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Weapons and Missile Development:
The Danger of Mediating and Negotiating the “Big Deal”
Wilson(George Mason University)
Over the past several years, with a new South Korean Administration led by President Moon Jae-in, and a new United States Administration led by President Donald J. Trump, there have been great new efforts to try and resolve the conflict with North Korea. At the forefront of this have been efforts at mediating and negotiating a “big deal” with North Korea for the removal of its nuclear weapons and the termination of its long-range missile development. The purpose of this paper is therefore to look at these issues based on a conflict analysis and resolution lens. To do so, the paper will briefly outline the fallacy with these seemingly narrowly focused efforts, and then discuss the primary reasons why North Korea, under the current regime, will not give up nuclear weapons and long-range missile development, regardless of any and all incentives given to the regime. Finally, the paper will finish with a brief discussion on the need to focus on multiple and complex efforts, which deal with more than just nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Finally, these efforts should include long-term engagement based on positive direct and indirect high-quality contact, which has the ability to change the hearts and minds of the people in both South and North Korea.
북한 핵무기 및 미사일 개발 : “대규모 거래”의 중재와 협상의 위험요약:지난 몇 년 동안 문재인 대통령이 이끄는 새로운 한국 행정부와 도널드 트럼프 대통령이 이끄는 새로운 미국 행정부는 함께 북한과의 갈등을 해결하기 위한 새로운 노력을 계속 하였습니다. 핵무기의 제거와 장거리 미사일 개발의 종결을 위해 북한과의 “대규모 거래”를 중재하고 협상하기 위한 노력이 있었습니다. 따라서 이 글의 목적은 갈등 분석 및 해법 위주로 이러한 문제를 살펴보는 것입니다. 이를 위해 이 글은 좁게 집중된 노력으로 오류를 간략하게 설명하고 현재 정권 하에서 북한이 핵무기와 장거리 미사일 개발을 포기하지 않을 주요 원인에 대해 논의 할 것입니다. 마지막으로, 단순한 핵무기 및 장거리 미사일 이상을 다루는 여러 가지 복잡한 노력에 초점을 맞출 필요성에 대해 간단한 제안을 하고 마무리됩니다. 이러한 노력에는 긍정적인 직접 및 간접적인 접촉을 기반으로 한 장기적인 참여가 포함되어야 하며, 남북한 사람들 모두 마음과 생각을 바꿀 수 있는 능력이 있다고 봅니다.
Key Words: Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Mediation, Negotiation, Nuclear Weapons, North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Engagement, long-term direct and indirect contact
Over the past several years, with a new South Korean Administration led by President Moon Jae-in, and a new United States Administration led by President Donald J. Trump, there have been great new efforts to try and resolve the conflict with North Korea. At the forefront of this has been the efforts at mediating and negotiating a “big deal” with North Korea for the removal of its nuclear weapons and the termination of its long-range missile development in exchange for peaceful relations, economic development and perhaps even unification. Unfortunately, there is great risk with this one-dimensional focus.
Therefore, this paper will look at these issues based on a conflict analysis and resolution lens. In addition, it will briefly outline the fallacy with these seemingly narrowly focused efforts, which are based on a false sense of being able to mediate and negotiate a big deal with North Korea. The paper will then discuss the primary reasons why North Korea, under the current regime, will not give up nuclear weapons and long-range missile development, regardless of any type of incentive given to the regime.
The paper will finish with a brief discussion on the need to focus on multiple and complex efforts, which deal with more than just nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. Finally, these efforts should include long-term engagement in order to build trust based on positive direct and indirect high-quality contact, which has the ability to change the hearts and minds of the people in both South and North Korea.
Introduction to Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Conflict Analysis and Resolution (CAR) is a transformative, holistic, dynamic and hybrid field made up of many other academic and professional disciplines. Among other things, CAR scholars and practitioners seek to understand, transform, and peacefully resolve difficult issues and a diverse range of conflicts at all levels of society; to ease human suffering, reduce and end violence; and to work toward positive peace through all stages of conflicts at the local to global levels (Wilson 2015). Furthermore, CAR scholars and practitioners also operate with differing and holistic visions and values, which take into consideration all stakeholders and sides, from grassroots to the elite on all sides of any given conflict or social issue.
Major Challenges to Overcome
The division of North and South Korea is arguably the first test of the Cold War and the last remaining symbol of its ugliness (Choe 2019; Wilson 2019). Yet, despite the recent setbacks in talks, and continued missile tests by North Korea, there is new hope and even hesitant euphoria or optimism in the air surrounding peace and the possible unification between North and South Korea. This optimism can be directly attributed to South Korea’s new outreach and engagement policy, which started with the PyeongChang Olympics, and the willingness of President Moon to act as a mediator (Denyer 2018; Haas 2018; Jung 2019). In addition, it can be contributed to President Trump’s willingness and determination to directly negotiate a “big deal” with North Korea (Fisher 2018; Dalton and Levite 2018).
However, even with this hope and optimism, there are deep-rooted challenges to this momentum stemming from decades of division, which need to be fully acknowledged, addressed, and worked on in order for positive peace to be achieved and eventual unification to happen. More importantly, CAR scholars and practitioners fully recognize that it is almost impossible for those directly involved in the conflict (parties to the conflict) to self-mediate or negotiate when multiple parties are involved. This is due to the overriding desire to focus on national interests of each country and leader involved in this process.
Finally, the single focus on nuclear weapons and long-range missile development doesn’t resolve the deep-rooted reasons for this conflict. A focus based almost entirely on nuclear weapons and missile issues is like trying to treat the symptoms while ignoring the disease. The real disease is the protracted social conflict with North Korea lasting for over 70 years now, and the only way to cure it is by looking at, and fully addressing, the deep-rooted reasons it remains protracted and unresolved (Wilson and Kwon 2018).
Why the Narrow Focus on Nuclear Weapons and Missile Development?
As a path for peaceful relations and in order to provide incentives for economic development, South Korea and the U.S. have put much effort into removing North Korea’s nuclear weapons and stopping the development of long-range missiles. Indeed, nuclear weapons coupled with long-range missiles pose a direct threat to the world order and stability in the region, and thus should be covered. Yet, should these be the only issues and should they be looked at first? More importantly, will North Korea really abandon these key parts of its foreign policy and internal regime stability mechanism? To understand the reasoning for this focus and the possibility of North Korea abandoning these, we must briefly look back at the history of this development and what the “norm” has been in the rest of the world.
History of Nuclear Weapons and Missiles
In the 1980s, information was released that North Korea had been working to acquire and improve technology needed for nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles (Isenberg 2002). Until that time, North Korea was basically an enigma, and the international community led by the U.S. was content with merely keeping the country contained and isolated. Now, North Korea posed a supposed direct threat to the United States, international order, and to regional security and stability (Wilson 2015; Wilson and Kwon 2018). Therefore, from that point forward, the primary focus of the U.S., South Korea and the international community has remained on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles.
For North Korea, a country that has suffered economically since the fall of the Soviet Union, it made a practical strategic calculation by developing nuclear weapons and missiles that could help ensure the continued survival of the regime. Additionally, if North Korea was going to compete with the U.S. and other nations on the international stage and get the recognition and incentives desired, it would have to use all asymmetric means available, which includes nuclear weapons and long-range missile development (IBID). In other words, North Korea’s decision to acquire nuclear weapons and long-range missiles was one of economy of force, knowing that it could not compete with the United States or South Korea on a conventional weapons or economic level (Wilson 2015).
Just as importantly, the North Korean regime watched and learned what happened around the world to other small countries such as Iraq, Libya and Ukraine when they gave up nuclear weapons (Kaplan and Baker 2014; Myre 2014). The cases provide a somber reminder of what happens to weaker and smaller countries that do not have such capabilities.
Paradoxically, the international community has pushed North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile programs while remaining silent on similar programs in other countries, which have good relations with the U.S. such as Israel, India and Pakistan. Consequently, from a North Korean perspective, it makes perfect sense to hold onto its strategic cards in order to avoid the same fate as other former regimes, while using them to achieve economic development and greatness.
1.1. Understanding the Goal of North Korea
Many politicians, scholars and authors have written a plethora of books and articles on what the goals of the North Korea regime really are. These vary from wanting to join the international community; having peace, prosperity and economic success; desiring peaceful unification; to achieving and maintaining its status as a nuclear dynastic regime with a goal of unifying the Korean Peninsula under the North Korean system of government (Park 2014; Delury 2018; Choi 2001; Staff Writer 2018; Klinger 2018).
Other’s also write that North Korea wants to achieve a “Vietnam style” economic model for success (Shin 2019; Chandran 2019). However, it is the belief of this author that North Korea’s intent is to follow in the footsteps of its closest ally to the north, China to achieve its version of success. This includes maintaining its form of government and not giving up its nuclear capability or long-range missile development. To understand this, one must briefly review the case of China, which like the Former Soviet Union, posed a direct nuclear and long-range missile threat to the United States and its interests in the region.
In the early 1970s, China was at the height of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which killed between 15-30 million or more people (Edwards 2010)1). Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution took place from 1966-1976 in order to purge China of intellectuals.
Yet despite this, due to ping-pong diplomacy, political and economic needs, the U.S. and China began to normalize relations including the joint Shanghai Communiqué in 1972 (DeVoss 2002; FlorCruz 2008; CFR 1972). Consequently, China greatly benefited from the direct opening of relations with the U.S., and started the road to real economic development, without giving up its nuclear weapons. Moreover, this rapprochement took place without China having to reconcile its human rights violations or the killing of millions due to the Great Leap Forward (Campbell and Ratner 2019).
It is therefore believed that North Korea understands the various benefits of creating a “big deal” with the international community, especially the U.S. and South Korea while not really giving up anything in return. Based on this, North Korea will most likely not surrender its nuclear weapons or cease its long-range missile development. However, it will play its role until economic success is achieved, and it is too late for the international community to do anything about it. All while not stopping, addressing or working on human rights violations.
Recommendations: Create a Sustained Path for Engagement
Since the issues involving North Korea are very complex and deep-rooted, there is a need to have equally complex recommendations, which don’t focus on just nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that the current regime is not willing to give up.
Although the various recommendations are beyond the scope of this paper, all recommended efforts must include robust positive and sustained levels of engagement at all levels of society through what is referred to as direct and indirect high quality contact (HQC) (Cameron 2011; Turner et al. 2008; Wilson 2015). Direct HQC is the type of effort which can positively influence one’s thoughts and perceptions of another, and can lead to a gradual improvement in relations. Additionally, indirect HQC may work even better to influence relationships due to its ability to provide positive input in a non-threatening environment, and transcend both physical and psychological barriers (IBID).
The paper presented an overview of the recent efforts to try and resolve the conflict with North Korea. Also, the problem with mediating and negotiating a “big deal” with North Korea for the removal of its nuclear weapons and the ceasing of its long-range missile development. It also looked at these issues from a conflict analysis and resolution lens. The paper discussed the primary reasons of why North Korea, under the current regime, will not give up nuclear weapons and long-range missile development, regardless of any type of incentive given to the regime.
Finally, the paper emphasized the importance of having complex recommendations, which don’t focus on just nuclear weapons and long-range missiles the current regime is not willing to give up. Moreover, going forward there is a need for long-term positive engagement using forms of direct and indirect HQC.
Although it is recognized that much more research, understanding, and efforts are needed, this author believes that in order to move towards peaceful relationships and the eventual possibility of unification, more focus must be on the deep-rooted reasons for this conflict. In closing, it is fully recognized that there are no simple resolutions to decades of division and hostility between two nations. However, it is hoped that this paper will serve as a catalyst for more research and deep discussion on the ways to move forward.
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1) Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution took place from 1966-1976 in order to purge China of intellectuals.
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