Before North Korea decided to restart its nuclear weapons facilities in 2002, this blue-ribbon group of experts voiced its concern that North Korea would do just that. It warns in this report that progress made on the Korean Peninsula was fragile and “diplomatic gains achieved by the United States and South Korea in the past decade are not irreversible.” Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions 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. 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, under which the United States, Japan, and South Korea promised help with electrical power for North Korea in exchange for North Korea’s promise to freeze 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, Pyongyang’s ballistic missile program, and missile exports.
Cochaired by Ambassador Morton I. Abramowitz and Ambassador James T. Laney, the Task Force includes other prominent 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. 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.