Task Force to Bush: U.S. Relations with North Korea Could Deteriorate and Even Become Dangerous in Coming Months

January 8, 2003

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September 17, 2001 – Progress made on the Korean peninsula is fragile and “diplomatic gains achieved by the United States and South Korea in the past decade are not irreversible,” a Council-sponsored independent task force is warning the Bush administration.

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The blue ribbon group of experts voices its concern that North Korea could restart its nuclear weapons facilities, which had been frozen in a 1994 agreement with Pyongyang. This in turn could raise tensions and produce the kind of confrontation that almost led to war in 1994. It could also lead Pyongyang to lift its self-imposed moratorium on ballistic missile tests.

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To head off these dangers the task force urges that the Bush administration treat North Korea as a foreign policy priority and for what it is: both a fragile and a dangerous power. The task force recommends that the United States and its allies in the region use both economic carrots and sticks in working with Pyongyang.

This means pushing ahead on two fronts: first, implementing the 1994 Agreed Framework whereby the United States, Japan, and South Korea promised help with electrical power for North Korea in exchange for Pyongyang freezing its nuclear program; second, moving quickly toward negotiations based on the no-preconditions pledge of the Bush administration to deal with U.S. concerns about implementation of the Agreed Framework, its ballistic missile program, and missile exports.

Cochaired by Ambassador Morton I. Abramowitz and Ambassador James T. Laney, the task force includes other prominent bipartisan foreign policy experts, former ambassadors to Korea, former assistant secretaries of state for East Asia and the Pacific, and a number of senior officials from the previous Bush and Clinton administrations, as well as former senior military commanders.

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The Council’s Independent Task Force on Korea has been in existence since 1997. It has issued two full reports and two letters to the President. This report is the Task Force’s fifth set of recommendations for public policy.


Contact: Lisa Shields, Director of Communications, (212) 439 7926 or lshields@cfr.org

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