Especially when dealing with a nuclear North Korea.3:25 PM, Aug 21, 2015 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
ABC News reports that the United States suspended and then resumed joint military exercises with South Korea this week after North Korea fired artillery shells across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear gave reporters the news Friday, August 21, at a Pentagon briefing. Shear said the suspension was to allow for talks with South Korean allies "on the subject of the exchange fire across the DMZ." The exercises have since resumed, he said.
This brought to mind a similar decision made more than two decades ago. Back in the winter of 1992, when I was U.S. consul in Busan, Korea, and living on the U.S. military base, Camp Hialeah, I received some startling news: the George H.W. Bush Administration had decided to cancel the annual Team Spirit military exercises conducted with our South Korean allies. U.S. diplomats and their families at the time were required to have housing on a U.S. military base for security reasons: anti-American students had previously attempted to set fire to the U.S. consulate building downtown. So my family and I had grown used to the annual winter ritual of seeing stateside soldiers from places like Fort Lewis, Washington, setting up tents around our housing as the exercises commenced.
Seoul and Pyongyang had just entered into a Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, negotiated in December 1991, where the two governments agreed “not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons; to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes; and not to possess facilities for nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment.” On January 30, 1992, more than six years after first acceding to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), Pyongyang also concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It was therefore determined in Washington, in consultation with our South Korean allies, that the annual large-scale joint Team Spirit military exercise, scheduled for March 1992, was an irritant to North Korea and should be cancelled in the interests of promoting the denuclearization agreement.
In September 1992, however, IAEA inspectors, after conducting initial inspections of North Korean nuclear facilities, discovered “discrepancies.” Following the November 1992 U.S. presidential election, the Bush Administration thus handed over a brewing nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula to the incoming Clinton Administration.
In February 1993, North Korea refused IAEA access to two additional sites, used for storing nuclear waste, where suspected “cheating” was taking place. The next month Pyongyang announced its unilateral withdrawal from the NPT. By June of 1994 the crisis had morphed into the greatest threat to peace and security on the Korean peninsula since the War. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry noted in an October 20, 2002 opinion piece in the Washington Post that he had “readied plans for striking at North Korea's nuclear facilities and for mobilizing hundreds of thousands of American troops for the war that probably would have followed.” As many recall, a last-minute phone call from former President Jimmy Carter to Washington, after a meeting with then North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang, is what brought the world back from the brink of a second Korean War.
So, how did Pyongyang’s leaders interpret the suspension in 1992 of the Team Spirit exercise, a defensive exercise held both for military preparedness and to reassure our South Korean allies of our commitment to security and peace on the Korean peninsula? Did they see it as a sign of good will? In fact they responded with defiance – blocking IAEA inspections and threatening to withdraw from the NPT. As North Korean expert Chuck Downs, in his ground-breaking work Over the Line: North Korea’s Negotiating Strategy has pointed out brinksmanship is the modus operandi for North Korea’s Kim family. Thus seeking to placate their regime is only playing the diplomatic game on their terms. The disappointing results of the 1992 cancellation of the Team Spirit military exercise is further proof of Mr. Down’s thesis.
9:07 AM, Aug 18, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Predicting the collapse of North Korea is a bit like predicting the collapse of Donald Trump’s lead in the polls: it never seems to happen. Yet, on several occasions in recent days, South Korean president Park Geun-hye has intimated that North Korea’s horrific regime may be more unstable than we realize.
4:16 PM, Mar 6, 2015 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
The recent vicious attack on U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert (he was stabbed in the face in Seoul) is, in fact, not the first attack on an American ambassador in that country. The earlier attackers on Ambassador Donald Gregg’s residence in 1989, however, were radical students with anti-free trade motives. The 55 year-old who assaulted Ambassador Lippert, on the other hand, has ties to radical pro-Pyongyang organizations and has visited North Korea several times.
The diplomatic courtship of South Korea’s president.Sep 29, 2014, Vol. 20, No. 03 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
America’s “pivot” to Asia is rapidly going nowhere, but diplomatic challenges in the most economically vibrant region of the world still cry out for attention. These include the brash assertiveness of a rising China, the emergence of an erratic, nuclear-armed young North Korean leader, and the embrace of neo-nationalism in an aging and insecure Japan. One nation stands out as a source of balance—South Korea, personified by its astute and pragmatic president, the first woman to hold the job.
7:38 AM, Feb 27, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The South Koreans are reporting that North Korea fired off four short-range missiles today. "South Korea says North Korea has fired four suspected short-range missiles into its eastern waters," reports the Associated Press.
Is South Korea slipping away?Mar 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 24 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 1916 London faced a dilemma. The British were hoping to bring American reinforcements to assist them and their beleaguered French allies in the trenches of the First World War. Woodrow Wilson, however, seeking to become the first Democratic president to win reelection since before the Civil War, was campaigning under the slogan “He kept us out of war.”
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
What would Miss Manners say about Russian president Vladimir Putin? No, not about his habit of going shirtless in public. It seems that Putin has developed the habit of showing up late for important meetings, and keeping foreign dignitaries waiting. On a recent visit to South Korea, where proper etiquette is of paramount importance, the Russian leader was a half-hour late for a meeting with President Park Geun-hye.
Did South Korea’s former president destroy a damning document?1:47 PM, Jul 23, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Roh (pronounced “No”) Moo-hyun, the startlingly left-wing president of South Korea from 2003 to 2008, offered a remarkable concession to the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il at a summit in Pyongyang in 2007.
10:39 AM, Apr 8, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
As tension rises between North Korea and America, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Sung Kim, went on a family vacation. The ambassador today shared his experience in a lengthy blog post.
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:04 PM, Apr 4, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editorial assistant Ethan Epstein on North Korea's belligerence. Hosted by Michael Graham.
Good.1:55 PM, Apr 3, 2013 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
In 2003, the governments of North and South Korea agreed to establish the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a manufacturing zone located just over the North Korean border. The South Korean conglomerates Hyundai and the Korea Land Corporation run the facilities, where more than 100 other smaller South Korean companies have also set up shop. The area was ostensibly launched to promote “cooperation” between the two Koreas, though in reality it’s become little more than a source of much-needed cash for the North Korean regime.
3:01 PM, Apr 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
NBC reports that a U.S. warship, a "guided-missile destroyer," is headed toward North Korea:
7:44 AM, Mar 26, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The New York Times reports:
North Korea’s military said it placed all its missile and artillery units on “the highest alert” on Tuesday, ordering them to be ready to hit South Korea, as well as the United States and its military installations in the Pacific islands of Hawaii and Guam.