In his Oct. 25 op-ed column, Charles Krauthammer expressed contempt for the opinions I offered about North Korea in an editorial in the New York Times in October 1994.
In that piece, I applauded the Agreed Framework, which stopped plutonium reprocessing by North Korea. The United States, in return, promised to provide a light-water reactor by 2003, supply heavy fuel oil in the interim and improve relations with its onetime enemy.
Washington got what it most wanted up front, but it did not live up to its end of the bargain. Flayed by Krauthammer and hard-liners in Congress, the Clinton administration shrank from implementing the deal. Pyongyang's covert effort to acquire the means to enrich uranium may date from that time.
Pyongyang tried again to end its enmity with Washington using missiles as inducement. That effort culminated in October 2000, when the two sides issued a joint communique declaring "neither government would have hostile intent toward the other."
Two weeks later, Kim Jong Il offered to end exports of all missile technology and to freeze testing, production and deployment of the No Dong and Taepo Dong missiles.
Those offers led Krauthammer to conclude that North Korea was engaging in "extortion" in an attempt to obtain economic aid without giving up anything in return. It was not. It was cooperating when Washington cooperated and retaliating when Washington reneged.
The Bush administration refused to negotiate. Worse, the president included North Korea in his "axis of evil" and threatened preemptive war. That gave new impetus to North Korean efforts to acquire uranium-enrichment capability. Yet, when confronted by U.S. evidence of its covert nuclear program, North Korea acknowledged it, putting it on the negotiating table. In response, U.S. allies South Korea and Japan sped up talks with North Korea.
The great divide in American foreign policy thinking is between those like Krauthammer who think that the only way to get our way in the world is to push other countries around and those who think that cooperation can sometimes reduce threats.
-- Leon V. Sigal
The writer, a former member
of the editorial board of
the New York Times,
is director of the Northeast
Asia Cooperative Security
Project at the Social Science
Research Council in New York.