DPRK Briefing Book: Negotiating Tactics and Nuclear Strategy

DPRK Briefing Book: Negotiating Tactics and Nuclear Strategy

DPRK Briefing Book: Negotiating Tactics and Nuclear Strategy

Nautilus Institute Special Report:

North Korea’s Negotiating Tactics And Nuclear Strategy

Peter Hayes
Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainability
April 18, 2003

In this Special Report I analyze North Korea’s military and nuclear options as it commences negotiations with the United States (and China) over whether it will give up its nuclear capacities.

First, I outline the dilemma that faces North Korea at this time when it must choose between having nuclear weapons and having an economy. Second, I review the impact of the Gulf and Iraq Wars on North Korean threat perceptions in light of their past history and current circumstances. Third, I outline North Korea’s military options to probe and pressure the United States and its allies in Korea over the coming months of what will be arduous and confrontational negotiations. And next, I analyze North Korea’s nuclear options in the context of these talks.

I conclude that whether the reprocessing plant has been turned on or not today (April 18, 2003) is simply a question of degree and therefore of tactics in the pending negotiations. I argue that North Korea took a fundamental strategic decision to obtain nuclear weapons in late March and essentially voided its previous offers to explore trading them in for security guarantees from the United States. Nonetheless, no matter how bizarre it appears to Americans, today’s reprocessing threat signals that the North is still willing to bargain because if it is committed to nuclear weapons under all circumstances, then it would have been more prudent and potent to pursue this strategy by silent, secret uranium enrichment while engaging in endless talks than by undertaking public reprocessing that would simply isolate the regime.

At this stage, therefore, the Bush Administration must table a stark, credible, and dramatic roadmap that outlines what the DPRK could obtain for which it would be worth giving up its nuclear program. Nothing less will reverse North Korea’s nuclear trajectory.

Kim Jong Il’s Strategic Dilemma

I haven’t been to Pyongyang for three years. But I was in Pyongyang just after the first Gulf War. As in 1991, the pending American occupation of Baghdad confirms the worst fears of the North Korean leadership. The war on Iraq sends an unmistakable signal of American intention to other current or potential adversaries such as North Korea. As noted above, for some in Washington, this impact is intended and desirable, putting Kim Jong Il on notice that he is next in line. All that differs is the means—slow strangulation combined with external political and military pressure to exhaust the DPRK into collapse or submission.

Faced with this unpleasant prospect, Kim Jong Il has two simultaneous overarching goals that contradict each other. The first is to deter and defend against American attack, and to that end, obtain nuclear weapons. The second is to rebuild his defunct economy to support his conventional military forces, his primary means of deterring and defending against American and South Korean attack and projecting threat for compelling allies and enemies alike to attend to DPRK demands. The conventional military are also the wherewithal by which the leadership occupies and runs the DPRK—that is, the military is the only remaining national institution that works. The party and the economic agencies have failed miserably to deliver the means of national power. The conventional military need an economy to sustain and modernize their forces.

Kim Jong Il’s dilemma is that he can have the first, but only at the cost of the second— with the negative consequence of an increasingly alienated and unhappy conventional military. He can only obtain the second at the cost of the first, by acceding to American demands. If he did so, then the DPRK runs the risk of American attack without nuclear weapons. To run this risk, he would have to believe that the Bush Administration is willing to rebuild the DPRK’s economy and the regime’s longevity—contrary to the lethal intention of the Bush Administration towards “evil states” as just evidenced in Iraq which merely underscores the public and private statements of many Bush appointees about the DPRK.

It is true that the United States Government has never declared “regime transformation” or “regime termination” to be its official objective towards North Korea. Rather, a durable elimination of the DPRK’s nuclear threat via peaceful means is President Bush’s declared objective. But given the evidence, Kim Jong Il is unlikely to believe that this formula means acceptance of his regime. Rather, he would likely infer that the Bush Administration’s intention is to square the circle—that is, to contain and squeeze Kim Jong Il’s DPRK so hard over the coming months and years that it simply collapses without the United States having to use military force.

Faced with this reality, the North Koreans appear to be hedging. They are attempting to avoid the hard choice between these goals for as long as possible and to gain time by taking small military risks while taking reversible steps to obtaining nuclear weapons as fast as possible. In fact, until last month, they were vacillating between the strategy of obtaining nuclear weapons as fast as possible while keeping open the option of trading in their nuclear weapons over time in return for an economy. This indecisive behavior was mirrored all the way down to tactical levels, as we shall see below. Now, it appears that they are obsessed with obtaining nuclear weapons and have made a strategic decision to commit to this course. It will take a miracle of adroit American diplomacy to avoid this outcome.

Not surprisingly, the North Koreans have interpreted the situation in Iraq to justify obtaining nuclear weapons. They have stated publicly that allowing inspections led to the occupation and dismemberment of Iraq and imply thereby that no inspections will resume in the DPRK in the near future—a crucial element of any realistic phased approach to meeting the Bush Administration’s demands to dismantle verifiably their nuclear weapons program. They have asserted that making missiles and nuclear weapons is a sovereign right and they have left the Non Proliferation Treaty to set the scene for proliferation. And they have stated that the DPRK may preempt the United States if convinced it is being attacked, turning the tables on the United States and its allies by reminding everyone of its ability to “shock and awe” the city of Seoul.

But more concretely, what conclusions would they draw from the first and second Gulf Wars for their military strategy, and how might this shape their current strategy to keep pressure on the United States to negotiate on their terms or to otherwise keep it at bay?

The Impact of the First Gulf War

The DPRK military drew clear conclusions from the Gulf War in 1991. They made a number of adjustments intended to defeat American communications and signals intelligence and to offset the ability of precision-guided munitions. The strategic implication of the Gulf War was that aiming to occupy South Korea via maneuver warfare was not possible. Rather, they emphasized extreme forward deployment, underground fortifications, pre-positioned food and fuel, and concentration of artillery and rocket fire on Seoul and the insertion of special forces into South Korea to create havoc and to attack US bases. In the nineties, they focused on modernizing this offensive deterrent while trying to keep the rest of their military-industrial complex from rusting out from inside as the non-military economy collapsed.

Even before the attack on Baghdad, tensions between North Korea and the United States had escalated to levels not seen since the last crisis in 1994. Many North Korean statements, including public statements aimed at their own population, assert that the United States intends to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the DPRK and that North Korea must mobilize to deter and defeat such an attack. Given that the objective risk of US attack is likely lower today than any time since the Korean War—due to Washington’s pre-occupation with Iraq and its thinly stretched logistics and forces—one could view these statements simply as purposeful and rabid propaganda aimed at domestic and international constituencies.

However, discounting and ignoring North Korean rhetoric at this moment is dangerous. The fact that statements have propaganda value does not mean that they do not represent genuine threat perceptions. And the propaganda of many totalitarian regimes has often reflected accurately the intentions and views of the leadership. In World War II, for example, Nazi propaganda proved an important indicator of strategic intention to allied analysts who hypothesized that Goebbels had to sustain an image of Hitler’s absolute power which meant in turn that words and action had to be kept consistent (at least most of the time)—and indeed, these analysts correctly interpreted Nazi propaganda about 80 percent of the time. There is no reason to believe that North Korean propaganda is any different in this regard—especially when one person, Kim Jong Il, personifies absolute power and articulates and choreographs its basic propaganda strategies.

North Korean Threat Perceptions

The key to understanding the impact of the current war in Iraq in Pyongyang lies in understanding North Korean threat perceptions. The starting point for such an understanding is the recognition that the threat of strategic and aerial bombardment is deeply imprinted on the leadership and the population’s psyches. Not only were thousands of Koreans killed at Hiroshima, but many returned to live in the North after World War II. Unlike those in the South, these nuclear survivors were revered in the North, and also used in anti-Japanese propaganda (they are quick to say that the United States should have used more nuclear weapons against Japan). Most Americans have forgotten about this Korean exposure to the first use of nuclear weapons—but Koreans haven’t.

During the Korean War, the North was so heavily bombed that US bombers were grounded for long periods due to the lack of targets. North Koreans have already lived through one of the most intense aerial bombardments in history—and one in which the bombs were dumb and the effects on populations indiscriminate, unlike the current air campaigns that employ smart delivery platforms and precisely guided munitions.

Although no nuclear weapons were deployed in Korea during the Korean War, North Koreans were also subjected to intense nuclear threat during the war as part of an attempt to determine the coercive value of nuclear threat for the US military. The North Korean military developed doctrine in the war to fight on in the face of nuclear attack. “[W]eapons emplacements and communication trenches,” states a DIA handbook on the North Korean military, “would be used as the basic field defense—both dug 1.5 to 2 meters deep and covered where possible.” .

Nuclear threat did not induce them to introduce any radical alterations in terms of the significance of infantry for the North Korean army—perhaps because there wasn’t much they could do about, and perhaps because they believed that Soviet nuclear weapons already deterred the United States from escalating to nuclear first use. Thus, other than recognizing that they were vulnerable to nuclear attack and directing troops to prepare fortified positions with concrete walls and gasketed steel doors to stop the blast of nuclear weapons, they told their commanders to duck, cover, and then return to their mission.

According to DIA, small units engaged in an attack were told to decontaminate after nuclear attack by “shaking, dusting, scrubbing with grass, twigs, etc, or by any other improvised methods, so that combat missions can be continued without delay.” Conversely, states DIA, “If a unit is threatened by nuclear warfare while it is in a defense situation,” then “troops are ordered to take cover in tunnels and underground fortifications, trenches, or low places on the ground. If caught in an open field, they lie prone, facing away from the point of impact and remain that way for approximately 3 seconds. They then rise, don gas masks and protective clothing, and return to their normal defensive duties.”

This approach may seem derisable in light of the annihilative power of nuclear explosions and if put to the test, it likely would have failed pathetically. But millions of North Koreans passed through military training learning that they were nuclear targets. The current North Korean political and military leadership lived through this inferno as children and inherited both the threat perceptions and were deeply indoctrinated as to the on-going nature of this threat.

During the Cold War, the United States projected nuclear threat against the North continuously and explicitly by deployments of nuclear weapons, and by asserting that the North would be reduced to a radiating, smoking ruin if it ever attacked South Korea or if the United States went to war with the Soviets or with China. This threat perception drove North Korea to construct an underground world that makes North Korea’s surface existence epiphenomenal and bizarre to the outsider. But viewed from Pyongyang, it is explicable. Indeed, one would have to question the rationality of the North Koreans if they hadn’t somehow responded to American nuclear threat projection in some genuine fashion, no matter how pathetic compared with the threat itself.

In fact, internalization of nuclear threat is what was intended by its makers, and the evidence of it is clear not only their military doctrine as outlined above, but also in the vast subterranean North Korea that they have built since 1953.

Over this period, various crises erupted that reinforced North Korean perceptions of being the aggrieved victim of American aggression and subject to strategic bombing at the drop of a hat—whatever the reality. The August 1976 “poplar tree” crisis at the DMZ was the most important single event in sustaining this perception for the current military leadership. At the time, the United States almost went to war when North Korean soldiers attacked American and South Korean soldiers to stop them from the cutting down a poplar tree at Panmunjon in the Joint Security Area. During this month-long crisis, US-ROK forces went onto high alert, an aircraft carrier was deployed offshore, as today, and B52 bombers flew from Guam up the Korean Peninsula at right angles to the DMZ veering off only at the last moment.

On October 4, 1991, Major General Kim Yong Chol, Director, General Staff Committee, Ministry of Defense told me in Pygongyang that they were particularly concerned about B52s deploying from Guam. “What is most interesting,” he said, “is that B52 bombers in Guam fly over Korea twice a week. We see these aimed at nuclear delivery.”

By 1991, these B52s had already been decertified from conducting nuclear operations—as I told General Kim. But from his perspective, the B52s represented a past, present and future nuclear threat to his forces. North Korean military leaders assume the worst about American capacities and intentions. The Pentagon’s deployment of 12 B1 and 12 B52 bombers to Guam, about 2,000 miles from North Korea, after DPRK MIGs intercepted a US spyplane undoubtedly demonstrated US resolve to the North Koreans. But it may also have pushed their paranoia buttons–especially since stealth bombers have remained in Korea after recent exercises.

Thus, war on Iraq likely has Kim Jong Il and his generals genuinely alarmed about US attack although having seen it before as children, they are not novices at being shocked and awed. For these leaders, the American attempt to decapitate Iraq by killing Saddam Hussein is especially unsettling. Kim Jong Il must now assume that he is targeted 24/7 as he moves around North Korea giving on-the-spot guidance.

North Korean Military Options

Given this external threat and their perceptions, what might the North Koreans do? To get a grip grounded in history, it is worth running the clock back to 1976. After the United States pulled-out from Vietnam the previous year, American leaders worried that North Korean might misinterpret American resolve to defend South Korea. On June 17, 1976, and only a month before the August crisis erupted, the US Defense Intelligence Agency analyzed the generic military options available to the DPRK to stress the US-ROK alliance, to probe US intentions, and to seek external support for its grievances. DIA listed twelve options that constituted a rough “escalation” ladder at the time as what the DPRK might do with conventional military forces. These were:

  1. Show of naval force
  2. Air or naval attack on South Korean target of opportunity—especially an errant vessel or aircraft that strays into DPRK territory, either one or a series of such attacks
  3. Air feint
  4. Artillery attacks on selected South Korean observation posts, bunkers or outposts on the DMZ or west coast islands
  5. Attack a US reconnaissance aircraft in international waters [sic, airspace]
  6. Launch a limited joint naval, air, and ground attack
  7. Insert special mission forces to conduct special operations to destabilize or to disrupt South Korea
  8. Attack against west coast islands
  9. Air attack against selected targets although DIA judged this to be unlikely unless the DPRK were prepared for a strong response [presumably because war is imminent and viewed as inevitable] 10. Surface-surface missile attack that might reach Seoul from pre-selected firing positions
  10. Covert mining, for example, of South Korean ports
  11. Full-scale attacks which are possible with little warning.

At the time, DIA stated that “the exact form and nature of potential North Korean provocations remain difficult to predict” but they advised that “None, [security deletion one phrase, possible qualifier or exception], is expected to materialize in the short term.” DIA judged the likelihood that North Korea would risk a major confrontation to be “remote.” Yet only a month later, the North Korean and US allied forces were trading blows at the DMZ!

These twelve options remain available to the DPRK today plus other options that it has obtained since the mid-seventies (of which, see below). Of these twelve options, the North has already used three in recent months: in early February, surface-surface missile firings (twice, one exploding in mid-air, over international waters); aerial feint (over contested waters and airspace to the west of the Peninsula; and on March 2, intercepting a US RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft over international waters (rather than attacking as in 1969 when the North Koreans shot down an EC121 aircraft in a similar position).

With hindsight, it is obvious that these three options represent the least provocative and most controllable of the twelve generic options. None were on the DMZ and none involved actual use of military force. These steps seem to have been calibrated and ratcheted up quite precisely, and were planned well in advance and implemented in a disciplined, controlled fashion.

Other Escalation Options

Given that they have already used the three low-level military options, what else could they do at this stage to send a message back to Washington that they do not intend to be the next in line for regime termination?

They could send covert agents to exploit anti-American sentiment in the South—but they already have a good thing going in this regard without any North Korean instigation. Discovery of North Korean provocateurs would undermine South Korean anti-Americanism and would be a clumsy move.

It could arrest a stray South Korean vessel or aircraft—but again, that might defeat its political strategy of separating the allies and put paid to any possibility of engaging with the South Korea’s new president, an untested quantity from the DPRK’s perspective.

The DPRK could also reactivate its bad old habits of launching international terrorist attacks. But terrorist attacks on South Korea’s leadership would be politically counter- productive and militarily suicidal. Attacks on overseas North Koreans opposing the regime—something that the DPRK has not done for some years—would only strengthen American hardliners commitment to regime transformation in the DPRK.

Supporting non-state terrorist networks and actions attempting to divert the United States into dead-end interventions in Africa, South Asia, or the Middle East are possible, but contrary to DPRK proclivity to control its own terrorists and would be actions of last resort undertaken in all-out war with the United States. The DPRK’s connections with organizations such as the Hezbollah and the IRA are strictly venal, to do with trade in counterfeit dollars and other hot items, not political in nature.

As is obvious, the other nine options all entail direct combat or a high risk of military retaliation from US or South Korean forces and are much more risky. The North could try a repeat run of the three lower-level options, but that seems unlikely to impress Washington, especially in its current mood.

Setting Up The DMZ?

What can they do if conventional military provocations are too dangerous? They already threatened to abandon the Armistice. Acting on this threat would remove their obligations to play the DMZ game by the Armistice’s rules. Practically speaking, this threat doesn’t make much difference as they pulled out of the Military Armistice Commission in 1994. More important, the DPRK has now shut off military-military officer level talks. This action shuts down the only military crisis-management channel and does increase the risk of uncontrolled escalation at the DMZ. Provided neither side makes a rash move, this is a game that has been played before. Tacit understandings struck over half a century of military management at the DMZ will play a stabilizing role.

Nonetheless, the North Koreans could introduce heavy arms into the DMZ or create some other small-scale crisis at the DMZ to sound a very loud alarm bell. This step could be aimed at increasing pressure on South Korea by underscoring the threat from the North to the DPRK’s credit rating and economic growth—a cost already measurable in billions of dollars per year to the South. The danger is that a US or South Korean response to such a move could be amplified by the centralized North Korean command system already on a state of high alert and trained and mobilized to expect the worst. Of course, North Koreans control this option and if they are not suicidal, they will sit on their hands whatever the US- ROK response to an incident induced by the North.

They may also be setting up an opportunity to capture any American or South Korean inadvertent DMZ crossing, as occurred with the US helicopter that strayed north and was shot down in December 1994 and then exploit the subsequent crisis.

Other Threats

Assuming that the DPRK leadership is not so deluded as to run serious military risks at the DMZ or elsewhere, what else can it do to maintain pressure on the United States?

At lower levels of threat, the DPRK could “occupy” the KEDO construction site at Sinpo and evict the KEDO workforce. It could take “hostage” the workforce at the site which even includes an American, not to mention the However, it would be politically smarter to let the United States make this move at KEDO rather than incur the wrath of South Korea for having done so. Alternately, if the United States attacks the DPRK’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, evicting KEDO from North Korea is indeed a symmetrical response and can be anticipated today—but effectively, this would be an American choice, not a North Korean first move.

The DPRK could evict international aid agencies from some or all countries, both governmental and non-governmental. This move, however, would undermine the residual external support for Kim Jong Il’s reform effort and would be a self-imposed form of “tailored containment” that the Bush hardliners would simply cheer. It could shut down travel across its borders as it almost did in mid-1994—but that would not put pressure on Washington.

This leaves the nuclear fuel cycle and missiles as means of pressuring the United States.

In the 1976 crisis, the DPRK did not have medium-range missiles to test over Japan. It did not have a nuclear fuel cycle with which to send shivers up the spine of the international community. If the DPRK is largely checkmated at the DMZ by the overwhelming military power of the US-ROK alliance, as was suggested above, then how might it use missile and nuclear activities to communicate its anger and resolve in the midst of negotiations with Washington and given its need to hedge against different outcomes that might arise from these talks? As noted above, it could fire another long-range missile over Japan. But this step would shut down any hope of reactivating talks with Japan. It would also offend its major ally, China, which has been crystal clear with the DPRK about the importance of not risking war in Korea.

Nuclear Options

The DPRK has many options and combinations of nuclear options. It can deepen nuclear opacity; it can shift from opacity to ambiguity by allowing some transparency on one or other part of its fuel cycle; it can declare and test nuclear weapons; and it can deploy nuclear weapons. It is conceivable that the DPRK might do everything in as short a time as possible (or to get more if they already have some primitive devices) so as to later engage the United States from a position of nuclear strength, and then rebuild its economy, thereby resolving the dilemma described at the outset of this essay.

However, going for broke on nuclear weapons now would stress the DPRK’s relationship with Russia and alliance with China. Russia it can do without, but not China. Just as there are limits to China’s ability to translate its apparent leverage over the DPRK into actual influence (due to the incredibility of forcing the collapse of the regime which would hurt vital Chinese interests even more than a nuclear-armed DPRK), so there are limits to the DPRK’s ability to stand up against American power alone without Chinese oil or food. This constraining and a-symmetrical dependence on China suggests that the DPRK will opt for deepening opacity with regard to its nuclear intentions and capacities; and, it will seek to maintain the option of translating its small near-term nuclear potential into more, medium- term, actual weapons. This strategy implies not turning on the reprocessing plant except for stop-start tactical pressure in negotiations but accelerating the clandestine enrichment track.

In March and early April 2003, the DPRK published extraordinary official texts on its “military first” policy. The leadership stated explicitly that it had given up hopes of economic reforms and instead placed first priority on the military in all respects. This statement will be hard to reverse for the leadership and suggests that it has opted for nuclear weapons-no economy option as its fundamental course. And, on April 6th just as the United States entered Baghdad, it declared that it needs “Only the physical deterrent force, tremendous military deterrent force powerful enough to decisively beat back an attack supported by any ultra-modern weapons” was sufficient for the DPRK. The reference to “tremendous military deterrent force may prefigure actions by the DPRK over the coming months to reveal or declare actual nuclear weapons capacities. North Korea will then abandon its strategy in which the nuclear threat was “the barrier that makes the water flow” in US-DPRK relations.

Given the tremendous uncertainty surrounding how the United States will act after the Iraq War, it would be prudent and rational for the DPRK leadership to behave very conservatively, and seek to deter the United States with slowly increasing nuclear capabilities while isolating it politically.

Indeed, the DPRK cannot quickly develop and deploy usable nuclear weapons in the next few months. Not only would this exceed their likely technical capacity, but doing so would undermine its political strategy to reassure its only ally and would increase American determination to transform/terminate the regime. In the worst case, therefore, redoubling their effort to openly obtain a latent/virtual/actual nuclear weapon option and then hunkering down Spartan-like behind a nuclear shield would not be rational in the short-term—no matter how threatened the North Koreans feel by the war in Iraq or its aftermath. As noted above, it would be better to leave most of the spent fuel unreprocessed as a symbol of American impotence while accelerating their clandestine enrichment program, which could realize weapons-grade material in one-three years.

However, exporting nuclear-related materials or cooperation with another proliferating state would present the United States with a gigantic dilemma. For example, if the DPRK were to export uranium yellow-cake to Iran, would the United States interdict this entirely legal shipment? What would the United States do to counter DPRK export of design information related to missiles or nuclear weapons to Iran? Currently, it seems unlikely that Iran would seek uranium from a politically charged supplier in a surplus uranium world market. But if Iran proves to be the next American target, Iran may need ways to threaten American interests and North Korea may prove useful in this regard. One might well ask what were Iranians doing on the Air Koryo flight between Beijing and Pyongyang in March.

Positive Surprises

It is easy to fall into the trap of assuming the worst about the DPRK, not least because DPRK constantly reinforces this expectation. With Iraq is occupied quickly and the resistance fading quickly, American engagement of North Korea could move quickly ahead provided the Bush Administration generates a credible roadmap and a clear statement of the down payment it is willing to make to purchase the DPRK’s nuclear weapons with Chinese and other great power guarantors.

The pending dialogue in Beijing between China, North Korea and the United States shrinks the Bush formula of multilateralism down to its bare bone reality: North Korea and its main great power adversary and ally. Far from capitulating to a Bush hard line, the DPRK’s sudden agreement to talk bilaterally with another great power in the room to insist that the United States adjust its position is tactically smart. It places maximum onus on the United States to adopt a more flexible position than dismantle verifiably first and only then will we talk. Their acceptance was conditional — “if the US is ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue” by showing “a political willingness to drop its hostile policy toward the DPRK,” then and only then are they are willing to talk. The talk of reprocessing today was to reinforce this position: they are willing to walk if the United States does not deal which puts tremendous pressure on China to bring Washington (not Pyongyang) to heel.

Assuming that the United States meets the DPRK halfway in the pending talks, then the DPRK might suddenly re-suspend its departure from the Non Proliferation Treaty or, as it did after the May-June 1994 crisis between the United States and North Korea, freeze some or all of its fuel cycle activities and allow international inspectors to reenter the DPRK. It could also create mixed and difficult combinations by firing up and shutting down the reactor and/or the reprocessing plant or displaying its enrichment capacity with allowing the inspectors back in—taking a leaf out of the Iranian book.

If the United States refuses to shift to a more flexible position—for example, by committing to enter into a true dialogue if the North Koreans unilaterally and verifiably freeze and refreeze their fuel cycle activities—then the DPRK and others (including China) will blame the United States for the failure of the talks. Provided the DPRK does not declare that it is a nuclear state and does not justify an attack by starting to reprocess, it can clandestinely pursue a slow enrichment strategy to obtaining more fissile material and eventually, uranium-based nuclear weapons.

Unless something truly remarkable happens to snap the White House into reality, North Korea will try to shape an international milieu that rejects American unilateral action against it while moving deliberately and slowly to acquire nuclear weapons and short of all-out war, it cannot be stopped. I did not expect the Bush Administration to shed so quickly its illusion that Security Council multilateralism was the right framework to deal with North Korea, nor did I anticipate that it would shed its rigid policy of “no-talks- without-verifiable-dismantlement-of-enrichment” overnight. These pragmatic moves made possible the talks next week. Thus, for its part, the Administration has begun to build a bridge across the abyss to North Korea. Like a roman arch, this bridge can be built only from both ends at once. These will meet in the middle only at the very end of the process or not at all.

In short, it may be easier at this late stage in the game for a Kim Jong Il to go through the eye of a needle than for him to trade in his nuclear option, absent a fundamental change in US stance. But a negotiated end to North Korea’s nuclear program is urgent. It is not too late to test North Korea’s intentions by diplomatic probe. In the meantime, the DPRK will likely continue low-level, active military actions and high-level nuclear provocations to remind everyone that it exists, that the DMZ is hazardous to your health, and the DPRK may blow apart what’s left of the Non Proliferation Treaty.


Sources Cited in this Special Report

US Defense Intelligence Agency, North Korea: A New Look at Military Options, June 17, 1976, DIAAPPR 195-J6. Released under US Freedom of Information Act request to Nautilus Institute. The twelve options here combine two figures presented in the DIA report. The options are described on pages 4-9. The quotations are all from p. 3.

US Defense Intelligence Agency, North Korean Armed Forces Handbook, July 1977, DDI-2689-37-77. Released under US Freedom of Information Act request to Nautilus Institute. The three quotes concerning North Korean nuclear doctrine are from pages 2- 33, 38, 45.

On reading totalitarian propaganda, see F. Stech, Political and Military Intention Estimation: A Taxonomic Analysis, final report to Office of Naval Research by MATHTECH Inc, November 1979, pp. 236-237, released under US Freedom of Information Act request to Nautilus Institute.

NAPSNet Special Report, April 11, 2003, Military-First Ideology Is an Ever-Victorious, Invincible Banner for Our Era’s Cause of Independence At http://nautilus.org/napsnet/sr/index.html

H. French, “Uncertainty in North Korea, The Watchword is Restraint,” New York Times, April 13, 2003, on-line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/13/weekinreview/13FREN.html?tntemail0

J. Brooke, North Korea Shifts Stance on Nuclear Talks, New York Times, April 13, 2003, on-line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/13/international/asia/13KORE.html

Mike Allen, “Bush: Iraq War Drove N. Korea to Concede,” Washington Post, Monday, April 14, 2003, Page A11, on-line at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19690-2003Apr13.html

H. French, “Confusion Over North Korea Statement on Nuclear Program,” New York Times, April 18, 2003, on-line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/18/international/asia/18CND-KOREA.html