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Breakthrough International NegotiationHow Great Negotiators Transformed the World's Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts
In June 1994, the administration of President Bill Clinton faced what many officials considered its most delicate and potentially explosive foreign-policy crisis yet. The United States had been negotiating with the North Korean government of Kim Il Sung for almost a year, intent on discovering whether the isolated Communist regime already had nuclear weapons, and on halting any efforts on its part to build atomic bombs.
The on-again, off-again negotiations had broken down in alarming fashion a month earlier. Thumbing its nose at U.S. negotiators and the international nonproliferation community, North Korea unloaded the core of its 5-megawatt (5-MW) nuclear reactor, removing enough plutonium-rich fuel rods to provide the raw material for as many as five nuclear bombs. "In many ways, Korea poses the greatest security threat to the United States and the world today," Defense Secretary William Perry declared after the unloading. "We have to regard the situation as very dangerous."
The provocative defuelling had other implications besides the obvious threat that North Korea could amass a small arsenal of nuclear bombs by year's end. If the hermitic state continued to flout international nuclear regulations, it could discredit U.S.-supported efforts to control the worldwide spread of atomic weapons. Moreover, if North Korea were known to have produced an atomic bomb, it might well spark a nuclear arms race in Asia. To make matters worse, many believed a nuclear North Korea would export weapons to other rogue nations like Iran and Libya.
Most chilling of all was the threat that the spiraling tensions surrounding the nuclear standoff could pull the United States into immediate war with an unpredictable, and perhaps desperate, adversary. Military leaders had already warned the president that if the North invaded America's South Korean ally, more than one million people could be killed, including as many as fifty thousand Americans. Military strategists believed that allied U.S. and South Korean troops would ultimately repel a North Korean attack, but the South's capital city of Seoul, just 25 miles south of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas, would almost certainly be devastated. (For a map of the Korean Peninsula, see Figure 1.1.) "If North Korea attacked the South, they would lose," declared General Robert Riscassi, a former commander of U.S. forces in Korea. "The problem is: at what price?"
The United States was determined not to let the nuclear dispute escalate. But finding a way to influence North Korea's behavior without worsening the conflict proved increasingly elusive. No common ground existed on which to base a new round of negotiations. China, one of North Korea's few remaining allies, appeared either unwilling or unable to broker a resolution. And a Clinton administration drive to pressure the North with the threat of United Nations economic sanctions seemed only to provoke Kim Il Sung, who declared repeatedly that sanctions would constitute an act of war.
Many viewed Kim's threat as bluster, but the administration could not afford to be unprepared. By mid-June, officials were making secret plans to send ten thousand more troops to South Korea and laying out the first steps the United States should take to prepare for war. In Seoul, skeptical South Koreans participated in air-raid drills and stocked up on food and emergency supplies. In the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, meanwhile, the rhetoric grew ever more bellicose. To most observers, a second Korean war still appeared unlikely. But for the U.S. officials who had managed the long, and now paralyzed, negotiations, the likelihood of resolving the dispute without military conflict appeared slimmer every day.
The 1994 nuclear dispute occurred against a backdrop of centuries of regional hostilities. For most of its history, a unified Korea had struggled to repel invasions by its more powerful neighbors, in particular China and Japan. These recurring aggressions-including a repressive 35-year Japanese occupation that ended with Japan's defeat in World War II-had left the Korean people with both a profound nationalism and a deep residual mistrust of outsiders.
Korea's sense of being a pawn in an international game did not end with its liberation from Japan in 1945. Victorious Allied forces had agreed that Korea should revert to self-rule, but the small nation's destiny continued to be defined by other nations' interests and ambitions. The Soviet Union had invaded Korea in its final assault against Japan, and a hasty postwar deal allowed the Soviet Union to occupy the northern half of the Peninsula and the United States to occupy the South. An Allied trusteeship and a joint U.S.-Soviet commission were to help transfer power to a unified Korean provisional government, but growing tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union soon blocked reunification. In 1948, the Republic of Korea (ROK) was formed in the South under right-wing leadership. One month later Kim Il Sung was installed as Premier of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the North.
Less than two years later Kim's Communist regime invaded the South, launching the bloody Korean War. The Chinese-backed DPRK battled the ROK and a U.S.-led United Nations alliance up and down the length of the Peninsula; Seoul changed hands four times. Armistice talks began early in the conflict-after the Communist leaders concluded they could not rout the UN forces, and the UN Command decided it could not retake North Korea without a full-scale assault on China-but it took more than two years to negotiate a cease-fire. By the end of the war, more than one million people had been killed, including 250,000 civilians and more than fifty-four thousand Americans. Subsequent Western views of the Kim Il Sung regime were profoundly affected by Communist tactics, such as the North's brainwashing of many prisoners of war. North Korea had established itself as a sinister and cunning adversary.
In the decades following the cease-fire, both Koreas seized on eventual reunification of the Peninsula as a rallying cry and a justification for extreme political behavior. In the South, rebuilding a nation with formidable economic and military strengths became a consuming goal, and only U.S. pressure discouraged the ROK from developing its own nuclear weapons. A series of authoritarian military leaders made frequent use of martial law and torture in the cause of eradicating Communism and resisting the North. Nevertheless the United States supported the South Korean government staunchly, helping to fuel a long-standing student-led protest movement that blamed the United States for the totalitarian regime.
Kim Il Sung, meanwhile, built his autocratic rule around an almost religious devotion to the concept of juche, or political and economic self-reliance. The "Great Leader," whose image loomed on statues dotted across the North Korean countryside, also masterminded terrorist activities aimed at undermining the South, including bombing a South Korean airliner, killing all 115 aboard, in an apparent attempt to disrupt the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Kim's renegade status in the international community was solidified by the North's export of missiles to other terrorist nations, and its pursuit of a nuclear program-to unclear ends.
The United States viewed Kim as the dangerous and unpredictable leader of one of the world's most repressive and authoritarian regimes, and maintained a tough stance toward the DPRK. In addition to tens of thousands of troops, the United States had installed nuclear weapons in South Korea, a capability decried by the North as a flagrant threat. Annual U.S.-ROK war games, known as Team Spirit, served as a regular reminder to the North of the forces-including nuclear-allied against it. The United States wanted to avoid military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, but its longstanding goal was the nonviolent overthrow or collapse of the government in the North and reunification of Korea under the rule of the ROK.
Almost four decades after the Korean War ended, hostilities continued to simmer. Even at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, nearly one million troops still faced off on either side of the 150-mile-long DMZ, the most heavily armed border in the world. In fact, North Korea, the most militarized country anywhere, maintained the world's fifth largest army. Since no peace treaty was ever signed, the two Koreas were still technically at war.
THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION TAKES ON
North Korea had had a nuclear program since the mid-1950s, and in 1980 it had begun building a small 5-MW reactor-merely, Pyongyang insisted, to power its electrical grid. But the intelligence and nonproliferation agencies that monitored the North's nuclear activities were expressing growing alarm. The DPRK had begun building two more powerful reactors, which would eventually be able to produce enough plutonium for forty-five bombs a year. Covert construction of a large plutonium-reprocessing facility had reportedly begun. Moreover, North Korea had quietly closed down the 5-MW reactor for almost 100 days in 1989. Although officials in Pyongyang claimed the shutdown was for routine maintenance, international intelligence agencies weren't so sure: the duration of the shutdown would have allowed North Korea to completely refuel the reactor, generating material that could be processed into enough weapons-grade plutonium for one or two nuclear weapons.
No mechanism was in place to inspect or verify the activities of the reclusive Communist state, but by September 1991 Bush administration officials felt conditions might finally be right for a shift in U.S. policy toward North Korea. Their goal was to open up the North's hitherto-opaque nuclear program and to put a stop to its increasingly aggressive program of nuclear-weapons construction.
Several factors contributed to the Bush administration's assessment. By the 1980s, North Korea's isolation, unwise agricultural practices, and heavy investment in the military at the expense of other ventures had contributed to a serious economic decline. With few trading partners and little to trade, the North's estimated GNP was a mere $23.3 billion by 1991-less than a tenth of the South's $273 billion. "Self-reliance may have looked like a good policy in 1945 when Kim Il Sung came of age," says Bruce Cumings, an historian and Korea expert, "but it doesn't look very good in a world without borders today." North Korea was also losing the few major allies and trading partners it had had to the economically booming ROK. The Soviet Union recognized South Korea in 1990 and ended its aid and trade concessions to the DPRK the next year. China did $2 billion worth of trade with South Korea in 1991, about five times its estimated trade with North Korea. Moreover, South Korea was admitted to the United Nations in 1991 with Chinese and Soviet support, despite North Korea's wish to be the Peninsula's sole representative.
Fears about its bomb program were also hurting North Korea's tentative attempts to reach out. In 1991 Japan cut off normalization talks, the South suspended the modest trade initiatives between the two countries, and the United States cancelled troop withdrawals from South Korea begun the previous year. Kim and the North's elite must also have been shaken by the failures of other longstanding Communist regimes: the breaching of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the overthrow the same year of Romania's dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, with whom Kim reportedly identified closely, and the coup in the Soviet Union that preceded its 1991 collapse.
In the wake of these radical realignments, Pyongyang began to make overtures to the United States. In fact, some Korea watchers believe the isolated regime had been trying to engage the United States since the early 1970s. Selig Harrison, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, met with Kim Il Sung in 1972 as one of the first American journalists to enter the country after the Korean War, and later pressed the United States to relax restrictions on North Korea. With modest exceptions, though, the United States continued to prohibit direct contact between representatives of the two governments. "North Korea was viewed as the most repugnant totalitarian regime in the world, and we didn't want to have anything to do with them," Harrison explains. "South Korea has also done its best to make sure that we didn't have any improvement of relations with North Korea."
In this period of global change, however, the Bush administration began to consider modifying its policy, particularly if it might induce the DPRK to come clean on its nuclear program. Both the United States and South Korea may have been influenced by Germany's painful reunification following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Korea experts agreed that assimilation problems in the event of a sudden failure of the DPRK regime would dwarf those experienced in Germany, leading many policymakers to stress the merits of a gradual reconciliation over sudden short-term reunification.
Two avenues for engaging the North showed promise. First was the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), an international agreement designed to check the spread of nuclear weapons. North Korea had signed the NPT in 1985 at the Soviet Union's urging, but had never negotiated the safeguards agreement required within 18 months of entry. If it finally complied, Pyongyang's nuclear program would become more transparent: not only would North Korea have to provide a list of nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an arm of the United Nations, it would also have to open its facilities to IAEA inspectors. International pressure on North Korea to fulfill its safeguards obligations had been growing, but Pyongyang refused to comply until the United States removed its nuclear weapons from South Korea and pledged not to use nuclear weapons against the regime.
Even more promising, in the eyes of many in the Bush administration, was a regional denuclearization agreement. Despite tensions between North and South, the two Koreas had begun drafting a plan requiring both to remain nuclear-weapons-free. Such a "two-sided" strategy was doubly appealing to the United States, one official confides, since it would also deter the South, which had shelved its own nuclear ambitions only in response to U.S. admonitions. Some in government described the North-South approach as "parallel" to the NPT.
Excerpted from Breakthrough International Negotiation by Michael Watkins Susan Rosegrant Copyright © 2001 by Michael Watkins and Susan Rosegrant
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of ContentsForeword: Shimon Peres.Preface.Introduction: Seven Principles of Breakthrough Negotiation.PART ONE: FOUNDATIONS OF THE BREAKTHROUGH APPROACH.1. The United States Engages a Cold War Orphan.2. Diagnosing the Structure.3. Tensions Escalate on the Korean Peninsula.4. Identifying Barriers to Agreement.5. Carter Achieves a Breakthrough.6. Managing Conflict.7. The United States and North Korea Reach Agreement.8. Building Momentum.PART TWO: BUILDING THE BREAKTHROUGH TOOLBOX.9. Getting to the Table in Oslo.10. Transforming the Balance of Forces.11. Assembling the Persian Gulf Coalition.12. Building Coalitions.13. Ending the War in Bosnia.14. Leading Negotiations.Conclusion: Becoming a Breakthrough Negotiator.Suggested Readings.Update of the Cases.Notes.The Authors.Index.
What People are Saying About This
Winner of the CPR Institute's prize for outstanding book in thefield of negotiation and dispute resolution for 2001. CPR is theleading US professional organization of dispute resolutionprofessionals.
"We have learned the hard way that much of what we knew abouthow to navigate in the world does not work in the post-Cold Warera. If we are to meet the challenges of negotiating in anincreasingly complex world, we need fresh thinking. BreakthroughInternational Negotiation is an enormous contribution tomeeting that need. It is a fascinating examination of recentbreakthrough negotiations and their implications for negotiationsof all sorts. Watkins and Rosegrant mine these experiencesskillfully to fashion a set of practical tools for conductingnegotiations and achieving breakthroughs. The general principlesand practices that flow from their combined narratives andanalytical assessments will be of great value to every practitionerin government and business." (John P. White, lecturer in publicpolicy, Kennedy School of Government, former U.S. Deputy Secretaryof Defense, and editor of Keeping the Edge: Managing Defense forthe Future)
"As globalization forces more and more companies to operate inthe international environment, the capacity to conduct effective"corporate diplomacy" has become a strategic imperative. ThoughBreakthrough International Negotiation draws on case studiesin international diplomatic negotiation, it also provides apowerful, actionable framework for managing global businesschallenges. It is a must-read for senior executives charged withrunning international operations or working with foreigngovernments and NGOs." (Quentin Heim, vice president, of publicaffairs, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals)
"Watkins and Rosegrant capture the essence of diplomacy in theiraccounts of the great international negotiations of the nineties.They also provide a powerful framework for making breakthroughshappen in any complex negotiation. Diplomats and business peoplealike can profit from this remarkable analysis." (Bennett Freeman,former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, HumanRights and Labor, and former manager of corporate affairs, GeneralElectric)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Breakthrough International Negotiation skillfully synthesizes the most important negotiation literature, and develops a new and more sophisticated framework to help a negotiator formulate strategy in complex, high stakes negotiation contexts. The book's framework yields a series of questions and issues for the negotiator to consider in preparation, at the table and away from the table. It is not and cannot be a simple 'how to'. Rather, it enables the intelligent reader to become a more reflective practioner, by suggesting what questions to ask him or herself and thus how to learn well from experience. I am familiar with much of the existing negotiation literature; this is the first one to closely describe the real world of messy and hard to manage negotiations. Negotiations lessons aside, the chapters of 'thick' description of recent major international negotiations are fascinating and closely focused history. They also serve as sources for the authors' framework, and help the reader understand how to apply it. This book's value is not at all limited to international diplomacy. As a professor teaching negotiation in a law school, I plan to assign significant portions to my students and to recommend it to legal professionals. I would send it to any friend who is a leader in an organization, thrust into complex, high stakes, hard to manage negotiations. It is beautifully written, a pleasure to read.