Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

War & Peace on the Korean Peninsula

This undated picture, released from Korean Central News Agency on June 11, 2008, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (L) inspecting Korean People's Army unit 958 at an undisclosed location. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This undated picture, released from Korean Central News Agency on June 11, 2008, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (L) inspecting Korean People's Army unit 958 at an undisclosed location. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)


The Perry Review

The key to the future of all these mechanisms for dealing with the DPRK is likely to be The Perry Review itself.

Bill Perry has been working on this Review for more than a year now and it is understood that the scope of the Review covers the breadth of the strategic, political and economic future of the DPRK, its relations with the South and, of course, with the United States itself. Perry visited Pyongyang in May. His mission then was to begin to outline to the DPRK the likely content of his Review and its recommendations.

My understanding is that the DPRK did not provide any considered response to the Americans - which is why tomorrow's developments in Geneva are so important. On the eve of the Four Party Talks, it is likely that Chuck Kartman will sit down with his North Korean counterpart, Vice Minister Kim Gye-kwan, to seek a read-out from Pyongyang before Perry reports to President Clinton and Congress next week. Of course the critical question is what will Perry recommend? And will it be acceptable in Pyongyang, Seoul, Tokyo, and probably most importantly, on Capitol Hill.

I believe Perry is likely to recommend a comprehensive package of measures which go considerably beyond the current scope of policy engagement with the North.

It's unlikely that Perry is going to offer a string of unilateral concessions. He is more likely to offer a series of heavily calibrated responses. Of course the method of calibration can be a critical one: do you only provide rewards to the DPRK in response to demonstrated good behaviour? Or do you do the reverse and extend a range of concessions to the North Koreans which in the future will be withdrawn, in part or in whole, in response to explicitly identified items of "bad" behaviour. It will be interesting to see what Perry does.

Of course, Perry's Review occurs in the midst of a much broader debate in Washington about the relative virtues of containment or engagement of the DPRK.

The containment argument is logical and predictable but after nearly five decades of relatively consistent application, has scarcely yielded any results in terms of the ultimate objectives of a denuclearised peninsular and a stable peace. The advocates of containment argue that no interests are served by rewarding in any way an undeniably rogue regime. As The Economist again notes, it is a regime whose approach could well be described as "one of tactical compromise in order to defend strategic intransigence". Such tactical compromises include a bare minimum of responsiveness to the range of proposals served up to them through the Agreed Framework, the Four Party Talks, and the Inter-Korean Dialogue. It also includes a preparedness to accept multi-lateral aid and the presence in-country of multi-lateral agencies to assist in managing the impact of four years of famine. Or as one British academic, Aiden Foster-Carter, has described it: a type of "militant mendicancy" that combines economic extortion with military threat.