Uh-Oh News: No Denuclearization Until U.S. Removes Nuclear Threat

In the 1990’s, denuclearization, a key aim of U.S. diplomacy, was at the heart of a series of crises on the Korean Peninsula throughout the Clinton Administration. Via history.state.gov:

Season 1:

There were signs of hope in early steps toward denuclearization. In January 1992, North Korea publicly committed to signing the nuclear safeguards agreement with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to permitting inspections of its primary nuclear facility at Yongbyon. In April of the same year, the North and South signed the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which barred the parties from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons and limited them to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. […]

The parties returned to negotiations, but these, too, faltered as North Korea resisted IAEA inspections. By March 1994, North Korean diplomats threatened war if the United States and South Korea went to the U.N. In May North Korea withdrew from the IAEA. A last-minute private trip to North Korea by President Jimmy Carter in June 1994 averted war and led to U.S.-North Korean bilateral negotiations and the October 1994 Agreed Framework for the denuclearization of North Korea.

The Agreed Framework was a staged, multilateral agreement involving the two Koreas, the United States, and Japan. It required Pyongyang to halt its nuclear activities at Yongbyon, allow IAEA monitors in, and eventually dismantle the facility. In exchange, the United States, Japan, and South Korea would provide light water reactors, and the United States would provide interim energy supplies in the form of fuel-oil. Each stage was to build confidence that the parties were willing to continue.

In carrying out the agreement, however, numerous setbacks eroded trust among the parties. While the United States followed through on its promises to ship fuel-oil, the U.S. Congress delayed the deliveries. The 1997 IMF Crisis limited the ability of South Korea to contribute to the construction of the light water reactors, leading to delays. Meanwhile, North Korea engaged in provocative acts against South Korea and Japan, testing ballistic missiles and pursuing other weapons activities. In 1998, suspected nuclear weapons activities at Kumchang-ri brought the Agreed Framework to the brink of collapse. Once inspectors were finally allowed in, they found no evidence of nuclear activity, but mistrust remained high. The Clinton administration worked to get the Agreed Framework back on track, leading to the visit of a North Korean envoy to the United States, a joint statement of no hostile intent, and a reciprocal visit by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang in October 2000.

However, despite these efforts, the nuclear issue was still unresolved. It was not long before the next crisis would arise, requiring the international community to take another approach to addressing the denuclearization issue. North Korea broke out of the 1994 agreement in the winter of 2002, resulting in the opening of the Six-Party Talks the following year, hosted by China.

Season 10: 

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US Embassy Seoul Tweets B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers: Precision Strikes at Will

Last week, the US Embassy in Seoul sent this tweet:

Screen Shot 2013-03-28

Today, this one:

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b-2 bomber_usemb seoul

The CSMonitor quoted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as saying that the unprecedented U.S. decision to send nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers to drop dummy munitions during military drills with South Korea was part of normal exercises and not intended to provoke a reaction from North Korea.

BBC News reported that that North Koreans  have put missile units on stand-by to attack US targets in response to US stealth bomber flights over the Korean peninsula.  The report citing the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also said that Kim Jong-un signed off on the order at a late-night meeting of top generals. The time had come to “settle accounts” with the US, KCNA quoted him as saying, with the B-2 flights an “ultimatum”.

A statement from US Forces Korea  says in part:

U.S. Strategic Command sent two B-2 Spirit bombers for a long-duration, round-trip training mission from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to the Republic of Korea March 28 as part of the ongoing bilateral Foal Eagle training exercise. 

This mission by two B-2 Spirit bombers assigned to 509th Bomb Wing, which demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will, involved flying more than 6,500 miles to the Korean Peninsula, dropping inert munitions on the Jik Do Range, and returning to the continental U.S. in a single, continuous mission.

The United States is steadfast in its alliance commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, to deterring aggression, and to ensuring peace and stability in the region.  The B-2 bomber is an important element of America’s enduring and robust extended deterrence capability in the Asia-Pacific region.  

That’s two flying over the Korean Peninsula, there are 18 more in the inventory.  Read more here.  Also BBC’s piece on How potent are North Korea’s threats? 
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