North Korea has been one of the most irritating problems in U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War period. The United States has never had peaceful diplomatic relations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, the official name for North Korea). North Korea nuclear weapons program has become the matter of continuous negotiations between the two states. Korean peninsula has turned to a battlefield for strategic and economic fight of the world powerful states. U.S. interests in North Korea include strategic security, political and economic concerns.
Military agreements with South Korea and Japan made the United States to protect these allies from any attack from the North. Diplomatic negotiations around North Korea nuclear weapons program has affected U.S. relations with all the major powers in the region and have become a braking factor for Sino-U.S. ties. U.S. policymakers make for a peaceful resolution of nuclear issue with the North Korean government. The reasonable outcome remains possible reunification of the Korean peninsula under stable democratic regime. Though, the road to this result is full of unpredictable further developments and risks.
2. The history of past relationship between the USA and North Korea
he starting point of U.S.-North Korea complicated relationship was the Korean War. U.S. military assistance to South Korea during the war provoked enmity and mistrust between North Korea and the U.S. The outcome of the war was total splitting Korean Peninsula into two different countries North Korea and South Korea. While South Korea found military support in the U.S., North Korea considered it to be “the strongest Imperialist force in the world and the successor to Japanese imperialism”¯ . The United States viewed North Korea as “an international outlaw”¯  because of the North Korea constant approbation of the armistice agreement signed after the Korean War in 1953.
Several actions of North Korea administration led to animosity and mistrust between it and the United States. Those actions included bringing down of a United States reconnaissance plane in 1969, killing two American soldiers in 1976 and several US educated South Korean cabinet officials in 1983, and the terrorist act towards South Korean Airliner in 1987 .
In 1988 George Bush Sr. administration made several efforts to put an end to such state of the relationship between the two countries. Finally those measures led to the US “announcing the withdrawal of all tactical nuclear weapons worldwide”¯ . North Korea joined the nuclear safeguards agreement and allowed its nuclear facility to be inspected by the International Atomic Energy Association . The U.S. and North Korea relationship came to normalization and stability. In February 1992, Arnold Kanter (the secretary for political affairs, the USA) and Kim Yong-sun (Korean Workers’ Party Director for International Affairs, N.Korea) met in New York. The meeting aimed at further normalization of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. In 1992 16 months agreement for a nuclear non-proliferation was initiated with the help of South Korea and Japan. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was finally agreed upon October 21, 1994.
Though, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea started rapidly deteriorating with the Bush administration in 2000. This became obvious from the Bush’s speech in 2002 in which he made a public statement about the so-called “Axis of Evil”¯. North Korea was among 7 nations included into it. In October 2002, North Korea acknowledged that they had been constantly running a nuclear weapons program opposed to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) it had joined before. That became the moment of gradual tension between the U.S. and North Korea.
Dr. Mohamed Al Baradei (the Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)) appealed to North Korea administration to start a peaceful dialogue about reconsidering their position towards NPT. Afterwards, the DPRK declared the reasons for their not fulfilling the Non-Proliferation Treaty (1994). They blamed the United States for the default of North Korea denuclearization . The reasons included the U.S. continuous supporting South Korea with nuclear weapons, U.S. obvious confrontation with North Korea since Bush administration, the United States declaration about their right to use nuclear weapons to destroy the DRNK underground facilities. The U.S. proclamation of war against Iraq based mostly on nuclear suspicion made DPRK fear the same position towards them. In March, 2003 President Bush publicly announced that “if diplomacy fails to solve the nuclear weapons issue on the Korean Peninsula, the next step will have to be force”¯ . The United States started a campaign against North Korea as the nuclear danger for the world. This campaign reassured North Korea in the necessity to keep nuclear weapons to defend themselves from the U.S. These events led to the six party talks in Beijing. In August, 2003 Japan, North Korea, the United States, South Korea, China and Russia met in Beijing to discuss the nuclear weapons matter on Korean Peninsula. The result of the negotiations was not satisfying. North Korea demanded the United States to agree to sign a non-aggression treaty. President Bush declined their requirements but agreed to guarantee not to attack the North Korea. The consensus had not been reached and the problem was left unsolved. The talks had to be continued later. On October, 2003 George Bush and North Korean Leader Roh Moo-hyun tried to discuss North Korean nuclear disarmament but finally Bush administration refused signing the non-aggression treaty again and the question remained open.
Thus, in the continuous negotiations between U.S. and North Korea both parties remained the same opinion and could not have come to a constructive result.
3. The United States and North Korea present diplomatic relations.
Dealing with North Korea has been one of the main concerns of new Obama administration international policy.
North Korea had positive hopes regarding new U.S. leader international policy as in the very early period of his administration and his election campaign there was an emphasis on some “change”¯ from Bush’s international policy . When Hilary Clinton became the Secretary of State she initiated Obama’s administration being more open to the dialogue with DPRK than the Bush administration had been. She said “Smart power requires reaching out to both friends and adversaries, to bolster old alliances and to forge new ones”¯ [8:39]. In February, 2009 she visited Japan, South Korea and China. During her staying in Asia she spoke about the problems regarding North Korea in the period of global economic crisis and underlined the importance of U.S. ”“ DPRK diplomatic relations development . North Korea, in its turn, provoked an international scandal and draw Mass Media attention to the U.S. by two American journalists’ seizure. They illegally crossed the border from China. While this event was a matter of international discussion, North Korea continued their nuclear weapon testing. The situation put much pressure on Obama’s administration and he tried to work more closely with Japan and South Korea to prevent war threat from DPRK . The outcome of the scandal with American journalist showed that Obama had difficulties in maintaining North Korean diplomatic matters and had been criticized for his tactics. The brinkmanship made Obama initiate a publicized dialogue with South Korea leader at the White House and during his meeting with Myung-bak he gave comments regarding U.S. policy towards DPRK . One innovative policy suggested by Obama administration was a military program for tracking North Korean ships which might possibly carry illicit materials . The North Korean reaction to Obama’s suggestion was numerous public protests in Pyongyang. After Hilary Clinton’s critical comments of North Korea actions and her refusal to meet DPRK leaders at the ARF another aggressive reaction of OPRK followed . North Korea expressed their readiness for negotiations with the U.S. administration but not in six-party format. Later former U.S. president Clinton’s visit to North Korea and his constructive dialogue with DPRK leader became the starting point in U.S. ”“ North Korea positive diplomatic cooperation. In its turn, North Korea initiated productive cooperation with South Korea, made several changes and resolved several problems concerning the border and economic relations with South Korea. Later President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”¯ . So, the period of negotiations and closer relations between the U.S. and North Korea began.
In early 2011, North Korea appealed for international food aid. World Food Program (WFP) assessment reported in March that the quarter of the North Korean population was experiencing severe food shortages. A U.S. delegation with Robert King (Special Envoy for Human Rights in North Korea) visited the country in May to give their own assessment. Obama Administration opinions divided. Several Members of Congress were against the provision of any assistance to Pyongyang as it could be seen as the political regime support. The agreement had not been reached.
The relationship between Pyongyang and Seoul did not have further development. North Korea administration was not going to negotiate with South Korea leaders, particularly President Lee’s administration.
Since December, 2008 multilateral negotiations concerning North Korea nuclear program have not been held. North Korea and South Korea mutual mistrust aggravated the situation. China has worked behind the scenes to initiate the negotiations, but the United States stated that the main condition for the talks to start was North-South relations improvement. In April 2011 U.S. delegation of three former leaders, including Jimmy Carter, visited North Korea and DPRK claimed that they were willing to continue the negotiations.
Thus, Barack Obama’s administration has managed to lead the relationship with DPRK from the path of confrontation to the path of reasonable dialogue. Now the relations between the two countries are considered as the most productive and diplomatic for the last decades.
The main goal of the United States and its strategic partners at present time remains a peaceful Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons. The United States continue developing relations with South Korea, Japan, and other states interested in the future of the Korean peninsula. In such a way, the U.S. administration initiates negotiations with DPRK and tries to monitor the North Korean nuclear program, ensuring the implementation of U.S. and international sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear, missile networks. The United States administration watches carefully diplomatic and economic development and achievements of North Korea. North Korea has two paths now: they can continue their international confrontation and isolation or normalize their position in the world by dialoguing with the U.S. and other Asian countries. The aim of these negotiations is DPRK total denuclearization, reaching economic and political stability in the country. Another significant concern for the U.S. remains improving the situation with human rights protection in North Korea. So, the U.S. administration representatives are planning to take several steps in this direction.