This report, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, was done by an Independent Task Force on Managing Change on the Korean Peninsula. Noting that the new Republic of Korea government has taken steps to open North Korea to broader contacts with the outside world while asserting that it will brook no military aggression from the North, the Task Force recommends a parallel and supportive approach for U.S. policy.
The Korean peninsula remains one of the most heavily armed and dangerous places in the world. Despite its deteriorating economic situation, North Korea retains a standing army of over one million men and an enormous arsenal of artillery and missiles, most of them as close to Seoul, the South Korean capital, as Dulles Airport is to downtown Washington, D.C. In 1994, the United States and North Korea almost went to war over the North's nuclear program. Since then, Washington and Seoul have attempted to cap North Korea's nuclear ambitions through the Agreed Framework and, together with China, have begun negotiations in the four-party talks designed to replace the current armistice agreement with a peace treaty that would formally end the Korean War.According to an Independent Task Force on Managing Change on the Korean Pensinsula, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. policy has not moved far enough to reduce the underlying threat from the North and to encourage North-South reconciliation. Noting that the new Republic of Korea (ROK) government has taken steps to open North Korea to broader contacts with the outside world while asserting that it will brook no military aggression from the North, the Task Force recommends a parallel and supportive approach for U.S. policy. According to the Task Force, this approach should be premised on robust deterrence and close US-ROK cooperation, and an acknowledgement that the United States does not seek the absorption or destruction of the North. However, the Task Force recommends that the policy should move beyond these initial assumptions to expand contact with the North, join with Seoul in offering a larger package of reciprocal moves that might induce the North to make significant changes in its policies, and deny any expanded assistance to the North if Pyongyang rejects the opportunity for threat reduction and reconciliation. The Task Force argues that despite the difficulties in dealing with North Korea, this approach can, at a minimum, enhance stability on the peninsula and establish the groundwork for positive change.The bipartisan Task Force - chaired by Morton I. Abramowitz and James T. Laney - included several former U.S. ambassadors to South Korea, all of the U.S. assistant secretaries of state for East Asia and the Pacific in the past three administrations, and leading experts on Korea and East Asia, military affairs, and international law. In preparing the Report, the Task Force traveled to Seoul for consultations with President Kim Dae Jung and members of his cabinet, as well as with academic experts in the Seoul Forum, a leading South Korean foreign policy organization.