Stephen Bosworth on the Korean Conflict President Obama’s new envoy to North Korea Stephen Bosworth spoke in February 2009 of the importance of direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang. He served as ambassador to South Korea between 1997 and 2000, an important period of expanded “sunshine” policy between the North and South. He worked as executive Director on the Light Water reactor consortium Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) (1995-1997), but has commented, “The Agreed Framework was a political orphan within two weeks after its signature." Bosworth is responsible for coordinating the overall U.S. policy for North Korea and will keep his position as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University; the State Department says another special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, will handle “day-to-day” negotiations with North Korea. The following are some of his early comments that reflect a healthy attitude of engagement. The language is invaluable toward understanding the need for engagement and a peace treaty. Bosworth, “After the Summit: American Policy towards Korea” Korea Press Foundation June 28, 2000 On the Summit between President Kim Dae-Jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il in 2000: “The summit was an historic step that will hopefully begin to end the tragic legacy of that war. How appropriate that as we commemorate the pain and sacrifice of the war, we also celebrate the beginning of a process that could lead to lasting reconciliation and permanent peace.” “Years of hostility can only be overcome by realistic diplomacy.” “Yet, the ROK and the US have also recognized that true peace is more than just the absence of military conflict. With powerful armies faced off along the DMZ and intense suspicion and mistrust dividing the two sides, it has been all too apparent that the Korean Peninsula is a very dangerous place where miscalculations or misapprehension could have terrible consequences.” “Both the ROK and the US have recognized, therefore, that deterrence by itself is no longer an adequate strategy. Lasting peace and true stability will only come through the reduction of mistrust and underlying tensions - through engagement with the North. …. On the other hand, South-North relations cannot be improved if the North is isolated in a state of near-war with the rest of the world.” “Ultimately, the key to resolving the problems of the Korean Peninsula is reconciliation between South and North. The United States will be steadfast in support for our ally and for engagement with North Korea. We share South Korea's goals of reconciliation, and eventually, of reunification, for we believe that a strong, united Korea serves the cause of stability in Northeast Asia.” “Flexibility and creative diplomacy play a constructive role.” “What do we expect of the future? Setbacks in the course of reconciliation are, of course, possible, perhaps inevitable. But we must not reject the prospect of positive change just because it is difficult or unprecedented.” FAREWELL SPEECH AS AMBASSADOR Speech to the Korean American Association, February 7, 2001 We need to look at things for what they are, to place issues into the context of a relationship. Our investigation of the tragic events at Nogun-ri, for example, provided an undeniable reminder of the horrors of war. Though only time can ultimately ease the pain, we have sought to help the process of healing through frankness, contrition and reconciliation, seeking to determine, as best we can after half a century, what really happened. The challenge of managing progress with the DPRK is formidable. But it is one for which our "real" relationship is clearly fit. In fact, the progress we have already made, thanks to President Kim Dae-jung's engagement policy and the Perry Process, is a perfect example of how quiet consultation and coordination should work between cooperating partners. Our governments have pursued the policy of engagement with the DPRK in parallel. We have consulted with unprecedented closeness, and have each played the role of direct interlocutor with Pyongyang. Progress in one of our bilateral dialogues has benefited the other. There has never been any doubt in Washington or Seoul, or in Pyongyang, that we were pursuing a common strategy and working in close coordination. Reaching Out To Pyongyang: Despite its achievements, Washington is divided on how to deal with North Korea long term. By Morton Abramowitz and Stephen Bosworth, NEWSWEEK Magazine, May 12, 2008 “What North Korea wants more than anything is "political compensation," a relationship with Washington, in which the United States would stop making threats, drop all sanctions and start treating North Korea as a friendly country. As Pyongyang sees it, such moves would finally allow it to join the global economic community—key to its survival. Until then, North Korea will hold on to its nuclear weapons as an insurance policy against a U.S. attack and, more important, the threat that Washington will simply ignore North Korea and allow it to starve in the dark. What this means in practical terms is that Pyongyang won't give up its nukes until it's sure Washington has permanently abandoned its "hostile policies," and "mutual trust" has been established. This will require, among other things, establishing diplomatic relations and striking a peace agreement that formally ends the Korean War.” “The next U.S. president will have to decide how to deal with North Korea in a larger sense, not just on the nuclear question. We think the best approach would be to forge ahead with the denuclearization process while also working with the other members of the Six-Party Process to begin to build a web of connections tying North Korea to the regional and global economies. This would likely involve some economic subsidies for North Korea, including more humanitarian aid, energy assistance and investment in the rebuilding of the economy.” Feb 26 2009 – Appointment announcement with Secretary of State Clinton “AMBASSADOR BOSWORTH: Well, obviously, we plan to engage with North Korea. … I was there earlier this month as a member of a private delegation. I found the North Koreans, I thought, quite inclined toward continued dialogue with the United States and a continued commitment with the people of the region and the Six-Party process. But in my judgment, they see the benefits to them of engagement with the outside world and are prepared to move ahead.” March 6, 2009 in Japan: Stephen Bosworth, US Envoy to DPRK said "We are in the final stages of our policy review in Washington and the Obama administration and I think we are confident that the five parties see this situation very much the same and we are going to move ahead as soon as we can.” March 9, 2009 upon arrival in Seoul “U.S. special envoy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Stephen Bosworth said Saturday that Washington wants dialogue with Pyongyang." We are reaching out now. We want dialogue," Bosworth said upon his arrival to South Korea.” Private Trip to DPRK in January 2009 The experts’ mission, of which Ambassador Bosworth was a member, has provided a private report on their observations in Pyongyang: ‘Viewed from Pyongyang, the arcane Beltway debates about the North Korea seem increasingly wide of the mark. Our interlocutors made repeatedly clear that the nuclear test and the claims of weaponization of the North’s plutonium inventory mark a fundamental divide in Pyongyang’s thinking and actions. ‘Though the officials with whom we met insisted that ‘the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’ remains Pyongyang’s long-term strategic objective, this goal seems premised on expectations so fanciful as to vanish into the mists of time. ‘The essential message is that the North is now a state in possession of nuclear weapons, and that it’s time for the U.S. to accept this reality; the weapons will not go away anytime soon. This claim does not mean that negotiations are irrelevant. ‘For example, the full disabling of the Yongbyon reactor and associated facilities would be a significant accomplishment, and the North Koreans gave every indication of wanting to proceed to completion, though they do not see a verification protocol as part of the Phase 2 deal. ‘The essential message: you fulfill your objectives (that is, on the provision of energy), and we’ll fulfill ours. The converse seems equally true, though the challenges of reconstituting the Yongbyon complex are ever more daunting, if not insuperable. ‘Assuming completion, however, the challenges will then only increase. Expectations of the provision of light water reactors (as a condition for dismantlement) are again in play, and in some statements to this effect seemed virtually non-negotiable. This may well be little more than a marker for future negotiations, but Pyongyang has few incentives to remove items from the diplomatic agenda before determining what various items might be worth. ‘Pending the removal of the ‘U.S. nuclear threat,’ Pyongyang insists that it must continue to enhance its defense and deterrence capabilities, though reports of an impending missile test were left somewhat ambiguous. ‘The North Koreans recognized that the Obama Administration is reviewing its approach to future negotiations, and they seem prepared to be patient, at least for now. ‘Their preferred outcome would give predominant weight to the bilateral relationship with the United States, minimizing or even dispensing with the Six Party process. ‘The latter outcome would be clearly unacceptable to the United States and the other four participants in the negotiations, a point that was made repeatedly clear by all delegation members. But (unlike during the 1990s) the North Koreans seemed in no particular hurry to proceed with full diplomatic relations with Washington, though this too may be a pose. ‘A more disquieting prospect is the utter trashing of relations with the Lee Myong Bak administration (in South Korea). By comparison, the criticisms of Japan seemed far more temperate. This was not characterized as a ‘hardline’ position, but an appropriate response to actions by the South, including the repeated speculations about Kim Jong Il’s health, which were viewed as disrespectful to the ‘Great General’. ‘As our delegation made clear, an outcome that leaves inter-Korean relations and Japan-North Korea relations in a deep freeze is demonstrably unacceptable to the United States. It was difficult to tell if the North Koreans internalized this argument, but it was conveyed unambiguously. ‘In a longer run sense, the DPRK’s declared strategy presumes the end of the U.S. nuclear umbrella, the invalidation of the U.S. alliance, and the development of a U.S.-North Korean ’strategic relationship’, for which Pyongyang would denuclearize in return. ‘Is this a serious negotiating stance, or does the North’s seeming bravado and assurance mask deeper anxieties about the fate of their system? ‘There may be some modest evidence of change in North Korea, especially in the increasing monetization of the economy for those able to secure even modest amounts of hard currency, but the prospects for the DPRK’s citizenry remain deeply disquieting, with no obvious way out. ‘The fundamental questions for the United States and for North Korea’s neighbours persist: how can outside powers credibly negotiate with Pyongyang without validating its claims to nuclear weapons status? And are the self referential leaders of the DPRK truly prepared for normal relations with the outside world, beginning most immediately with the ROK?’ President Obama Comments In the July/August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, Sen. Obama (D-OH) advocates for developing an “international coalition” to handle nuclear North Korea, calls the Six-Party Talks “ad hoc,” and says he supports “sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy.” On Meet the Press October 2008: We have not explored any kind of dialogue with either Iran or North Korea, and I think that has been a mistake. As a consequence, we have almost no leverage over them. We end up having to use surrogates in order to try to communicate to them to find out what their interests are, what their bottom lines are and to send clear messages to them about what we think is acceptable or unacceptable. So I think military options always have to remain on the table, but I think that when we leave all the other tools in the tool kit, then we are doing a disservice to the American people. Secretary of State Clinton Comments U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on February 13 that the Obama administration would be willing to normalize bilateral relations with North Korea if the North is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate its nuclear weapons program. She stated that the U.S. would have a “great openness” to North Korea, and added, “It’s not only on the diplomatic front,” but that Washington had a “willingness to help the people of North Korea, not just in narrow ways with food and fuel but with energy assistance.” Two days later, North Korea’s head of state Kim Yong Nam reaffirmed that North Korea would “develop relations with countries that are friendly toward us.” On February 17, Clinton reiterated the U.S. offer of a peace treaty officially ending the Korean War, normalization of relations, and aid, but stated, “The decision as to whether North Korea will cooperate in the six-party talks, end provocative language and actions, is up to them,” and , “If North Korea abides by the obligations it has already entered into and verifiably and completely eliminates its nuclear program, then there will be a reciprocal response,” indicating that North Korea will have to make the next move.
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