North Korea’s foreign policy towards the United States has been shaped by the bitter experienceof the Korean War and the DPRK’s position in the bipolar Cold War. The DPRK detested theUnited States for having thwarted Kim Il Sung’s effort to unite Korea by military force, and for thedevastation unleashed by U.S. Air Force bombing campaigns during the war.14 North Koreahas utilized the war experience to indoctrinate the population with anti-Americanism and to justifythe state’s frequent warnings that a U.S. attack or invasion is imminent.15During the Cold War, the DPRK was vehemently opposed to the United States, which wasdepicted as the driving force behind imperialism and exploitive international capitalism.
This viewwas compounded by the Korean War experience and the deep resentment over Washington’s intervention, which Pyongyang has considered as an obstruction of Korean unification. There waslittle contact between the two countries during the Cold War, except for periodic clashes betweenthe two militaries in areas surrounding the DPRK.16 North Korea’s main foreign policy objectivetowards the United States during this period was to split the U.S.-ROK alliance and to effect thewithdrawal of U.S.
military forces in South Korea.17 To deter the United States from interveningin Korea again, the DPRK established formal alliances with the Soviet Union and the People’sRepublic of China when North Korea signed “treaties of friendship, cooperation and mutualassistance” with the two countries in July 1961.Many American analysts and policymakers perceived North Korean relations with China and theUSSR to be close during the Cold War, but the relationships actually were quite volatile, whichcaused Pyongyang to question the commitments of its alliance partners.
Pyongyang’s doubtsabout the credibility of its security alliances led the regime under Kim Il Sung to seek anindependent arms production capability as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) andballistic missiles. The collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s normalization of relations withSouth Korea led Pyongyang to accelerate its nuclear weapons development program in the early1990s and to reassess its security relationship with the outside world, particularly withWashington and Tokyo.For North Korea, the United States plays a critical role in Pyongyang’s efforts to achieve itsnational objectives. U.
S. cooperation is necessary to achieve both security and economic goals,but Washington’s indifference or refusal to cooperate with Pyongyang has left North Koreansfrustrated and aggrieved. In the security realm, the DPRK since the early 1990s has soughtnegative security assurance from the United States.
The DPRK’s request has been reflected in anumber of written documents,18 but Pyongyang cites the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review,economic sanctions, military exercises, President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” reference in his2002 State of the Union Address, in addition to other activities and statements as evidence thatthe United States has a “hostile policy aimed at strangling the DPRK.”Given North Korea’s weakness and threat perceptions, Pyongyang feels it has no choice but tostrengthen its military capabilities to deter the United States.
The dilemma for the DPRK is that itssecurity policy towards the United States alienates Washington and decreases the likelihood ofmutual cooperation in the economic realm, which Pyongyang desperately is seeking to achieveits economic objectives. The DPRK can never be secure with a hostile United States, butPyongyang feels it has very little or no control over Washington’s posture.The contradiction in the DPRK’s policy towards the United States is that its security and economicpolicies are irreconcilable. Pyongyang realizes that U.S.
cooperation is necessary for thesuccessful implementation of economic reforms based on an outward economic orientation.However, DPRK leaders seem to believe that Washington is intrinsically hostile, and thatPyongyang’s security policy has no bearing on Washington’s “hostile policy.”Pyongyang expected the 1994 Agreed Framework to change the overall nature of the U.S.-DPRKbilateral relationship, but Washington viewed the agreement in much narrower terms—as amechanism to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Dissatisfaction with the agreement’simplementation reinforced those in Pyongyang who were skeptical of U.S. credibility, whichprobably led to the DPRK hedging with a clandestine uranium enrichment program. Thedisclosure of the uranium enrichment program in 2002, and the DPRK’s acknowledgment andsubsequent denial of such a program, have seriously damaged any credibility Pyongyang had inWashington, making a negotiated diplomatic settlement to the North Korean nuclear issueextremely difficult.In sum, for as long as Kim Jong Il remains in power, North Korea likely will pursue a nationalstrategy based upon the concepts of s?n’gun ch?ngch’i and kangs?ngdaeguk. To achieve stateobjectives under these ideologies, Pyongyang will have to seek conflicting and contradictory goals in its relationship with the United States.
In the security realm, the DPRK will seek thecapability to deter the United States, the termination of the U.S.-ROK alliance, and the withdrawalof U.S. military forces in South Korea. Pyongyang will also continue to seek negative securityassurances in various forms, including a Korean War peace treaty, to serve its national objectives.
The paradox in North Korean policy towards the United States lies in the economic realm. Incontrast to Pyongyang’s ceaseless and shrill rhetoric against Washington regarding securitymatters, the DPRK would like to improve bilateral relations in order to obtain U.S