with the bath water. KEDO still may have a limited role to play. As it is, we are now helping to prolong the existence of this miserable regime at our expense while it threatens to destroy part of humanity through deliberate starvation and warlike posturing. This must change if we are to have any chance for lasting stability and peace.