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.
Here's why that's even worse than it looks.10:02 AM, Apr 30, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
There’s ominous (is there any other kind?) news from North Korea. South Korean intelligence has reported that Kim Jong-un has executed some fifteen of his top officials, including the vice minister of forestry. Granted, as satraps of the world’s cruelest regime, it’s hard to gin up much sympathy for the dead. But, unfortunately, it does indicate that the dauphin Kim is every bit as brutal as his father and grandfather were. They would be so proud.
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.
11:33 AM, Feb 18, 2015 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the release of a United Nations’s Commission on Inquiry’s report on human rights in North Korea. The U.N. report laid out, in devastating detail, what we’ve known for all too long: Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship is the Westboro Baptist Church of regimes – almost comically evil.
Meet Kim Yong-chol, the man who keeps the secrets.10:07 AM, Feb 4, 2015 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
If Pyongyang has an equivalent to the late Richard Helms, the Nixon era director of central intelligence who kept the secrets on Vietnam and Iran, that would be Kim Yong-chol, a four-star general and Kim Jong-un confidante. Kim, a former bodyguard of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, is now the director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB).
10:41 AM, Jan 28, 2015 • By DANIEL HALPER
The North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, will visit Moscow in May.
"North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, plans to visit Moscow this May in his first trip abroad since assuming power in 2011, a Kremlin spokesman announced on Wednesday," the New York Times reports.
4:40 PM, Dec 17, 2014 • By ETHAN EPSTEIN
It’s difficult to tell whether the North Korean regime has anything to with the hack attack on Sony Pictures, or the subsequent terrorist threats against movie theaters planning to screen The Interview. The forthcoming Sony film centers around an assassination plot against North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
8:16 AM, Jan 7, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s self-proclaimed “friend for life” Dennis Rodman announced January 4 that he had assembled the promised team of former NBA players to take to Pyongyang.
7:26 AM, Dec 17, 2013 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
Woody Allen once famously said "90 percent of life is just showing up." In the Kim family's North Korea showing up—or suddenly not—can be a true matter of life or death.
End of the road for Beijing’s Man in Pyongyang.Dec 23, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 15 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
The spectacle of North Korea’s former number two, Jang Song-thaek, being stripped of all his titles at a December 8 party meeting in Pyongyang and then arrested by uniformed guards left no doubt about his fall from grace. Jang’s former protégé, Premier Pak Pong-ju, was in tears as he denounced his old friend while he was being dragged away. Such a public display of political disarray, broadcast the next day on state television, was unprecedented in the North Korean hermit kingdom.
Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
It's no secret that the value of an honorary degree—not to mention the value of an actual degree—has declined in recent years. Recently minted “Doctors” include Ben Affleck (Brown University), Jon Bon Jovi (Monmouth University), and Morgan Freeman (Boston University). Tufts University, meanwhile, gave one to Lance Armstrong in 2006 . . . only to rescind it last year after the cyclist copped to doping.
How the Kim dynasty preserves its power. Oct 14, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 06 • By GORDON G. CHANG
Steam venting from the complex that houses the Soviet-era reactor in Yongbyon, spotted in satellite imagery taken at the end of August and released last month, tells us that the rogue regime of Kim Jong-un is about to go back into the business of producing plutonium. Weapons specialists and arms-control advocates uniformly expressed concern in the days following the unwelcome news, but followers of Bruce Bechtol know that Pyongyang’s program for enriching uranium is far more consequential than its small-scale plutonium efforts.
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