Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea

Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea

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Princeton University Press


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Disarming Strangers: Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea

In June 1994 the United States went to the brink of war with North Korea. With economic sanctions impending, President Bill Clinton approved the dispatch of substantial reinforcements to Korea, and plans were prepared for attacking the North's nuclear weapons complex. The turning point came in an extraordinary private diplomatic initiative by former President Jimmy Carter and others to reverse the dangerous American course and open the way to a diplomatic settlement of the nuclear crisis.

Few Americans know the full details behind this story or perhaps realize the devastating impact it could have had on the nation's post-Cold War foreign policy. In this lively and authoritative book, Leon Sigal offers an inside look at how the Korean nuclear crisis originated, escalated, and was ultimately defused. He begins by exploring a web of intelligence failures by the United States and intransigence within South Korea and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Sigal pays particular attention to an American mindset that prefers coercion to cooperation in dealing with aggressive nations. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with policymakers from the countries involved, he discloses the details of the buildup to confrontation, American refusal to engage in diplomatic give-and-take, the Carter mission, and the diplomatic deal of October 1994.

In the post-Cold War era, the United States is less willing and able than before to expend unlimited resources abroad; as a result it will need to act less unilaterally and more in concert with other nations. What will become of an American foreign policy that prefers coercion when conciliation is more likely to serve its national interests? Using the events that nearly led the United States into a second Korean War, Sigal explores the need for policy change when it comes to addressing the challenge of nuclear proliferation and avoiding conflict with nations like Russia, Iran, and Iraq. What the Cuban missile crisis was to fifty years of superpower conflict, the North Korean nuclear crisis is to the coming era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691010069
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/01/1999
Series: Princeton Studies in International History and Politics Series
Edition description: second printing
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Leon V. Sigal is a consultant at the Social Science Research Council in New York and Adjunct Professor in the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. A former member of The New York Times editorial board, he is also the author of Fighting to a Finish: The Politics of War Termination in the United States and Japan, 1945.

Table of Contents



1 Uncooperative America 3

A History of Failure 5

Shared Uncertainty, Shared Certitude 10

The Politics of Diplomatic Paralysis 13


2 The Bush Deadlock Machine 17

Dealing with Korean Insecurities 20

North Korea Reciprocates for U.S. Security Assurances 25

"One Meeting Means One Meeting" 32

Ignoring the North's Offer 38

Witnesses for the Prosecution 42

Interregnum Politics. No One Stands Up to Team Spirit 44

3 The Clinton Administration Ties Itself in Knots 52

Coaxing North Korea Part-way Back into the Treaty 55

The Reactor Deal Redux 65

Empty Threats 71

An Empty "Package Deal" 77

Seoul Gets the Shakes 84

4 A "Better than Even" Chance of Misestimation 90

The Collapse of "Super Tuesday" 95

Let Bygones Be Bygones, for Now 108

Stumbling to the Brink 113

5 Deadlock 124


6 Open Covenants, Privately Arrived At 131

Private Contacts With Pyongyang 133

Pyongyang Reaches Out 137

The Hidden Hand in the First Joint Statement 140

Two Foundations Try to Jump-Start Diplomacy 143

Jimmy Carter refuses to Take "No" for an Answer 150

The Carter-Kim Deal 155

The Bushmen Go on Me Warpath 162

7 Getting to Yes 168

Kim Il Sung's Legacy 172

Putting Some chips on the Table 176

The October Agreed Framework 184

Decrying and Defending the Deal 192

The Issue at Kuala Lumpur: What's in a Name? 199


8 Nuclear Diplomacy in the News—An Untold Story 207

Unfamiliarity Breeds Contempt 208

Explaining News on Nuclear Diplomacy 219

Op-eds and Editorials 223

Possible Consequences of News Coverage 225

9 The Politics of Discouragement 229

No Interest in a Deal 229

The Foreign Policy Establishment 236

10 Why Won't America Cooperate? 244

Realism 246

The Liberal challenge to Realism 250

Cooperating With Strangers 251

Appendixes 255

Appendix I North Korea's Tit-for-Tat Negotiating Behavior 257

Appendix II Key Documents 260



What People are Saying About This


A brilliant reconstruction of how close we came to war with North Korea in 1994, . . . A highly cautionary tale, illustrating the value of cooperation, not confrontation, in dealing with dangerous strangers having nuclear aspirations.
Donald P. Gregg, former Ambassador to South Korea


Anyone who cares about how American foreign policy should be conducted after the Cold War should read this book.
Morton H. Halperin, former member, National Security Council Staff


Leon Sigal's Disarming Strangers is the most comprehensive treatment of the U.S.-North Korea nuclear negotiations available.... Sigal is at his best in describing the way governments actually come to make decisions.
Robert L. Gallucci, U.S. Negotiator at the High Level Talks, 1993-1994

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