Testimony of Honorable Fred C. Iklé
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Committee on International Relations
Hearing on "U.S. Policy Toward North Korea"
September 24, 1998
Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify before your distinguished committee.
Appeasement is not always without merit in international relations. Appeasement became a derogatory term only in the 1930s when it failed with Hitler. In other situations it has sometimes averted war or even transformed an enmity into lasting cooperation. While the success or failure of appeasement is often hard to predict, in dealing with the North Korean dictatorship we know -- North Korea's actions have taught us again and again that appeasement will fail.
North Korea has been consistently mendacious and has violated nearly every agreement it concluded with us. No other regime in today's world has been so implacable an enemy of the United States for so long. No other regime still in power has been so frenzied in its constant aggressiveness, so cruel to its own people, and so frightfully successful in extinguishing the normal human spirit among its suppressed, robot-like subjects.
Despite this fifty-year record of broken promises, the Clinton Administration asserts that we now can rely on new North Korean promises and is urging Congress to keep paying for them with large, annual installments. I fear, if we follow this road we will inadvertently coach the rulers in Pyongyang in the art of blackmailing us -- how to exploit our fears the better to extort new ransom from us. And as we keep climbing down this road, the slope will get steeper, the blackmail payments will become more costly, the threats more brazen. For instance, North Korea is now apparently threatening to continue exporting missiles to other rogue nations, unless we pay it half a billion dollars annually.
The Clinton Administration, instead of forcefully rebuffing such threats, has become the conveyor belt that unloads this blackmail on members of Congress. I heard a distinguished Senator complain about Administration officials intimating that if Congress refused payment of the ransom to which the Administration had agreed, this could lead to war and the fate of the 37,000 American troops in South Korea would then be on the conscience of these members of Congress. With this attitude, we are goading North Korea to rachet up the stakes. The result will be new missile tests, more exports of dangerous weapons, new chemical and biological weapons programs, new nuclear threats -- and new demands for gifts and concessions to propitiate North Korea. Already today, Congress is being asked to pay for oil shipments to keep North Korea's military establishment going, to pay for food to sustain the oppressors, to help finance two new reactors that will endow the North with a modern nuclear industrial base.
The more fear we show about North Korea's weapons programs, the more we tempt the dictatorship in Pyongyang to launch probing attacks against the South to test our weakness and anxiety. Eventually we will mislead the dictatorship to conclude that it can safely launch a new attack on the South by relying on its weapons of mass destruction (whether as a real threat or a partial bluff) to deter us from mounting a decisive -- and if necessary annihilating -- response.
The decision before Congress now is whether to fund the US contributions envisaged by the Agreed Framework, in particular whether to appropriate the $35 million requested by the Administration for FY 99. This agreement, like all deals with North Korea, is full of trap-doors that let the North evade its obligations or to repudiate the entire agreement without penalty. Although Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told Congress the Framework Agreement "succeeded in freezing North Korea's dangerous nuclear program," the facts, alas, do not support this optimism. At best, the agreement may have slowed the reprocessing of spent reactor fuel for building bombs. But the spent fuel rods which under US supervision have now been enclosed in steel containers remain stored in North Korea, available for reprocessing whenever that regime decides the time has come to build more bombs. A country that could build and test a medium-range ballistic missile is surely capable of cutting open these steel containers that allegedly safeguard the spent fuel. This is only one of the many flaws of the Framework Agreement. In the interest of time I have to refer you to other studies that explain these flaws in greater detail.
Essentially, by paying for this Agreement (and pressuring our allies to contribute billions) we would purchase new, unenforceable promises from a regime with a 50-year record of broken promises. Not only that, but we would pay for almost exactly the same unenforceable promise that we had purchased before. Here I refer to the almost forgotten Joint Declaration of December 31, 1991. To propitiate North Korea at that time, we had scaled back our military exercises in South Korea and announced the withdrawal of our tactical nuclear weapons from the South. North Korea then signed this Joint Declaration and thereby promised it would neither seek nuclear weapons nor separate plutonium (or enrich uranium), and that it would accept nuclear inspections. What was wrong with that agreement? After all, it seemed to offer us precisely the nuclear guarantees that we have been pleading for with Pyongyang ever since. I can tell you what was wrong: it was signed by North Korea -- a worthless signature. Even though we have dearly purchased that signature in 1991, Congress is now being asked to purchase it again.
My recommendation, Mr. Chairman, is that Congress should cease providing funds for the Framework Agreement. Since the remaining weeks of this Congressional Session are burdened with other demanding issues, it might be best to cope with the North Korean problem in two steps.
(1) To scale down the funding so as to provide just an interim stop-gap till next February; and
(2) To request reports to be submitted to Congress by next February:
(a) by the CIA providing a technical evaluation of the ways in which North Korea can later on move ahead with its nuclear weapons program by taking advantage of the loopholes and limitations of the Framework Agreement (including using new underground facilities).
(b) by the Department of Defense providing an up-to-date assessment of our existing and required military capabilities to defeat any kind of North Korean aggression, including measures needed to deter, or cope with a North Korean use of chemical or biological weapons and to deter any use of nuclear weapons.
This kind of information would help Congress early next year to work with the Administration so as to shift US policy towards North Korea from escalating blackmail payments (that merely repurchase broken promises) to a reinvigorated deterrent posture. Instead of voting next year to fund more gifts to North Korea, I like to suggest Congress consider using a Supplemental next spring to finance equipment and other requirements of our own troops in the region. The mission of our troops there, in alliance with South Korea's forces, is clear. It is to keep the so-called "Democratic" People's Republic of Korea from what that dictatorship has sought to do for fifty years -- to conquer and subjugate the only democratic republic on the Korean peninsula.
A Lesson Taught for Fifty Years:
Most Agreements with North Korea are Worthless
This list, for the sake of brevity, is very incomplete, mentioning only some of the many agreements and understandings that have been violated, or completely ignored, by North Korea.
The 1950 aggression against the South was clearly Kim Il Sung's initiative. He pressed Mao and Stalin to agree to the attack and to support him. Russian and Chinese documents that have become available in recent years totally discredit arguments made by some revisionist historians in the West that South Korea partially provoked (or actually started) the war.
In 1953, North Korea began to violate the armistice as soon as it was signed, by introducing new war material far in excess of the permitted "piece-for-piece" replacement. It is this violation that led to the massive militarization north of the DMZ which presents such a serious threat to peace today. Seemingly oblivious to the lesson of this violation, the Clinton Administration in 1997 promoted "peace talks" with North Korea to negotiate a "final peace treaty" to replace the 1953 armistice. Had these peace talks advanced toward an agreement, one of the US objectives would have been to obtain a North Korean promise to reduce its military forces north of the DMZ, and in exchange the United States might have offered to reduce or end its economic sanctions.
That is to say, in these peace talks the US would have repurchased essentially the armaments limitation that North Korea agreed to in 1953 and ignored ever since.
From 1953 till today, numerous other violations of the armistice have been committed by North Korea (tunnelling under the DMZ, raids south of the border, etc.)
Although North Korea signed the NPT in 1985, it failed to provide the required inventory of nuclear materials to the IAEA till 1992. When the IAEA wanted to check certain waste sites, North Korea refused and threatened to withdraw from the NPT.
In 1991, the United States had sought to propitiate North Korea by scaling back the Team Spirit military exercise in South Korea and promising the withdrawal of its tactical nuclear weapons. In December that year, North Korea humored the US appetite for new agreements, by concluding a Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The United States then rewarded North Korea by canceling Team Spirit and completed the withdrawal of its tactical nuclear weapons. North Korea pocketed these gifts and proceeded to violate nearly all provisions of this Joint Declaration.
Thus encouraged, North Korea escalated its blackmail strategy in 1993 and 1994. By offering the easily reversible concession of "freezing" its reactors and storing (on North Korean soil!) the spent fuel, plus some other promises, it obtained the US commitment to the KEDO deal and the US promise of 500,000 tons of free oil annually.
Since then, North Korea has demanded large amounts of food aid while threatening to continue its missile exports unless the United States paid a huge annual ransom ($500 million per year has been mentioned) to "compensate" North Korea for the lost export earnings. This would make another nice addition to North Korea's garland of successful blackmail: the United States would deliver solid value, North Korea would sign one more of its worthless promises.