Nuclear Tension Within North Korea and Iraq

Nuclear Tension Within North Korea and Iraq

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Nuclear Tension Within North Korea and Iraq


In recent years the issue of nuclear armament has become a growing concern in world politics. The United States has taken on the self appointed role of world bully on this issue. Believing it self the sole country with the ability to keep nuclear weapons, while belligerently are striking out against other countries that pursue nuclear weapons, or are believed to have them in their possession.

Using the events of 9-11 as its cause, the United States has launched a “War on Terrorism” in which it has bombed Afghanistan in hopes of “destroying” and “finding” the terrorists that attacked the United States. Following its strike against Afghanistan the United States turned its attentions to the dictator Saddam Hussein, and his alleged secret stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Against the will of many other countries the United States invaded Iraq in hope of “sniffing” out the secret nuclear weapons. As the war was reaching it conclusion it became evident that the United States claims were wrong pertaining to Iraq’s supposed stockpile of illegal weapons. The United States has now invaded Iraq, torn apart its government and left a Viet-Nam type war raging with no real sense of conclusion, all based on a suspicion that Iraq was secretly holding weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea near the end of 2003 declared that it has been secretly pursuing uranium enrichment to create nuclear weapons. They claim the reason for this illegal action is solely the fault of the United States, and that the pursuit is only for defense in the case of a United States attack. This paper will study the United States-North Korean relations over the past fifty years, and then analyze the ways in which the issue of nuclear armament is being dealt with.

The end will briefly touch on a very similar situation that is arising in Iran, and the constant pressure the United States is putting to have Iran put in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty it entered into.

History of US and North Korea Relations:

The mutual mistrust and animosity between the United States and North Korea began in 1950 during the Korean War. On June, 25 1950 the Northern communists of Korea crossed the 38th parallel and attacked the southern part of Korea. North Korea was aided by Russia, who had supplied them with weapons and tanks.

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This battle was one sided and the South Koreans were outmatched and outnumbered. Seeing the inevitable defeat, the South Koreans appealed to the United Nations for help. In response to the South’s call for aid, the Security Council issued a resolution stating that the North must withdraw back to the 38th parallel. [1] Soon thereafter, US troops along with troops of 15 other nations arrived in South Korea to provide military aide. This turned the tide back into the favor of the South Koreans who with help of the United Nation troops pushed the North Koreans back into the North. [2]

This victory was short lived, however, when Communist China decided to intervene on the side of the North Koreans. With this newfound ally the North retook Seoul on January, 4th 1951. The UN forces then launched a counter attack on the North, and the battle stymied around the 38th parallel. After this stagnation, truce negotiations began and lasted for two years until an armistice agreement was settled on July 27, 1953. The result of this war was the splitting of the Korean Peninsula into two very different countries, North Korea and South Korea. The divided Korean Peninsula would have very different relationships with the United States: South Korea relying on the United States for weapons and aide, while North Korea and the United States have a deep-seeded mistrust of one and other. [3]

North Korea’s mistrust for the United States stems from the United States continued supply of weapons to South Korea. “The US shipped 80 nuclear warheads, 192 tactical nuclear bombs, 152 nuclear shells for 155-mm caliber howitzers and 56 nuclear shells for 8-inch howitzers, the January issue of magazine defense monitor published by the US Defense Intelligence Center said” [4]. In fact North Korea views the US as “the strongest Imperialist force in the world and as the successor to Japanese imperialism” [5].

The United States view of North Korea as “an international outlaw” [6], stems from the North Koreans continual testing of the armistice agreement that was signed after the Korean War. Since the armistice the North Koreans have executed actions which perpetuate the animosity and mistrust between it and the United States, such as the downing of a United States reconnaissance plane in 1969, killing two American soldiers in 1976, assassinating several US educated South Korean cabinet officials in 1983, and the terrorist bombing of a South Korean Airliner in 1987 [7].

In 1988, during the presidency of George Bush Sr., efforts were made by the United States and North Korea to end the long felt mistrust and estrangement. Cultural exchanges were facilitated and by 1990 almost monthly interactions were occurring. This atmosphere led to the US “announcing the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons worldwide.” [8] North Korea committed itself to a nuclear safeguards agreement and also agreed to have its primary nuclear facility inspected by the International Atomic Energy Association.[9] The climate between the United States and North Korea was improving enough for the two countries to meet and discuss how to normalize their relationship, as is shown by the quote below:

In February 1992, United States Department of State Under secretary for political affairs Arnold Kanter met with his North Korean counterpart, Korean Workers’ Party Director for International Affairs Kim Yong-sun, in New York. At this meeting, the United States set forth the steps it wanted North Korea to take prior to normalization of relations. North Korea had to facilitate progress in the North-South Korea dialogue; end its export of missile related technology; renounce terrorism; cooperate in accounting for all Korean War United States personnel classified as Missing in Action; demonstrate increasing respect for human; and conclude a credible and effective North-South Korean nuclear inspection regime designed to complement inspections conducted by the IAEA. Once a credible and effective bilateral North-South inspection regime has been implemented, the United States government will initiate a policy level dialogue with Norht Korea to formulate specifics for resolving other outstanding United States concerns. [10]

With the betterment of relations, it became possible for the United States and North Korea to start negotiations centered on finding a solution for ending the North Korean nuclear issue. Starting in 1992 and lasting 16 months an agreed framework for a nuclear non-proliferation treaty was hashed out with the help of South Korea and Japan. On October 21, 1994 the final framework for the Non-Proliferation Treaty was agreed upon. The terms of this treaty were; North Korea would stop their ambitions towards nuclear weapons by shutting down their one nuclear reactor and their two gas graphite reactors, in exchange the United States would oversee the construction of two light water reactors. The destruction of the already standing graphite reactors was to be timed inline with the construction of the light water reactors. In the interim North Korea was assured that as long as they complied with the inspections to be performed by the IAEA, the United States would not use nuclear weapons against North Korea. [11]
Relations, however, began to deteriorate rapidly with the Bush administration in 2000.

This was made blatantly obvious when in his 2002 state of the Union address president Bush in his belligerent rhetoric proclaimed North Korea as part of the new “Axis of Evil” [12]. According to a statement issued by the Democratic Peoples of Korea president Bush made a list of 7 nations to mount pre-emptive strikes against, one of those nations was North Korea. The DPRK believes that unless the US drops its hostile stance towards North Korea, the nuclear armament will always be an issue. [13]
In October 2002, North Korea acknowledged that it had been secretly running a nuclear weapons program, in direct opposition of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it had already entered into. From this moment on the tension between the United States and North Korea began to escalate. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Mohamed Al Baradei, issued a statement calling for North Korea to enter into a peaceful dialogue on its refusal to adhere to the NPT. Dr. El Baradi states that a “challenge to the integrity of that Treaty may constitute a threat to international peace and security.” [14] Now, the Bush administration had the IAEA on its side and could now start making threats against the DPRK.

After the DPRK issued a statement in which it stated the reasons they believe that the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1994 has been “reduced to a dead document”. [15] The DPRK blames the United States for the failure of the de-nuclearization of North Korea. Firstly, the United States continued supply of nuclear weapons to South Korea, and the continued “war games” that the United States and South Korea continue to perform every year, which keeps the North Koreans on the constant look out for hostile actions. Secondly, since the Bush administration the North Korean believe that the United States has been trying to force an unneeded confrontation with the DPRK. Thirdly, the United States has stated that it has the right to use nuclear weapons against the DPRK to destroy underground facilities. Lastly, the United States declaration of war against Iraq based solely on nuclear suspicion leads the DPRK to fear the same attack may come against them. [16]

President Bush made a public statement in March of 2003, stating that if diplomacy fails to solve the nuclear weapons issue on the Korean Peninsula, the next step will have to be force. [17] The United States then launched a smear campaign against North Korea in order to display the danger that a nuclear North Korea would pose to the world. Pyongyang issued a statement on June 18, 2003 reputing the claims made by the United States that the DPRK was involved in drug smuggling, counterfeiting money, suppression of religious freedom, exodus of refugees, human traffic, training computer hacker and other such acts, as psychological warfare. [18] According to the DPRK, these smear techniques coupled with the barring of North Korean trading ships is an act of aggression towards the DPRK. This smear campaign further firmed the North Korean belief of the need to possess nuclear weapons in order to protect them selves from a United States attack. These actions will “put spurs to increasing its nuclear deterrent for self – defense as a just self – defense measure to cope with the United States strategy to isolate and stifle DPRK the danger of which is increasing with each passing day” [19]

All these events lead to the present six party talks, held in Beijing on the issue of North Korean Nuclear arms.

The Six Party Talks:

In August of 2003, North Korea, the United States, South Korea, China, Japan and Russia all met in Beijing to resolve the nuclear weapons issue on the Korean Peninsula. Though all countries were hopeful going into these talks, the outcome was far from satisfying. North Korea stated that the only way it would drop its nuclear program is if the United States agrees to sign a non-aggression treaty. President Bush responded to these demands by saying “We will not have a treaty … that is off the table.”[20]. The United States even though not willing to sign a non-aggression treaty with North Korea, said it would make assurances not to attack the North. The talks ended in a stalemate, but all parties, bar North Korea, left with the intention of continuing the six-party dialogue at a later date.

According to the Chinese press, the Chinese government believes the only way to come to a peaceful solution is through dialogue, and is pushing for a second round of six-way talks. China also is aiming to keep its relations with North Korea [21]. The South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, stated “I expect that the second round of talks will be held in due time and will produce good results.”[22]

Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi left the meetings with the same views on the situation as the other members of the discussion. Basically, the North Koreans want a guarantee that the United States won’t attack them, and the United States wants the nuclear program dismantled. However, Koizumi also made it known that the issues between North Korea and Japan are more than just that of the nuclear weapons, and normalization of relations will take more work than just solving that issue. [23]

North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister, Choe Su Hon, told the United Nation General Assembly “that his country’s ultimate goal is to de-nuclearize the Korean Peninsula.” [24] Choe Su Hon, states that the refusal of the United States to sign a non-aggression treaty further proves the hostile stance that the United States has taken towards North Korea and further shows the need of the North Koreans to protect them selves from an attack.

What Will Come?:

On October 20th, 2003 United States President George Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, agreed that “They will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea and are committed to a peaceful resolution of the issue”[25]. President Bush reaffirmed that the United States has no hostile intentions towards North Korea and that security assurance will be provided, as long as North Korea follows a plan for nuclear disarmament. However, Bush still refuses to give into North Korea’s demand for a non-aggression treaty. Both leaders expressed the necessity for continued six party talks and encouraged North Korea to “respond positively to the other parties diplomatic efforts” [26]. North Korea’s response wasn’t positive, in fact North Korea dismissed trading nuclear disarmament for a security guarantee as “laughable” and not “worthy of consideration”. Yet, despite the North Koreans negative reaction to his offer, Bush became more determined than ever to find a way to halt the nuclear ambitions of North Korea. [42]

Six days later, at a meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, President Bush, and President Kim-Dae-Jung, made the joint statement that the North Korean program to enrich uranium needs to be stopped. [27] In this meeting all three leaders agreed that the only way to solve the problem is through peaceful dialogue, and that in the bilateral North-South Dialogues, and Japan-DPRK normalization dialogues, it should be stressed that the issue needs a hasty solution.[28]

Kim Jong-Il, the leader of the DPRK met with Wu Bangguo, China’s top legislator, in Pyongyang on October 31st, 2003 to discuss the issue of continuing the six party discussions. Both countries made it clear in this meeting that they are devoted in a DPRK – China cooperation, through these issues. Also in this meeting both leaders agreed that the talks should be continued and that the only peaceful solution could come from dialogue. The DPRK wants the United States to “accept a package solution based on the principle of simultaneous action”[29] This package include the United States resuming fuel oil supply, humanitarian food aide to the DPRK, and as well declare its willingness to dismantle its nuclear program. In exchange the DPRK will dismantle its own nuclear program. The US will also follow up with its 1994 Non-Proliferation Agreement and send a consortium to complete the two light water reactors. [31]. China believes that both countries needs should be met.

As of November 21st, 2003, the issue of the light water reactor has been put on hold. This decision was reached by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), whose members include the United States, Japan, South Korea and the European Union. At the date of the decision the light water reactors were only 30 percent complete. “In the past the United States wanted to cancel the project. In recent months, however, it agreed to a one-year suspension, with unanimous decision by KEDO’s board required to resume it.” [31] This suspension shows that the countries involved in the six party talks are optimistic about solving the problem, which can be seen in the fact that the project was not cancelled, but only suspended. The suspension shows that the light water reactors will be built, and that they will be built because the issue will be solved, otherwise the United States would have refused to continue the construction. However, this could also be a way for the United States to bait North Korea back into negotiations.

According to Condoleeza, Rice Bush’s continual refusal to a non-aggression treaty is based on the history between the United States and North Korea. The United States is wary of how well the North Koreans will stick to an agreement that has been made, and by signing a non-aggression treaty and having the DPRK continuing its nuclear program the United States will be stuck between a rock and hard place. On one hand they can’t break the treaty and on the other they can’t allow the DPRK to build up its nuclear arsenal. [32]

At present time, all six countries are hoping to continue the dialogue as soon as possible, and hopefully in this meeting an agreement will be made that suits and benefits all parties involved. The North Koreans may be holding out on resuming negotiation until it can be more clearly seen who is most likely to win in the next United States presidential elections. [33] All countries involved have shown a very deep interest in the normalization of relations with North Korea.

A similar situation in Iran:

Recently, Iran, another country President Bush included as part of his “Axis of Evil” has been under the careful eye of the United States. The relationship between the United States and Iran has been described as a “cold, fragile peace”. [34] In the past year Iran has been the subject of the United States nuclear suspicion, this suspicion is in danger of breaking the “cold, fragile peace”.

When in December of 2003 United States spy planes took pictures that proved that Iran was secretly building nuclear facilities. Iran claimed that its nuclear ambitions are completely peaceful. Senator Richard Shelby, in the quote below, further displays the United States paranoia about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, “We don’t need another nuclear power – not with Iran sponsoring terrorism that it has in the past.” [35] It is exactly this kind of finger-pointing rhetoric that is forcing other nations such as North Korea to feel as if they need to protect them selves from the United States.

This nuclear suspicion was fueled by the IAEA’s discovery of small traces of weapon grade uranium on centrifuge components in an Iranian nuclear enrichment plant. Iran claims that the centrifuge components were purchased through a third party and that the source of the uranium in question cannot be determined. [36] With this discovery the United States had its reason to pressure the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The IAEA then gave Iran until October 31st to prove that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. Iran then complied with all the demands that the IAEA made. However, Iran admitted to pursuing uranium enrichment for peaceful uses over the last 18 years. [37]

The IAEA issued a statement on November 26th, 2003 stating that Iran was not in violation of the NPT and that it found no evidence of illegal pursuit of nuclear weapons and therefore would not require increased sanctions. [38] Iran declared its intention to stop the enrichment of uranium, and agreed to tougher and snap inspections of nuclear facilities, to be conducted by the IAEA. These concession show that Iran is willing to compromise and meet the demands necessary to prove that their intentions are peaceful. [39]

However, the United States refuses to let the issue settle where it is currently at. The Under Secretary John Bolton has made several public statements in which he displays the continued suspicion of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In one statement he refers to Iran along with North Korea as “rogue states” in which action to remove the illicit goods from the country in question would have to be taken if diplomacy were to fail. [40] The United states even after the IAEA decision, is still pressuring to have Iran declared in violation of the NPT. “He (John Bolton) said that if the IAEA, which issued a resolution critical of Iran in November, discovers and more transgressions, it will be ‘obligated’ to refer the matter to the Security Council for considerations – a dramatic move that would increase the pressure on Tehran to rein in its nuclear ambitions.” [41]

Solution to the whole mess:

The simple solution to the problem on the Korean peninsula is for the United States to draft a non-aggression treaty with North Korea, and for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program. That is of course assuming the North Korea will stick with the agreement, which it seems willing to do. If these concessions are made then both countries can return to the terms of the NPT of 1994, and construction of the light water reactors that have been suspended until next year can be completed. Also, North Korea can stop using its country’s money and start repairing it’s already economically challenge populace.

If the United States continues pressuring the IAEA to declare Iran in violation of the NPT, then a similar situation that has developed in North Korea will more than likely develop in Iran. This can be easily avoid if the United States accepts the IAEA’s decision to not put Iran under increased sanctions, as most of the rest of the world already has. The continual attempts of the United States to stifle any and all nuclear armament in countries that it believes to be “terrorist” nation can result in strained relations and lost respect from the world community. Many nations already view the United States as a “world bully” that will attack when the United Nation will not grant it the decisions it wants, as was seen in Iraq. Hopefully, the future of Iran-United States, and North Korea – United States Relations normalize and the nuclear threat is solved, but as has been stated by many of the leaders on other countries the only way to go about solving these issues is through peaceful dialogue.

[1] The Korean Embassy, “The Korean War,”

[2] “The Korean War”

[3] “North Korea,” CIA - World Factbook

[4] “U.S. to blame for derailing process of denuclearization on Korean Peninsula,”

[5] “History of North Korea,” The Library of Congress Studies,

[6] “History of North Korea”

[7] “History of North Korea”

[8] “History of North Korea”

[9] “History of North Korea”

[10] “History of North Korea”

[11] “Non-Proliferation Treaty,’ U.S.-Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea Agreed
Framework, http://www.fas.ord/nuke/control/npt/docs/dprk.htm

[12] “U.S. to blame for derailing process of denuclearization on Korean Peninsula”

[13] “U.S. to blame for derailing process of denuclearization on Korean Peninsula”


[15] “U.S. to blame for derailing process of denuclearization on Korean Peninsula”

[16] “U.S. to blame for derailing process of denuclearization on Korean Peninsula”

[17] “Force is next resort, Bush tells Pyongyang,” The Gaurdian,,3604,907649,00.htm

[18] “DPRK increasing its nuclear deterent force for self-defense,” The Pyongyang

[19] “DPRK increasing its nuclear deterent force for self-defense”

[20] “Bush proposes alternative to N. Korean Standoff,”,, 10- 19-03

[21] “Seoul Optimistic About Early Solution of DPRK Nuclear Issue,”,, 11-1-03

[22] “North Korea says the U.S. forced its Nuclear Stance,”,, 9-30-03

[23] “Q & A: Koizumi talks security and shoguns,”,, 11-19-03

[24] “North Korea says the U.S. forced its Nuclear Stance”

[25] “U.S., Republic of Korea Outline Areas of Agreement,” The Washington File,, 10-20-03

[26] “U.S., Republic of Korea Outline Areas of Agreement”

[27] “Joint U.S.-Japan-ROK Trilateral statement on North Korea,” The Washington File,, 10-26-03

[28] “Joint U.S.-Japan-ROK Trilateral statement on North Korea”

[29] “China, DPRK Agree to Continue Six-Party Talks on KoreanNuclear Issue,”,, 11-1-03

[30] “Seoul Optimistic About Early Solution of DPRK Nuclear Issue”

[31] “Consortium halts North Korean reactor project,”,, 11-21- 03

[32] “Bush Ready to Move Forward with Six-Party Talks on North Korea,” The
Washington File,, 10-20-03

[33] “Delay in N. Korea Talks May Pose Little Risk to Deal” Iran News

[34] “Iran-US RELATIONS: A COLD, FRAGILE PEACE,” Eurasianet,, 4-7-03

[35] “IAEA: Iran secretly made nuclear material,”,, 11-11-03

[36] “Iran Hands Over Key Drawings to UN Nuclear Agency,”,, 11-6-03

[37] “Iran Hands Over Key Drawings to UN Nuclear Agency”

[38] ‘Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran’”
IAEA, Board of Governors, 11-26-03

[39] “IAEA Sees no evidence Iran plans to develop nuclear arms,”,, 11-11-03

[40] “Bolton: U.S. Will Block Iran on Nuke Tech” Iran News

[41] “IAEA: Iran secretly made nuclear material”

[42] “North Korea: U.S. Offer ‘Laughable’”,”,, 10-21-03
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