Ending the Anachronistic
Korean Commitment



2003 Doug Bandow

From Parameters, Summer 2003, pp. 78-88.

The United States has defended South Korea for 50 years. The alliance with the Republic of Korea (ROK)—actually a one-sided security guarantee—has been America’s most consistently dangerous commitment since World War II. The nearly 34,000 deaths in the Korean War have been supplemented by more recent, occasional acts of war by North Korea: The Korea Defense Veterans of America organization estimates 1,500 American dead over the years.1

Yet South Korea is beginning to look away. Newly elected President Roh Moo-hyun suggested that his nation “mediate” in any war between America and the North and called for “concessions from both sides.”2 Indeed, he advocated: “We should proudly say we will not side with North Korea or the United States.”3 Whatever value the US-ROK alliance once appeared to have is fast disappearing.

Although recent attention understandably has focused on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, an equally important issue is the future of America’s relations with South Korea. Indeed, the nuclear controversy grows out of Washington’s unnatural military presence on the Korean peninsula, and no solution is likely until that unnatural presence is removed. Well before the present contretemps it was evident that the presence of 37,000 American troops in the South was a Cold War artifact that had lost its raison d’etre.

Washington’s commitment to the ROK resulted from the post-World War II division of the peninsula and subsequent Chinese and Soviet support for North Korean aggression. Today the Cold War is over, and China and Russia are friendlier with Seoul than with Pyongyang. Moreover, the South has raced ahead of the North economically, enjoying 40 times the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), twice the population, and a vast technological edge. In 2000 South Korea had a GDP of $462 billion, making it the world’s 12th largest economy. In con-


trast, North Korea is an economic wreck, whose economy is estimated to have shrunk in half between 1993 and 1996 alone.

Only in the military sphere does the North retain an advantage. Its military is large, but decrepit. Reports Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Bruce Bechtol: “The North Korean military is one that is using antiquated 1950s and 1960s vintage weapons while the South Korean military continues to strengthen itself with dynamic new programs such as the building of brand new F-16s. In addition, the South is superior in other key aspects of military readiness, such as command and control and training.”4 To the extent that the ROK’s military lags behind that of its northern antagonist, it is a matter of choice, not necessity. As the South acknowledges in its own defense reports, it chose to focus on economic development at the expense of military strength, which it could do secure in America’s protection.5

Although no US forces are needed to guard against the bankrupt North, they are ubiquitous. Thus occur incidents from traffic deaths to violent altercations. After the recent acquittal in military court of two soldiers charged in the accidental deaths of two children, demonstrations erupted. Americans have been barred from restaurants, jeered, and in a few cases physically attacked.

Placing even greater pressure on this unequal arrangement is the disagreement about US and South Korean policy toward North Korea. A misstep regarding Pyongyang would be bothersome for the United States; it would be disastrous for South Korea. Says President Roh: War “is such a catastrophic result that I cannot even imagine. We have to handle the North-South relations in such a way that we do not have to face such a situation.”6

Yet, relates former President Bill Clinton, he prepared military options for use against the North a decade ago, with nary a nod to the South Koreans (or Japanese).7 President Bush has explicitly refused to rule out any option, and some hawks are unconcerned about Seoul’s views. Opines Senator John McCain: “While they may risk their populations, the United States will do whatever it must to guarantee the security of the American people. And spare us the usual lectures about American unilateralism. We would prefer the company of North Korea’s neighbors, but we will make do without it if we must.”8

The Evolving Geopolitical Environment

For decades the South has been drawn north by obvious cultural, ethnic, and family ties, while repelled by a brutal totalitarian dictatorship that has impoverished its own people while threatening those in the South. Seeming


breakthroughs often beckoned over the years, only to end in disappointment. Then came 2000, with South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s dramatic visit to Pyongyang.

In response, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) began to cautiously address the need for economic reform in North Korea while reaching out internationally. Then momentum again stalled, with relations almost always seeming to involve two steps forward but one step back. In October 2002 came the trip by US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs James A. Kelly to Pyongyang. Kelly’s charge that the North was cheating on the Agreed Framework—by enriching uranium other than the spent fuel rods in storage, violating the agreement’s spirit, if not its exact terms—sparked North Korea’s admission, Washington’s refusal to talk, the allies’ cut-off of additional fuel shipments, and a series of increasingly provocative steps by the North.

This worrisome spiral toward confrontation occurred in the midst of a bitter presidential campaign in the South. The victor was Roh Moo-hyun, who most strongly endorsed engagement with the North and criticized Washington.

The only reason the United States entered the Korean War was because the Cold War gave strategic importance to an otherwise irrelevant conflict in a distant land. The Korean Peninsula remained linked to the Cold War until the waning days of the Soviet Union.

Today Russia is playing a much smaller role than during its glory days as a superpower. It also has dumped its alliance with the North in favor of economic ties with South Korea.

China is another critical player. At high cost, Beijing saved the DPRK from defeat in the Korean War. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the North’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to $740 million annually, and China continues to provide some aid to North Korea. Nevertheless, over the North’s strenuous objections, the PRC recognized the South in 1992 and has since developed a strong relationship with Seoul. Two-way trade with the South exceeds $30 billion annually—more than 40 times the trade between the PRC and the North—and annual South Korean investment in the PRC has run as high as $900 million, challenging America for first place as the overseas destination of ROK capital.

The Unnatural American Relationship

The United States established a permanent troop presence in the Korean peninsula with the onset of the Korean War. But changing perceptions of the threat posed by the North, combined with increasing national self-confidence in South Korea, are challenging bilateral relations.

South Korean frustrations are not new, but they have gained greater force than ever before. Explains Kim Sung-han of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security, “Anti-Americanism is getting intense. It used to be widespread and not so deep. Now it’s getting widespread and deep.”9 Although


polls show that a majority of South Koreans still supports the US troop presence, a majority also pronounces its dislike of America.

Some Americans hope that the sentiments will recede and everything will go back to normal. However, the generation grateful for American aid in the Korean War is passing from the scene. Younger people associate the United States more with US support for various military regimes and the indignities (and tragedies) of a foreign troop presence.

Policy differences between Seoul and Washington also will likely worsen as the nuclear crisis proceeds. In late January, President Kim Dae-jung offered veiled criticism of the United States: “Sometimes we need to talk to the other party, even if we dislike the other party.”10 At the same time, Washington was pushing the issue toward the UN Security Council, which, in Seoul’s view, would short-circuit the diplomatic process. Shortly thereafter the Bush Administration pointedly observed that military action remained an option, generating a near hysterical response from Seoul.

Indeed, Roh Moo-hyun, who once called for the withdrawal of US forces, ran on an explicit peace platform that sharply diverged from US policy: “We have to choose between war and peace,” he told one rally.11 He owes his narrow election victory to rising popular antagonism against the United States and particularly the presence of American troops. Of course, he later tried to moderate his position and called for strengthening the alliance. Yet he complained that “so far, all changes in the size of US troop strength here have been determined by the United States based on its strategic consideration, without South Korea’s consent.”12

Moreover, proposed “reforms” of the relationship—adjusting the Status of Forces Agreement, moving America’s Yongsan base out of Seoul, withdrawing a small unit or two, changing the joint command (which envisions an American general commanding Korean troops in war)—are mere Band-Aids. President Roh has called for a more “equal” relationship and promised not to “kowtow” to Washington.13 But the relationship between the two countries will never be equal so long as South Korea is dependent on Washington for its defense. The United States cannot be expected to risk war on another nation’s terms.

Bringing Home the Troops

For years it was hard to find an American analyst who did not recoil in horror at the suggestion that American forces be brought home from Korea. Even now the Bush Administration has been supplementing US forces in Asia. But a growing number of commentators, including some resolute hawks, now say that the United States shouldn’t stay if it isn’t wanted.14 And even if America is wanted, so what? Another nation’s desire for US aid is no reason to provide it. The United States should do so only if doing so advances American national interests.

What vital US interest is being served by the continued stationing of US forces in Korea? America’s presence undoubtedly still helps deter the DPRK


from military adventurism, but that does not mean US forces are necessary to do so.15 As noted earlier, the South can stand on its own. A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported simply: “Without US help, South Korea is capable today of defending itself against an invasion from the North.”16

Replacing the American tripwire would be expensive for Seoul. But as one of the globe’s wealthiest nations, South Korea is eminently capable of doing so—and has studied the possibility of doing so as recently as last year. The ROK has matured as a country and should face the consequences of its own decisions and its own defense requirements.

Some argue that maybe American troops should be withdrawn, only just not now. But for some policymakers there will never be a good time to update US policy. Indeed, many desire to preserve America’s troop presence even after eventual North-South reunification. Heritage Foundation Vice President Larry Wortzel says, “Keeping US forces in South Korea as long as they are welcome there is good policy. It’s important for Americans and South Koreans to remember that for another 50 years.”17

Advocates of a permanent US occupation talk grandly of regional stability. However, it would be a miraculous coincidence if a commitment forged in the Cold War and created to deter a ground invasion from a contiguous neighbor turned out to be the perfect arrangement to meet completely different contingencies in a completely different security environment.

In fact, there are no secondary “dual-use” functions for America’s soldiers to perform. For instance, US and Chinese interests might eventually collide, but America’s deployments in Korea would provide little value in that scenario. No US administration would initiate a ground invasion against the PRC. And South Korea, like Japan for that matter, is unlikely to allow itself to become the staging ground for such a conflict. To do so would turn itself into China’s permanent enemy.

Containing a resurgent Tokyo is an even more fanciful role. The greatest threats to regional stability are internal—insurgency and corruption in the Philippines, democratic protests and ethnic conflict in Burma, economic, ethnic, nationalistic, and religious division in Indonesia. But they impinge no vital American interests and are not susceptible to solution by the US military.18 Even more distant are “such transnational threats as terrorism, piracy, drug-


trafficking, and infectious diseases,” cited in a recent article by Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Carl Haselden.19 What, one wonders, would troops in Korea do to combat AIDS?

In sum, without any connection to the larger Cold War and global hegemonic struggle, Korea is relatively unimportant to the United States. So some American policymakers make an entirely different argument: outposts in the ROK allow the United States to base soldiers overseas at someone else’s cost. But such security guarantees require Washington to create additional units, a cost that America’s allies do not cover.20 Moreover, friendly states are not likely to long accept a foreign occupation carried out solely to save money for Americans.

What About North Korea’s Nukes?

The US-South Korean relationship would be in trouble even had Washington and North Korea maintained the fiction that all was well with the Agreed Framework, since the alliance no longer serves its original purpose. And preventing the North from developing nuclear weapons offers no substitute. Absent a US plan to invade the North, something that seems unlikely even from the Bush Administration, the American presence performs no useful role.

In fact, the current deployment leaves US forces as nuclear hostages if the North marries an effective atomic bomb to a means of delivery. Moreover, the troop tripwire makes North Korea America’s problem. Removing it, argues Adam Garfinkle, editor of the National Interest, “would force China and the other parties to the problem to face reality.”21

The situation is obviously serious. It is widely assumed that the North possesses one or two nuclear weapons, or at least has reprocessed enough plutonium to make them.22 Once confronted by the United States, which cut off additional fuel oil shipments under the Agreed Framework, the North announced a series of ever-more-confrontational steps that could lead to development of a significant nuclear arsenal.

Alas, the best strategy for handling the DPRK is not obvious. The North may have decided to cheat all along. Early on it may have perceived that the Agreed Framework was unraveling.

A not insubstantial factor in its current behavior also may be the North’s belief that the Bush Administration has targeted Kim’s regime for a preventive war. One need not be a communist apologist to note that if military threats may deter, they may also provoke. Pyongyang certainly has reason to worry. As one North Korean official reportedly explained: “Your President called us a member of the axis of evil . . . your troops are deployed on the Korean peninsula . . . of course we have a nuclear program.”23 Equally dramatic was the war in Kosovo, which effectively divided the world between countries that bomb and those that get bombed. CIA Director George Tenet implicitly acknowledged the problem without noting America’s role, suggesting that if the North goes ahead and non-


proliferation weakens, other states might view the acquisition of nukes as the best way to match neighbors and deter more powerful nations.24

Threatening War

Irrespective of who is to blame, what is to be done? It is not surprising that policymakers in Seoul, within easy reach of North Korean artillery and Scud missiles, have a different perspective on coercion. Those in Beijing, Moscow, and Tokyo also worry about radioactive fallout, missile attacks, refugee flows, economic turmoil, and regional chaos. There is no constituency anywhere in the region, even among the countries most vulnerable to a North Korea with nuclear weapons, for war.

Some advocates of a preemptive, or preventive, US military strike say don’t worry, that Pyongyang would choose not to retaliate to save itself. But such an attack would destroy the prestige of the regime. Moreover, Pyongyang might decide that a military strike was evidence of America’s determination to remove it, the opening phase of a war for regime change. In that case, it would make sense to roll the tanks. This is how the North is threatening to respond to any US strike: “total war” and its own preemptive strike.25

Bill Taylor, formerly of the US Military Academy and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and who met with Kim Il-sung and other senior leaders a decade ago, believes: “Faced with a major military strike on its territory, the North Korean leadership will respond with everything it has against Americans and our allies.”26 A high-ranking defector, Cho Myung-chul, estimates the chances of general war at 80 percent in response to even a limited strike on the North’s Yongbyon facilities.27

Most likely would be a limited but devastating retaliatory strike centered against the Yongsan facility in Seoul. Retaliation could easily lead to a tit-for-tat escalation that would be difficult to halt short of general war.28 The perception that South Koreans died because the United States acted against the wishes of the Roh government would create a divisive, and perhaps decisive, split between Seoul and Washington.

Attempts at lesser levels of coercion also would be controversial and risky. Sanctions probably would not trigger a North Korean military reaction, but might not work against what remains a largely isolated country whose leaders willingly tolerate mass starvation. Moreover, sanctions require support from the surrounding countries—enforcement by South Korea and Japan, UN approval by Russia and China. All hesitate risking the collapse of the DPRK, which could spark internal armed conflict and mass refugee flows.

Given the risks of war and problems with sanctions, negotiations are the obvious place to start. The United States could offer security guarantees, political recognition, and economic aid in exchange for the verifiable termination of the North’s nuclear and missile programs. Some analysts would add demobiliza-


tion and withdrawal of conventional units from their advanced positions to the agenda. A few even want to include human rights guarantees.

Given the stakes, South Korea and the other neighboring states are likely to insist on being involved in shaping policy. Involving them is in America’s interest. Argues Shi Yinhong, a professor at China’s People’s University, it “is highly doubtful” that Washington alone can end the North’s nuclear ambitions—peacefully, anyway.29

But the United States cannot take the support of regional states for granted. For instance, China could play the most important role in dissuading the North from its nuclear course. Yet so far Beijing has been disinclined to solve what is seen as primarily America’s problem. China lacks the North’s full trust and is suspicious of Washington’s willingness to assert its power globally. Concludes analyst Stephen Richter: “The North Korean crisis is helping to chip away at US credibility in the world, and it is even leading to tensions between the United States and its allies in Asia, such as South Korea and Japan. All that suits China just fine.”30

The key to enlisting China (and Russia) is to convince them that doing so would help them. One tactic would be to tell them “that by failing to support us they put their relations with us at risk,” writes Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations.31 That might or might not work, but only at great cost, given the many other issues also at stake in those relationships. It would be better to point out the adverse consequences to them, as well as to America, if Pyongyang does not desist.

Can Peace Be Maintained?

Would the North respond to a message that significant diplomatic and economic rewards are possible, but only for positive, verifiable disarmament? It is dangerous to bet on the goals of Kim Jong-il and other policymakers in the North, but they might be willing to be bought off. Perhaps most significantly, the DPRK has behaved more responsibly toward and been more engaged with the outside world (everything is relative) over the last decade than ever before; thus, it now has much more to lose from confrontation, isolation, and war. Pyongyang’s emphasis so far on negotiation with America also suggests a willingness to bargain.


Still, Pyongyang may have already decided, or may decide in the future, that it requires a significant and perhaps growing nuclear arsenal, irrespective of its economic hopes. In that case, no deal will be possible.

America (and to a lesser degree North Korea’s neighbors) would pay no attention to the bankrupt, starving nation if it lacked a nuclear capability. An atomic bomb also eases defense in an ever more dangerous world. Joseph Nye of the Kennedy School of Government wryly observes, “What North Korea shows is that deterrence is working. The only problem is that we are the ones being deterred.”32 Pyongyang might decide that such deterrence is worth preserving.

If Pyongyang ends up moving ahead with its nuclear program, there would be no good answers. The United States should distinguish between two different dangers. The most serious but also potentially most manageable would be if the DPRK matched missile sales with plutonium sales, including, conceivably, to terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. Such a prospect would warrant consideration of interception of any air or naval shipments abroad, a possibility that Pyongyang should be made aware of long before such a course appeared likely. Beyond that would be sanctions, blockade, and even destruction of the North’s nuclear reactors. A “Plutonium ‘R’ Us” to America’s enemies would be unacceptable, but Pyongyang would probably draw back from putting out an international sale sign that would draw Washington’s wrath.

Quite different is the threat of the North expanding its presumed arsenal of one or two atomic bombs. Such a development would be worrisome, to be sure, but the DPRK could also be deterred. With regime survival Kim Jong-il’s highest priority, he need only know that use of such weapons would lead to the destruction of his regime.

However, maintaining a permanent nuclear umbrella over the South and Japan—the likelihood of the North attempting to strike the United States, given current missile capabilities, is quite small—would unnecessarily keep the United States entangled in a dangerous situation potentially forever. It would be better to warn Pyongyang that more aggressive behavior on its part would encourage both Japan and South Korea to respond in kind. North Korea then could find itself confronting two new nuclear powers, neither of which would be kindly disposed to the DPRK.

Washington need not push its allies to deploy nuclear weapons, however; it simply needs to withdraw its objection to their doing so. The threat is useful even if Washington or its friends ultimately drew back from such a policy. Indeed, the mere prospect of Japan (and maybe Taiwan) acquiring nuclear weapons would likely spur China to engage Pyongyang more seriously.

Obviously, such a step would be controversial throughout Asia. Yet such a course might merely accelerate reality. In the coming years Washington is likely to feel increasingly uncomfortable being tasked to shield its allies from a more powerful China. Might such a course spark an arms race? Perhaps. Yet what is more chilling than having to risk Los Angeles to protect Taipei or Tokyo? As Garfinkle explains: “If North Korea becomes a six-or-more-weapon nuclear power,


we will be far away, with deterrence reasonably intact, and with a decent if imperfect ability to prevent North Korea from exporting fissile materials and missiles.”33


“That which is must always be” was for decades the policy in both Seoul and Washington. Alliances exist to serve a purpose. Yet in Korea the means has become an end. America pays the bill but gains little benefit from doing so. Indeed, ingratitude is replacing appreciation.

Washington’s military presence is not necessary to protect the South. The US troops there play no role in constraining China or preventing war elsewhere in the region. America’s forces should be brought home and the misnamed mutual defense treaty should be terminated.

Ending America’s military presence would also be in South Korea’s interest. The relationship’s diminishing utility is most evident in the South. Seoul bears the cost of hosting foreign troops, having its security controlled by a self-centered great power, and lacking the respect due a country moving toward the first rank of nations.

The growing nuclear crisis only makes an American withdrawal more necessary. The United States is threatened primarily because it insists on remaining next door and being threatened. And the US tripwire does more to hinder than to solve the problem. Only by withdrawing its forces can Washington return responsibility for regional stability to those nations most affected.

Washington tends to think only of itself. President Roh’s election is “a big headache,” complained one US official to the Economist.34 But the ROK is entitled to elect its own leaders, assess its own interests, and chart its own course. America and South Korea have grown apart. It’s time for an amicable divorce rather than a much more bitter parting in the near future.


1. Korea Defense Veterans of America, KDVA Home Page, January 2003, www.kdvamerica.org.

2. Quoted in David R. Sands, “Defection of Roh Ally Rocks Voting Day,” Washington Times, 19 December 2002, p. A17; Ralph A. Cossa, “Trials, Tribulations, Threats, and Tirades,” Comparative Connections, 4 (January 2003), http://www.csis.org/pacfor/cc/0204Qus_skorea.html.

3. Quoted in Doug Struck, “Alliance Falls Apart on Eve of South Korean Elections,” The Washington Post, 19 December 2002, p. A20.

4. Bruce Bechtol, Jr., “Who Is Stronger? A Comparative Analysis on the Readiness and Capabilities of the North and South Korean Militaries,” International Journal of Korean Unification Studies, 10 (No. 2, 2001), 21.

5. Doug Bandow, Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World (Washington: Cato Institute, 1996), p. 73.

6. Quoted in Howard W. French, “South Korea’s President-Elect Rejects Use of Force Against North Korea,” The New York Times, 17 January 2003, p. A11.

7. He apparently also threatened military action if the North Koreans reopened the Yongbyon reactor. Dana Milbank, “U.S. Open to Informal Talks with N. Korea,” The Washington Post, 30 December 2002, p. A4.

8. John McCain, “Rogue State Rollback,” Weekly Standard, 20 January 2003. Columnist Fred Hiatt makes a similar argument, complaining that “South Korea’s proximity to North Korea’s army, in fact, may cloud its vision of the danger of a nuclear arsenal.” Fred Hiatt, “Seoul May Not Know Best,” The Washington Post, 6 January 2003, p. A15.

9. Quoted in Peter S. Goodman and Joohee Cho, “Anti-U.S. Sentiment Deepens in S. Korea,” The Washington Post, 9 January 2003, p. A18.


10. Quoted in Doug Struck, “S. Korean Envoy to Go North for Talks,” The Washington Post, 25 January 2003, p. A18.

11. Quoted in Sands.

12. Quoted in Patrick Goodenough, “S. Korean Lawmakers to Discuss US Troop Reduction Concerns,” CNS News, 2 January 2003, http://www.CNSNews.com.

13. Quoted in Peter M. Beck, “Korea’s Next President,” Korea Insight, Korea Economic Institute, 5 (January 2003), 1; Paul Shin, “Pro-Govt. Candidate Wins in South Korea,” Associated Press, 19 December 2002. Roh also charged previous ROK leaders of “groveling” before the United States. Quoted in Christopher Torchia, “S. Korea New Chief Vows to Work with U.S.,” 19 December 2002, Associated Press.

14. See, e.g. Richard V. Allen, “Seoul’s Choice: The U.S. or the North,” The New York Times, 16 January 2003, p. A31; Donald Lambro, “Shultz Weighs Impact of the Deployment,” Washington Times, 16 January 2003, p. A17; Murray Hiebert, “Yankee Go Home,” Far Eastern Economic Review, 23 January 2003, p. 17; Robert Novak, “Perhaps It’s Time South Korea Tried Its Wings,” The Washington Post, 6 January 2003, p. A15; William Safire, “N. Korea: China’s Child,” The New York Times, 26 December 2002; “South Korea’s Schroeder,” The Wall Street Journal, 20 December 2002, p. A14; NR Editors, “Limited Options,” National Review Online, 10 January 2003, http://www.nationalreview.com; Jack Kelly, “Crisis Management,” Washington Times, 12 January 2003, p. B1; Victor Davis Hanson, “Korea Is Not Quite Iraq,” National Review Online, 10 January 2003, http://www.nationalreview.com.

15. Some US officials are complaining that the United States doesn’t have enough troops to fight two overseas wars at once. But why should it be expected to fight in Korea when the South possesses ample manpower and economic resources? See, e.g., Rowan Scarborough, “U.S. Ability to Fight Two Wars Doubted,” Washington Times, 25 December 2002, pp. A1, A9.

16. A Working Group Report of the CSIS International Security Program, Conventional Arms Control on the Korean Peninsula (Washington: CSIS, August 2002), p. 14.

17. Larry M. Wortzel, “Why the USA is OK in the ROK,” Heritage Foundation Press Room Commentary, 30 January 2003, http://www.heritage.org.

18. Not that there aren’t people who desire US intervention. Burmese insurgents and Indonesian Christians alike have told me that the United States should repeat its policy in Kosovo to coerce their respective governments to stop oppression and murder. The mind boggles at the prospect of “sending in the Marines” for such a purpose.

19. Carl E. Haselden, Jr., “The Effects of Korean Unification on the US Military Presence in Northeast Asia,” Parameters, 32 (Winter 2002-03), 121.

20. Bandow, pp. 40-41.

21. Adam Garfinkle, “Checking Kim,” National Review Online, 13 January 2003, http://www.nationalreview.com.

22. Although a reasonable assumption, it is at least possible that Pyongyang’s atomic capabilities are more bluff than real. In fact, the South Korean Prime Minister told parliament that “we believe that they do not have any.” Quoted in Jae-suk Yoo, “S. Korea Has Doubts on North’s Nukes,” Associated Press, 11 February 2003.

23. Quoted in Steve Chapman, “North Korea is Not the Same as Iraq. Or is It?” 3 January 2003, http://www.townhall.com. More generally, see Bruce Cumings, “Endgame in Korea,” The Nation, 25 November 2002, http://www.thenation.com.

24. Michael R. Gordon and Felicity Barringer, “North Korea Wants Arms and More Aid from U.S., Chief of C.I.A. Suggests,” The New York Times, 13 February 2003, p. A15.

25. Jay Solomon, “Pyongyang Warns of ‘Total War’ if U.S. Attacks,” The Wall Street Journal, 7 February 2003, p. A9.

26. Bill Taylor, “Avoiding a Pyrrhic Victory,” Washington Times, 10 January 2003, p. A17.

27. Quoted in Nicholas D. Kristof, “Tunneling Toward Disaster,” The New York Times, 21 January 2003, p. A23.

28. Robert Gallucci, who negotiated the Agreed Framework, worried about just such a possibility. Quoted in Patrick Goodenough, “North Korean Nuke Threat: US Options Debated,” CNS News, 18 December 2002, http://www.cnsnews.com.

29. Quoted in Joseph Kahn, “To China, North Korea Looks Radioactive,” The New York Times, 2 February 2003, p. WK-4.

30. Stephan Richter, “North Korea: Just Who’s Pulling the Marionette’s String,” The Globalist, 8 January 2003, http://www.theglobalist.com.

31. Stephen R. Sestanovich, “Pressure Point,” The Washington Post, 20 January 2003, p. A23.

32. Quoted in Michael Dobbs, “N. Korea Tests Bush’s Policy of Preemption,” The Washington Post, 6 January 2003, p. A1.

33. Garfinkle, “Checking Kim.”

34. Quoted in “Sorry, No Times for a Honeymoon,” Economist, 4 January 2003, p. 31.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., and the author and editor of several books, including Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World. He is a former Special Assistant to President Reagan and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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Reviewed 15 May 2003. Please send comments or corrections to usarmy.carlisle.awc.mbx.parameters@mail.mil