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					global asia feature Essay Clinton and bush approaches




Negotiation with
North Korea:




Clinton vs Bush
By Walter C. Clemens, Jr.
US policy toward North Korea,
particularly the aim to thwart North
Korea’s effort to acquire nuclear
weapons, differed sharply between
the Clinton and Bush administrations.
Comparing the two approaches
puts in stark relief the failures of the
Bush administration, writes US
political scientist Walter Clemens, Jr.



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iN ocToBer 2006, North Korea tested a nuclear          deception to seek a zero-sum victory. Second, the
device and so became a fledgling member of the         win-win idealist hopes for a positive-sum outcome
nuclear weapons club. While the administration of      and risks his/her own security on a conciliatory
US president Bill clinton managed to contain ef-       approach to the other side. Third, the conditional
forts by North Korea to produce a working nuclear      cooperator sees most relationships as variable-
weapon, the administration of president george         sum and tries to persuade the other side to create
W. Bush failed. Why? Seeking to understand these       mutual gain outcomes. if the other side fails to
divergent outcomes, this essay compares and con-       reciprocate, the conditional cooperator hunkers
trasts the clinton and Bush approaches. if any         down into a tougher defensive position.
player seeks or opposes a broad accommodation,            Several participants in the harvard Negotiating
there are lessons to be learned.                       project add a related distinction: Negotiators,
   To compare the clinton and Bush policies to-        they say, may seek to claim and seize values for
wards the democratic people’s republic of Korea,       their side alone or create values jointly—utilities
i refer to several models. None of these is complete   such as goods or prestige useful to each side.
and each oversimplifies, but each can also serve as    Value-creators seek mutual (but not necessarily
a tool to stimulate fresh and deep analysis.           equal or symmetrical) gain.
   The first set of models borrows from the analy-        a third but related set of models asks how to
sis of US-Soviet relations in the 1980s. The ad-       deal with the classic problem of when to cooper-
ministration of ronald regan at first approached       ate with another player who can be both a part-
the USSr from an essentialist perspective. Based       ner and a dangerous adversary. game theory
on ideology, doctrine, and behavior, the reagan        illustrates this in the prisoner’s dilemma—an
team famously treated the Soviet Union as an “evil     exercise in which each potential partner can
empire.” Soon, however, the reagan administra-         cooperate or defect from a common cause. as
tion experimented with a neorealist perspective.       we can see from Table 1 (page 60), each side
The United States developed and began to deploy        can gain if both cooperate. But if one cheats and
a force of intermediate-range missiles to match        the other plays fair, one can gain a lot while the
the Soviet SS-20s and challenged the USSr to ac-       other is in deep trouble. if both follow their nar-
cept a zero-option and eliminate all such weap-        row self-interest and cheat, both suffer.
ons. When russian president Mikhail gorbachev             To deal with this dilemma, University of
rose to power in 1985–1986, the Kremlin began to       Michigan political scientist robert axelrod rec-
negotiate seriously on the zero option and finally     ommended a strategy of tit-for-tat (TfT), with
accepted even a so-called double zero in 1987. as      the proviso that if you move first you should opt
reagan met with gorbachev, both sides began to         for a conciliatory rather than a tough move. The
acquire a more nuanced understanding of their          problem with axelrod’s recipe is that it can eas-
relations. They began to see a pattern of interac-     ily leave the two parties on a treadmill of mu-
tion in which each side not only did its own thing     tual defection. psychologist charles osgood,
but responded to the other’s words and deeds.          by contrast, proposed that one side—probably
The interaction model differed from the neoreal-       the stronger party—initiate a pattern of “gradu-
ist model in assuming that more than raw power         ated reciprocity in tension reduction,” or griT.
determines the nature of world politics—that           if the other party fails to reciprocate after sev-
fear, trust, and other subjective qualities shape      eral moves, the searcher for détente can return
how nations act and react to what they perceive        to TfT firmness.
as basic forces on the world stage.                       To analyze US-North Korea relations we can
   a second set of models derives from game the-       also borrow from the three kinds of power
ory and negotiation theory. it posits that there       described by professors robert Keohane and
are three approaches to negotiation. first, the        Joseph Nye. There is hard military and economic
hard-line Machiavellian uses material power and        power to coerce and compel; soft power to per-

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global asia feature Essay Clinton and bush approaches




 TablE 1                            North Korea                         North Korea
“PrisonEr’s dilEMMa”
 for Pyongyang                      Cooperates                          Defects
 and washingTon                     (comply and trust                   (cheats on the deal)
                                    the other side)




 United States                                    Good for                       Very Good for
 Cooperates                                    North Korea                        North Korea
 (comply and trust
 the other side)
                                    Good for                            Very Bad for
                                    United States                       United States




 United States
                                               Very Bad for                            Bad for
 Defects                                       North Korea                         North Korea
 (cheats on
 the deal)
                                    Very Good for                       Bad for
                                    United States                       United States



suade and co-opt; and conversion power—the          ThE ClinTon yEars
capacity to utilize hard and soft power assets to   The clinton team recognized the essence of the
achieve foreign policy objectives. Keohane and      pyongyang regime—what most observers see as
Nye also distinguish interdependence—mutual         an evil dictatorship dangerous to its own people
vulnerability—from complex interdependence          and to the world. When North Korea threatened
based on a multitude of intersecting ties that      to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation
put countries such as canada and the United         Treaty in 1993 and seemed ready use its pluto-
States in a situation where, even when they         nium to add to its suspected nuclear weapon
disagree, resort to force is unthinkable.           arsenal, the clinton administration prepared
  how these models can illuminate US relations      to exploit its hard military power to compel a
with North Korea is outlined in Table 2 (page       change in course by the North or suffer a mili-
62). The pages that follow try to put flesh and     tary attack. however, the clinton team also gave
bones on this framework.                            diplomacy a chance—both official and private

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diplomacy, known as “track i and track ii.” The       deal looked so positive that incoming Secretary
clinton White house was not enthusiastic about        of State colin powell assured albright that the
private citizen Jimmy carter’s visit to pyongyang     Bush administration would continue from
in 1994, but agreed to follow up on the rough out-    where she had left off.
lines of a deal that he reached with North Korean
leader Kim il Sung just before his death. Soon,       ThE bUsh yEars
US representative robert gallucci and Kim’s           an essentialist image of Kim Jong il dominated
diplomats reached an “agreed framework” that          the Bush administration’s North Korea policy
froze activity at the yongbyon nuclear complex        from 2001 until at least 2005. contrary to what
from 1994 to 2002. This accord reflected a real-      powell told albright, the new president cut his
ist assumption that economic concessions from         Secretary of State off at the knees and had him
the United States and its partners in South Korea
and Japan (joined later by the european Union)
could be traded for arms control concessions
                                                      The failure to stop
by North Korea. But it was achieved only after        North Korea from
carter broke the ice in pyongyang and achieved
commitments that Kim il Sung’s son and succes-        going nuclear must
sor, Kim Jong il, pledged to honor.
   The track ii activities of carter and other pri-
                                                      be considered a
vate US citizens also suggested that subjective       major shortfall of
as well as objective factors shaped the inter-
actions of North Korea and the United States.         Bush foreign policy.
When there were signs that pyongyang was
conducting suspicious activities away from the        tell the press that the United States would not
yongbyon site, clinton sent another private citi-     talk to a regime it could not trust. in so doing,
zen, former defense Secretary William perry, to       Bush also insulted South Korean president Kim
investigate. he returned and reported seeing          dae Jung, who was then visiting the White
an empty cavern. Now a professor at Stanford          house after having won a Nobel peace prize for
University, perry continues to analyze and com-       espousing a “Sunshine policy” to open North
ment on US-North Korea relations.                     Korea through dialogue and economic aid. here
   in 2000 the clinton team invited a top North       was a conflict between the zero-sum orienta-
Korean leader, Vice Marshal Jo Myong Nok, to          tion of the Bush White house and the win-win
Washington. having visited the pentagon and           assumptions of the Kim Blue house. The hard-
then the White house, the marshal invited             line US policy was encapsulated in the “axis of
clinton to pyongyang where, he promised, all          evil” speech that Bush made in January 2002
issues could be resolved at the highest level.        and his pre-emptive strategic doctrine adopted
clinton did not go but dispatched Secretary of        that year.
State Madeleine albright met with Kim Jong               By June 2002, however, the White house had
il in october 2000. as detailed in her memoir,        decided it wanted a new, “Bold approach” to
Madam Secretary, albright thought that Kim            pyongyang that would solve outstanding issues
was ready for a deal on missiles as well as nu-       without protracted negotiations. This decision
clear disarmament. Kim, she reported, was well        was constrained, however, by a recent consen-
informed and could be supple in negotiations.         sus within the US intelligence community that
efforts to follow through on this opening got         the North was operating a clandestine uranium
lost in the last two months of the clinton ad-        enrichment program. if so, the program violat-
ministration as he focused on mediating israeli-      ed the 1992 Joint North-South declaration on
palestinian differences. Still, the prospects for a   the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula

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global asia feature Essay Clinton and bush approaches




and the 1994 agreed framework, which obliged            in 2008 the nature and dimensions of North
North Korea to “implement” the 1992 declara-          Korean uranium enrichment are still uncertain.
tion, remain in the Nuclear Nonproliferation          Whatever the rights and wrongs, the ensuing
Treaty, and permit iaea inspections at nuclear        charges and countercharges led Washington
facilities not subject to the freeze stipulated in    and pyongyang in late 2002–early 2003 to de-
the 1994 agreed framework.                            clare the agreed framework a dead letter.

TablE 2                    Outlook                    Assumptions              Domestic Influences
is a dEal fEasiblE?
ThrEE ways To                                          inexorable enmity        Hard-line factions
looK aT U.s.—                                          based on clashes         oppose any
dPrK rElaTions              Essentialist               of ideology and
                                                       political systems
                                                                                accommodation
                                                                                with the enemy


                                                       Structural realism:      tertiary importance
                                                       anarchy and balance
                            Mechanical                 of power determine
                                                       state behavior


                                                       Constructivism:          How each side sees
                                                       Problems are what we     itself and the other is
                            Interactive                make of them             crucial




  With no leeway to deviate from scripted in-           all this happened as the United States prepared
structions, assistant Secretary of State James        and then carried out the invasion of iraq. This
a. Kelly traveled to pyongyang in october 2002        event conjured many possible lessons for Kim
to confront the regime with evidence that North       Jong il. it implied that the United States might
had been operating a clandestine uranium en-          attack any potential adversary that lacked weap-
richment program. Much confusion ensued,              ons of mass destruction. hence, North Korea
which is detailed by veteran diplomat charles         could infer that it should accelerate its nuclear
l. pritchard, a member of Kelly’s delegation,         weapons program. as iraq became a quagmire,
in his book Failed Diplomacy: The Tragic Story        pyongyang could also reason that it enjoyed a
of How North Korea Got the Bomb (Brookings            free hand—at least for a time—so long as iraq
institution press, 2007). after an initial silence,   drew down US military power and Washington
North Korean officials implied that the uranium       could not mount a credible threat. The United
program existed, along with other steps taken in      States seemed at the time to have neither carrots
response to the US preemptive strike doctrine.        nor sticks to influence North Korea.
Before the State department could absorb and            Starting in april 2003, however, Washington
decide how to react, hard-liners in Washington        and pyongyang agreed to the six-party talks
got word of the North Korean “confession” and         hosted by Beijing and attended also by the South
used it to press for ending US obligations un-        Korea, Japan and russia. The initial rounds
der the 1994 agreed framework. later, North           showed little flexibility by the US or North Korea.
Korean officials denied the existence of a ura-       While the Bush foreign policy was unilateralist
nium enrichment program and charged that              in most respects, the White house preferred a
rumors of its existence were concocted by war         multilateral setting for talks with North Korea.
mongers in Washington. They called for bilat-         pyongyang, by contrast, preferred bilateral
eral talks to address the issues.                     talks with the United States, which is seen by

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pyongyang as both its main enemy and poten-          delta asia in Macao as a “willing pawn” facilitat-
tial benefactor. eventually, the US representative   ing North Korea’s “criminal activities” The US
deigned to meet with his North Korean counter-       action resulted in freezing North Korea’s assets in
part on the sidelines of the six-party forum—a       Macao. Washington said the move was unrelated
grudging concession more than a first step in a      to the denuclearization talks, but pyongyang said
movement toward reduced tensions.                    it was a deal-stopper.
Expectations              Negotiation Approach       Obstacles to a Deal      Getting to yes in Korea?

 Zero-sum exploitation     ultra hard-line           Antagonistic nature       impossible without
                           value-claiming            of the parties            regime change




 Variable-sum with tilt    Positional bargaining     imbalances of power       Requires broad deal that
 toward zero-sum           with tilt toward hard-    and security dilemma      balances asymmetrical
                           line tFt and                                        security and other
                           value-claiming                                      interests of each side


 Variable-sum with hope    GRit and contingent       Distrust. and             Perception of each side’s
 for mutual gain           cooperation               misperception.            deep interests. Value-
                                                     Lack of creative          creating solutions. Low
                                                     problem-solving           politics cooperation and
                                                                               mediation can help.


As Iraq shifted from                                    in 2006, North Korea conducted missile tests
                                                     and then a nuclear weapon test. The latter event
a quick victory to a                                 seemed to give pyongyang the confidence that
                                                     it could negotiate from strength and compel
quagmire, Pyongyang                                  Washington to a realization that it should ne-
could also reason that                               gotiate seriously.
                                                        Skipping formalities, US and North Korean en-
it enjoyed a free hand—                              voys met several times outside the six-party forum
                                                     and agreed to resume negotiations in Beijing. on
at least for a time.                                 february 13, 2007, all six parties signed onto a
                                                     staged disarmament program that appeared to
                                                     get the sequencing right. it balanced material aid
  The six-party talks zigged and zagged. But on      to pyongyang with arms controls in North Korea
September 19, 2005 the parties seemed to agree       plus the prospect of formal diplomatic relations
to something like a second version of the agreed     between the US and North Korea.
framework. The critical element of sequencing,          ignoring the essentialist image of North Korea
however, was not clear. Washington demanded          and neorealist images of power, the United States
that North Korea begin to disarm before material     patiently waited for pyongyang to begin the first
rewards would arrive, while pyongyang wanted         stage of its disarmament until some $25 million
the US to provide material compensation first,       in blocked funds held in Macau and linked by
with arms controls to come later. Within days,       Washington to North Korean money laundering
the ostensible agreement went up in smoke.           and other misdeeds could be returned to North
also undercutting the deal was a move four days      Korea. Washington was becoming sensitive to
earlier by the US Treasury to identify the Banco     all the subjective and interactive aspects of the

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global asia feature Essay Clinton and bush approaches




                                                                    TablE 3 ThE dEbaTE in
                                                                    Pyongyang: shoUld ThE
                                                                    dPrK ConTinUE To dEVEloP
                                                                    nUClEar wEaPons?

The Clinton administration                                         Yes
prepared to exploit
its hard military power
to compel North Korea                                              We must practice
                                                                   self-help since
to change course or suffer                                         Moscow and Beijing
a military attack.                                                 deserted us.

relationship. in early 2008 the United States con-
tinued to wait on North Korea to proceed with
other arms control measures while pyongyang
complained that it had not yet received all the
fuel and food stipulated in the february 2007 ac-
cord. hardliners in Washington accused the Bush                    Even a few bombs
administration of becoming soft. Meanwhile, US                     can deter enemy
lead negotiator christopher hill was gaining a                     attack and give us
deeper appreciation of the interaction processes                   leverage in future
that condition US-North Korea relations. Better                    negotiations with
late than never, the stronger side showed some                     all parties.
sign it would try true gradual tension reduction.
Thus, president Bush sent a “dear Mr. Kim” letter
to the dear leader in pyongyang, while the New
york philharmonic did its best to promote track
ii diplomacy with an appearance in pyongyang.
Their audience from the North Korean elite did                     While we grow
its best to reciprocate—giving the orchestra                       stronger our foes
standing ovations. in 2007–2008 the prospects                      will not attack
of a breakthrough in US-North Korea relations                      because they
seemed to improve.
                                                                   know we can
   claiming to fulfill its february 2007 obliga-
                                                                   destroy Seoul with
tions, pyongyang in May 2008 turned over to the
                                                                   conventional arms.
United States some 18,000 pages of documenta-
tion about its nuclear programs since 1990. The
americans said there were gaps about enriched
uranium processing and about alleged programs         from North Korea.” We should not miss the
in Syria, but things seemed to be moving in a         present opportunities, perry and hecker wrote
positive direction. former defense Secretary          in a report released by the Nautilus institute.
perry and his Stanford colleague Siegfried S.         Negotiators should try to contain the risk posed
hecker wrote in May 2008 that “in its remaining       by the dprK arsenal even as they work to elimi-
months, the Bush administration should focus          nate it. as dismantlement of the yongbyon com-
on limiting North Korea’s nuclear capabilities by     plex proceeds, negotiators should also strive to
concluding the elimination of plutonium produc-       ascertain the extent of North Korea’s uranium
tion. if it can also get answers on the Syrian op-    enrichment effort and its nuclear exports.
eration and resolve the question of uranium en-         attempting to see things as they look from
richment, it will put the next administration in a    pyongyang, Table 3 (above) outlines the likely
stronger position to finally end the nuclear threat   debate there.

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        No                                          non-nuclear weapons party to the NpT. But this
                                                    will be far more difficult than was the case with
        Our economic plight                         libya, which had made little progress in its nu-
        compels us to get                           clear weapons efforts.
        economic and energy                            This policy failure is part of a larger syndrome
        assistance. China                           that helped the Bush team to lose friends and in-
        shows it is possible                        spire enemies worldwide. Not only did the Bush
        to join the world                           team postulate that some actors on the world stage
        economy and preserve                        were inherently evil, but it also assumed that the
        a one-party system.                         US and its policies were inherently good. given
                                                    this situation, Bush’s people seemed to believe it
                                                    was right for america to use force and deception in
                                                    a zero-sum struggle against evil. given this mind-
        If we go nuclear,                           set, unilateral concessions that might gradually
        Tokyo and Seoul                             lead to a mutual gain outcome were unthinkable.
        may follow. If we                           indeed, except for shows of force, diplomacy got
        sign a deal with                            short shift. all these tendencies were strengthened
        Washington,                                 by the aBc orientation—“anything but clinton.”
        we weaken and                               Whatever clinton had done, whether successful
        isolate Japan and                           or not, was to be avoided.
                                                       in 2008, the United States and North Korea are
        South Korea.
                                                    mutually vulnerable and very far from any sem-
                                                    blance of complex interdependence. on the other
                                                    hand, the United States and china have shown
                                                    how two long time rivals, each of which long held
                                                    an essentialist image of the other, can move to-
        Hanging tough                               ward complex interdependence so that resort to
        is pointless.                               force becomes less and less thinkable as a way for
        No one will attack                          them to resolve disputes. The US-chinese relation-
                                                    ship remains fraught, but both sides understand
        us if we renounce
                                                    that it is a variable-sum game with a potential for
        nuclear arms.
                                                    mutual gain as well as for disaster. if the momen-
                                                    tum built in 2007-2008 continues, pyongyang and
                                                    Washington may yet reach a similar insight.

EValUaTing ThE bUsh yEars                           walter C. Clemens, jr. is Professor of
failure to stop North Korea from going nuclear      Political science at boston University,
must be considered a major shortfall of the Bush    and associate, harvard University davis
foreign policy. for years the Bush team insulted    Center for russian and Eurasian studies.
and ignored the regime until it was too late and    he is the author or co-author of fifteen
pyongyang went nuclear. Washington then bent        books including Dynamics of International
over backward to assuage North Korean sensi-        Relations: Conflict and Mutual Gain in
tivities and to tolerate extensive delays due to    an Era of Global Interdependence, 2d ed.
internal divisions or fears of american backslid-   (2004). his “north Korea and the world: a
ing. perhaps this new inflection in US policy       bibliography of books and Urls in English,
will succeed in putting the horse back in the       1997-2007,” appears in the Journal of East
barn—returning North Korea to the status of a       Asian Studies, May-august 2008.

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