f_0017763_15214

f_0017763_15214 - Dealing with the North Korean Nuclear...

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Fall 2009 The Ambassadors REVIEW 14 Dealing with the North Korean Nuclear Issue Donald P. Gregg * Chairman Emeritus, The Korea Society Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, 1989-1993 made my first visit to Pyongyang, North Korea, in April 2002 as a private citizen, representing The Korea Society, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes greater awareness, understanding and cooperation between the people of the United States and Korea. On that occasion Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan asked me three questions. They were: “Why is George W. Bush so different from his father?” “How do you function effectively as a country when you elect presidents who have nothing in common with their predecessors?” “Why don’t you understand us better?” Those were good questions, and remain so today. They were asked by a highly intelligent man who has grown up in North Korea where, as scholar Bruce Cumings astutely puts it, the Kim family dynasty is as important as imperial succession is to Japan. In April 2002, the North Koreans were still reeling from being called part of the “axis of evil” by George W. Bush, after having been treated with warmth and respect by the Clinton administration in the closing months of 2000. The speciousness of that accusation by Bush 43 has been revealed over time, but its immediate damage was severe, as it hung the same label on three countries, Iran, Iraq and North Korea, that posed widely differing challenges to the United States. Today, at last, the Obama administration is attempting to ameliorate the policies of the Bush administration by getting a clearer perspective on each of these countries. If the Obama administration succeeds in this attempt, I believe it is quite possible—well within a year— that the United States and North Korea will have launched serious, sustained negotiations, within the aegis of the Six-Party Talks, aimed at producing a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons. My relatively optimistic view on this subject grows out of a series of events beginning in early August of this year, when former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang to win the release of two young American journalists who had been sentenced to 12 years at hard labor by North Korea for having briefly and illegally entered into its territory. Through messages relayed to Washington by the North Korean mission to the United Nations, the North Koreans had made it clear that they wanted President Clinton to * Author’s Note : Assessments in this article are based in part on three meetings with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak (August 11 and 23 and September 21), a September 21 meeting with North Korean officials in New York, and discussions with senior US officials in New York and Washington on September 23.
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f_0017763_15214 - Dealing with the North Korean Nuclear...

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