Letter of Appeal to the American Public

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Letter of Appeal to the American Public

(September 2004)


United in a common urge to appeal directly to the American people on issues involving the future direction of American foreign policy on the Korean peninsula, and representing significant segments of the Korean-Americans and others concerned, we the undersigned have come together.

It has been the perception of many Koreans that in the past three years, the U.S. foreign policy dealing with the two Koreas, particularly the one with North Korea, is flawed. It is flawed in that it is devoid of consistency, lacks  relevant historical perspective between the two countries, is insensitive to cultural nuances, and finally it has been based on an arrogant stance, best described as "Might is Right"

It is the
consideration of many Koreans that this flawed policy is largely responsible for the dangerous destabilization of that part of the world, as well as the steadily aggravating relationship between the U.S. and North Korea that resulted in the latter emerging recently as a fledgling nuclear power.

North Korea is in the process of change. It is a country seeking a new political and economic paradigm. This is why the historic process of détente began on June 15, 2000 as the heads of the North and South met in Pyongyang; this is why they have been insistent on the peace treaty with the U.S., normalization of the relationship with
the US, lifting the fifty-year-old U.S. sanctions and embargoes on them, and finally all failing, a minimal security guarantee from the U.S. in the form of a nonaggression pact.  None of these has been forthcoming from the current U.S. foreign policy. As a matter of fact, even the request for an opportunity for a meaningful bilateral dialog has been rejected by the U.S.

North Korea hardly constitutes a real threat against the U.S. even with its fledgling nuclear weapons and 1.2 million-man army. Indeed, balancing the scale of arms is the reality of North Korea; It is located at the other side of the globe, smaller than the state of Maine, produces not a drop of oil
and suffers from severe shortages of food, health care and energy. Its reported GDP is only 0.03% of that of the U.S. However, its 24 million people are united under their leader, resolute in defending their country to the last from any external force including the world's superpower-the U.S.

It is the assessment of many Koreans that the current US foreign policy is in need of major rethinking, and that the time for the beginning of such a process might be now, just prior to November, when American people will express judgment on past policy directions of the current administration. Therefore, at this point in time, we present this "Letter of Appeal to the American Public"

U.S.-Korea Relationship-Historical Perspective

Division of Korea: Many American intellectuals lack an understanding of the historical evolution of the so-called “Korean problem”.  There is an assumption that the country was split due to an ideological rift that divided the Korean people, north and south. Nothing can be farther from the truth. The United States has been intimately involved in the Korean problem starting with the split of the country and to every step thereafter.

In the last stage of the Pacific war, after the
Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945 and committed their massive Far Eastern Army to routing the Japanese Kwantung Army. Within a matter of days, Japanese resistance collapsed. Washington feared that the whole Korean peninsula would be occupied by the Soviets, putting the U.S. under a strategic disadvantage in any future confrontation with Russia. Thus on August 10-11, 1945, the U.S. State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) instructed colonel C. H. Bonesteel III and Colonel Dean Rusk (who later served under President Kennedy and Johnson as the Secretary of State) to demarcate a line in Korea between the Soviet and U.S. advancing armies. By simply looking at the map of the Korean peninsula, the colonels chose the 38th parallel that bisects the peninsula. They noted that it would give the ancient capital of the country, Seoul to the American side. The Soviets agreed.

Korean War: This division of the country by the superpowers became a de facto
border, with two occupied zones; each governed by opposing ideologies represented by the U.S. and USSR, i.e., Cold War.  After a brief, fruitless discussion between the two occupying powers on the possibility of unifying the two halves, the U.S. referred the issue to the United Nations. In November 1947, the General Assembly of the UN created the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea (UNTCOK) which supervised a general election held in South Korea and established the Republic of Korea (ROK). Less than a month later inauguration of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was announced in North Korea under the aegis of its occupying power, the Soviet Union.

It is relevant to recall that many Korean leaders at the time had opposed this establishment of two governments in each halve of the divided Korea, accusing the action as sowing the seeds for a future conflict between them, under the aegis of their respective cold war superpowers.

This prophetic analysis became a reality on June 25, 1950, when the Korean War erupted.  South Korea, ill prepared for such an all-out military conflict with the well equipped, highly disciplined North Korean army, was at the verge of disintegration. Many analysts believed that such a sudden outbreak of military confrontation in the peninsula
was prompted by the rapid withdrawal of the American military from the peninsula and the unfortunate declaration by U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, excluding Korea from the U.S. defense perimeter in the Far East.

The United States hastily reentered Korea under the flag of the United Nations to defend the ROK. The ROK army was placed
under American command. The Chinese intervened to support the DPRK and, after more than three years of intense fighting that devastated the peninsula, the war ended in stalemate. An uneasy truce was signed between the U.S., North Korea and China. The South Koreans, who viewed the truce as an American betrayal of the commitment to unify their country declined to become a signatory of the Korean armistice. To this date, the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) separates the two Koreas; no peace treaty was ever signed between the Koreas and the U.S. in spite of repeated requests by the North Koreans; and 37,000 U.S. Soldiers are still stationed in South Korea. 

When placed in its historical and international political context, the Korean conflict was a proxy war between the communist powers and the
West as Americans sought to contain the spread of communism in the Far East. It is simplistic, to say the least, to regard it as an American rescue effort to save the South Korea from the invading North Koreans. Nothing clarifies this point better than the speech given by President Truman at the Joint Session of the Congress in 1952. Justifying the American war effort, he stated; "The Korean War is not a Korean war, it is an American war to contain the communism fought in Korea and not at the coast of California---"
Koreans are apprehensive and deeply troubled by remarks made recently by some Americans, influential in foreign policy planning in Washington, on the present nuclear issues in the Korean peninsula, e.g., "A unilateral action by the Americans must be considered in taking out the nuclear threat by the North Koreans---" (Richard N. Perle, 2003, WSJ), or  "The United States has earned its right to intervene in Korean peninsula unilaterally with the blood of 57,000 U.S.
soldiers who died there ---" (Brent Scowcroft, 2003, WSJ)  Apparently forgotten is the blood of the two million Koreans who died during the war, as well as  half a million Chinese deaths. These kinds of arrogant, culturally insensitive and factually inaccurate remarks seem to underlie the mindset of the Washington policy planners. To the well educated, self-assured and erudite emerging South Korean generation, such remarks only generate fear and hostility toward the current U.S. administration.

Nuclear Crisis in Korean Peninsula & Agreed Framework Between the DPRK & the U.S.

Nuclear Crisis in the Korean Peninsula: The first allusion to the possible use of nuclear weapons in Korea was the request made by General MacArthur, then commander of the UN Forces in Korea, to stem the tide of Chinese communist forces massively crossing over the Yalu into North Korea in 1951. This vision of another nuclear massacre in Asia by the Americans was quickly halted on the advice of British Prime Minister, Clement Atlee to President Truman.

America continued to threaten North Korea with nuclear retaliation even after the war, whenever events strained the relationships e.g., the Pueblo incident (1968),
the shooting down of the U.S. EC 121 reconnaissance plane (1969), the Panmunjom tree trimming incident (1976).

The collapse of the USSR and its Eastern European allies deprived North Korea of energy sources, trading partners and foreign investment. Continued U.S. sanctions and embargoes severely restricted her trade. 
Ever-increasing military outlay of South Korea combined with the presence in the peninsula of 37,000 U.S. troops backed by the world's largest nuclear superpower, the United States (that repeatedly belittles its sovereignty and constantly reminds it of its vulnerability in the face of the U.S. nuclear ability) had contributed to the North Korea's security concerns and must have led to their interest in acquiring nuclear weapons mainly for the purpose of gaining leverage against this external threat in much the same context as in the case of, Israel and Pakistan.

In 1993, the United States detected evidence that North Korea may have started processing spent fuel rods from its graphite-moderated nuclear reactors in Yongbyun that can lead to plutonium fissionable devices. Confronted with this accusation, North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and defiantly refused the request for an inspection visit by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The U.S. Clinton administration then took steps to prepare itself a plan for a surgical bombing of the Yongbyun facility,   #5027 Operation. This first nuclear crisis in Korea was mitigated by Pyongyang talks between former president Jimmy Carter and president Kim, Il Sung of the DPRK and the understanding between the two that led to the mitigation of the crisis was later codified in the form of "Agreed Framework between the DPRK and U.S.",  signed in October, 1994 in Geneva by Kang Sok Ju of North Korea and Robert L. Gallucci representing the U.S.

This so-called, "'94 Agreed Framework", if implemented faithfully by both parties, could have
led not only to a nuclear-free peninsula, but also a mutually beneficial and peaceful relationship between the U.S. and both Koreas. The breakdown of this agreement caused by both sides and the failure of the current U.S. foreign policy to remedy and uphold the principles of the Agreement, is the major reason for the current dangerous "Second" nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula.

For this reason, it is important to examine the content of this now largely defunct, Agreement, as well as the record of compliance, or the lack of it, by both sides.

1994 Agreed Framework Between the DPRK and The United States:
The Agreement represented the first formal international accord between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. It consists of Four Articles, defining the steps to be taken for nuclear disarmament of North Korea by both sides, and several important commitments by both sides meant to lead to better international relationships.

The most important part of the Agreement from the U.S. perspective was the pledge by the DPRK not to pursue its ongoing work to process spent fuel rods from their existing graphite nuclear reactors to obtain the weapon grade plutonium, and to open the DPRK to
ongoing IAEA on site surveillance, as well as an additional comprehensive inspection by the agency just prior to the installation of the nuclear reactor equipment for the two LWR's (Light Water Reactor)-see below.  Both countries also agreed to maintain the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in compliance with the principles of the 1992 North-South Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  It should be noted that this would make the process of uranium enrichment by North Korea also a violation of the Agreement. The Agreement also contained an important clause defining cessation of nuclear threats by both sides against each other (meaning U.S. nuclear threats against the DPRK, since the U.S. would be the only nuclear power after the Agreement).

The fact that North Korea had been in full compliance with this part of the Agreement had been officially certified by the CIA on an annual
basis, until 2002, when North Korea's uranium enrichment effort became an issue. The CIA certification was a congressional requirement to obtain its approval for the heavy oil shipment to North Korea,--see below.

In exchange for this commitment by North Korea, the U.S. agreed to meet the following, time-specific obligations, which it
then failed to honor:

1. To build two light water reactors to meet the energy
needs of the DPRK:  This would obviate the need by North Korea to continue working on their graphite reactors that produce plutonium. The Agreement specified that the first reactor would begin to produce 1,000 MW of electricity by the year 2003, the second reactor to follow a year later. This combined energy production of 2,000 MW by the year 2004, was expected to fuel the DPRK's economic recovery. The U.S. failed to deliver on this pledge. In 2002, after eight years of work, the KEDO (Korea Energy Development Organization), which is the administrative organization that oversees this project and headed by the U.S., predicted a delay of some four to five years until the electricity could flow out of the LWR! It is important to note that the funding for the project is nearly completely provided by the South Korea and Japan, and to a significant extent the technology comes from South Korea and that there had not been any delay from these countries in the discharge of their commitments. Therefore, the LWR project did not constitute a U.S. "reward" for a North Korea's "bad behavior" as asserted by some high level policy planners in the current U.S. administration.

2. The provision of 500,000 tons of heavy oil per year by the U.S: This was meant to provide energy until the LWR's came on line. This provision was subsequently made conditional by the U.S. Congress, on the presentation of annual certification by the Administration that the DPRK is meeting their part of the bargain.
The DPRK claimed that this injected an element of uncertainty to what they considered a firm U.S. treaty obligation, just as the nuclear abrogation is such for them. Needless to say, the shipment was promptly halted by the present administration as the current crisis began in 2002, despite the urging of moderation by Japan and South Korea on the grounds of humanitarian concern over the impoverished North Korean populace.

3. Normalization of the relation and lifting of the sanctions and embargo:  Article Two of the Agreement clearly states that within three months of the date of the document, all barriers to trade, investment, telecommunication services and financial transactions would be reduced, and also a liaison office would be opened in each other's
capitals. In due time these would be upgraded to ambassadorial level.  Nothing along these lines had been pursued by the U.S.

Given this record of U.S. noncompliance, beginning in the early phase of the Agreement, including deliberate delay in the progress of the LWR project
and also the disregard of the promises on the lifting of sanctions and normalization of relationships, one can understand North Korea having second thoughts about upholding their side of the Agreement.

4. Denuclearization of the peninsula and  cessation of hostility between the two countries:  With regard to this part of the
Agreement (Article Three and Four) again U.S. actions have consistently run counter to the spirit of the Accord. In spite of the moderation by the DPRK in its missile testing experiments, North Korea has been repeatedly presented by the current U.S. administration as the reason for the development of the USNMD System (National Missile Defense) and also America’s justification for abrogation of the ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty).

Finally, the principle of denuclearization and
the abrogation of the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean peninsula was administered a grave blow by the current U.S. administration when a secret plan called "Nuclear Posture Review" was revealed in 2002, in which the U.S. use of nuclear weapons against so-called "Rogue States" not armed with such weapons was not to be ruled out (and North Korea was found to be on the list of such "Rogue States"). This is an open violation of the spirit of the Agreement.

Current U.S.-DPRK Relationship & Nuclear Crisis

Despite America’s lack of progress in the implementation of the Agreed Framework, the last years of the Clinton administration were nevertheless marked by continued dialog and personal communication between the two countries. These included the White House visit by the North Korean defense chief, Marshal Jo, Myung Rok, and the Pyongyang visit by the U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  President Clinton himself planned to visit Pyongyang when regime change in Washington intervened.

The inauguration of the president George W. Bush and his Republican administration however completely transformed the relationship between the two countries. President Bush made frequent derogatory remarks about North Korea's leader; made light of South Korea's effort toward South-North détente and its "Sunshine Policy"; the '94 Agreed Framework was denigrated as an example of appeasement by the Clinton administration. This undiplomatic rhetoric further deepened North Korea's skepticism of U.S. motives on the Korean peninsula, which were confirmed by the refusal of the U.S. administration to enter into any bilateral dialog with North Korea.

However, it is of interest to
note that there has never been any formal promulgation of the current administration's North Korea policy that would make it possible to gauge its goals and ascertain its directions. In other words, the Administration's North Korea policy can be characterized by it’s lack of a "Road Map"

The horrible event of September 11 (2001) was followed by President Bush's now-famous "Axis of Evil" speech, (January 29, 2002) in which he branded North Korea as one of the evil countries. North Korea responded by professing nuclear intent; opening its sealed fuel rods to produce fissionable material; withdrawing its membership in the NPT; tacitly
admitting at least its interest and capability for the uranium enrichment; and expelling IAEA observers from Pyongyang. The United States further escalated the situation by halting the heavy oil shipment and declaring the end of the '94 Agreement. North Korea responded by formally closing the LWR construction site and expelling all the KEDO workers.

Today, the U.S.-North Korea relationship is in a dangerous stalemate. The U.S. continues to refuse bilateral talks, and instead promotes multilateral
conferences (China, Japan, Russia, and South Korea), with the hope that it will isolate North Korea and exert enough pressure to disarm its nuclear weapons program.  It insists that North Korea must comply with Complete, Irreversible, Verifiable, Dismantling of its Nuclear weapons program before it will enter into any meaningful one-on-one negotiations with her. North Korea has responded by proclaiming itself to be a de facto nuclear power, but hints that it is ready to negotiate if a security guarantee in the form of nonaggression pact with the U.S. is forthcoming.  Notably, it seeks normalization of relationships and lifting of sanctions, but does not imply need for any economic assistance as precondition.  It seems that what they want is renewal of the '94 Agreed Framework.

In the meantime, North Korea is accelerating its internal political and economic changes. The introduction of
an early form of a market economy appears to have had an invigorating effect on its economy. Its GDP has registered some significant growth in the past two years. Externally, it has been markedly successful in opening new diplomatic relations with its neighbors as well as with many distant countries, especially with European states.  It has significantly broadened political and economic interaction with South Korea. Ironically, it appears that the current inflexible, hard-line, U.S. foreign policy is having the effect of isolating the United States, rather than the DPRK in the Far East. ("North Korea is Reaching Out, and World is Reaching Back"-NYT, 2004/08/20, Norimitsu Onishi)

It is not entirely beyond the realm of imagination that should the current U.S. foreign policy
continue, the security guarantee that North Korea seeks against U.S. may be provided by its neighbors; China (with its nuclear umbrella), Japan, Russia and South Korea, who are actually more worried about having a nuclear North Korea as a close neighbor than the U.S. Furthermore, this alliance (NATO like), that naturally excludes U.S. involvement, may develop into an economic common trade zone, sharing a common cultural paradigm, leading to an emergence of a powerful entity that the U.S. will have to deal with - as an outsider.

The most recent American initiative that
could potentially further aggravate the U.S.-North Korea relationship and destabilize the delicate current North-South détente comes from the legislative branch. It is the "North Korea Human Rights Act" that just passed the House and is about to be presented to the Senate.  Basically, the Act encourages the defection of North Korean nationals by providing financial support and the chance of settlement in the U.S. The issue of defection is a complex and emotional one and naturally the Act will be viewed by the North Korean leadership as an American attempt to further undermine their country and an extreme insult upon them.  It is the considered opinion of many concerned Koreans both in the U.S. and South Korea that the Act in its current form is not only ill timed but also harmful to the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea as well as that between North and South Koreas.


Vote in November, vote for change, vote for peace and vote for return of "American Values"

Urge Washington to change the nation's Korean foreign policy in the direction of peace, stability, friendship and bilateral talks that will lead to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Urge Washington to withhold support for the congressional "North Korea Human Rights Act" that can only promote tension and confrontation in the Korean peninsula.

Urge Washington to adopt a Korean foreign policy that will advance reconciliation and reunification of the two Koreas, so that 72 million Koreans can also create their "Shining City on the Hill"

Korea Peace Network

P.O. Box 82446

Rochester, MI 48307-1362

Phone: (586)-431-9699