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Tufts Expert Offers Insight On North Korea

Tufts Expert Offers Insight On North KoreaFletcher School Dean Stephen Bosworth was among the “very impressive array of talent” who spoke at a recent meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [01.30.06] Since 2003, a shared fear of North Korea’s potential for developing nuclear weapons has brought a half dozen nations to the negotiating table to seek a peaceful resolution. Despite three years of talks, major obstacles remain. According to Tufts’ Stephen Bosworth, dean of The Fletcher School, real progress isn’t likely as long as the United States and its allies lack a unified vision for North Korea’s future.

“The great weak spot in the U.S. position and within the six-party process is the lack of any fundamental agreement between the United States and South Korea as to what we want to see happen,” Bosworth told attendees at a recent meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.

Bosworth, a former United States Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, explained to the Council that it’s important for the United States and South Korea to get on the same page regarding North Korea. While the United States is trying to negotiate an agreement with North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions in exchange for a “normalized relationship” between the two countries, South Korea is planning to funnel nearly $2 billion in aid to its neighbor to the north in 2006, according to Bosworth.

The Bush administration’s negotiating position has steadily eroded, Bosworth said, because North Korea is “getting now from South Korea as much economic benefit as they would get, in all likelihood, if they were to sign an agreement.”

And threatening to develop nuclear weapons has given North Korea a powerful bargaining chip with the international community.

“I think, [it’s] the thing that brings them attention on the world stage,” Bosworth said. “And without it, they fear -- and I suspect they're correct -- they would simply be ignored and allowed to wither.”

For this reason, Bosworth said, the six-party talks must press on. But, even then, he cautioned, there’s no guarantee that the country’s nuclear programs will just disappear.

“I have no illusions,” he said. “I don't think that we should hold out as a certainty that they will negotiate it away. [It] depends on whether or not they conclude that their objective of regime survival can be achieved without a nuclear weapons program.”

Most members of the six-party talks, which consist of the United States, China, Japan, Russia and both Koreas, hope that North Korean leaders will come to that determination. But Bosworth said that it’s difficult to predict what the nation will ultimately decide to do.

“I don't think we should assume that we know better than the North Korean regime what threatens their survival and what doesn't,” Bosworth said. “And I think, you know, even assuming that we were able to negotiate some sort of a nuclear deal … that doesn't really solve the problem. The problem of North Korea is not really its nuclear program, although that is a very visible manifestation of the problem. The problem of North Korea is essentially a failing state.”

According to Bosworth, a potential remedy to this problem is reunification with the South.

“At the moment, South Korea is providing enormous quantities of aid to North Korea,” Bosworth pointed out. “Some would argue that the process of unification is already under way. And I don't see that our policy toward this problem takes account of the fact -- adequately, at least -- that our view of the future is very different from the South Korean view of the future.”

He explained that this may not be possible given the current political climate in both the United States and South Korea.

“I think that the differences are pretty fundamental,” Bosworth said. “I would hope that we could come back to a position in which we have a common approach, a common set of analyses, but frankly, at the government-to- government level, I'm not sure that's going to be possible until there have been new governments installed in both countries.”



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