Beginning-Ending Enduring Relationships

President Bush wants to establish an "enduring relationship" with Iraq, similar – he has reportedly said – to the one we have with South Korea.

Weird, because only last week the South Koreans again signaled they would like very much to end their relationship with us, which has – in their opinion – endured far, far too long for the good it may have done.

Shortly after declaring war on Japan – said declaration perhaps not unrelated to President Truman’s decision to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki – the Soviet Union "liberated" Korea. Before withdrawing, in 1948, the Soviets established the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the North. But, that same year, Truman got the United Nations to recognize the US-established Republic of Korea to be the sole legal government of Korea.

So, two years later, the DPRK regime attempted to supplant the ROK regime.

Whereupon, Truman got the Security Council to recommend that "Members of the United Nations furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack and to restore international peace and security in the area."

When US-led armed forces not only repelled the armed attack on the South, but attempted to eliminate the DPRK regime in the North, "hordes" of "volunteers" from the People’s Republic of China – also not recognized by the UN – poured across the Yalu River.

A military stalemate eventually ensued and in 1953 an armistice was signed, making the 38th Parallel the dividing line between the still unrecognized DPRK and the ROK.

Fifty-four years later, tens of thousands of US troops are still garrisoned in South Korea, exercising, twice-yearly, a "contingency plan" for countering another attempt by the DPRK regime to supplant the ROK regime.

On Sept. 27, 1991, President G.H.W. Bush, leader of the UN coalition that had just ejected the Iraqi invaders from Kuwait, announced that the United States would unilaterally withdraw all land-based tactical nuclear weapons from overseas bases and all of its sea-based tactical nuclear weapons from US ships and submarines.

Until then, approximately 100 US nuclear weapons had been based in South Korea, presumably to implement, if necessary, the "contingency plan."

On Dec. 31, 1991 – as a direct result of President Bush’s decision to withdraw U.S. nukes from South Korea and from warships offshore – President Roh TaeWoo and Premier Kim Il-Sung signed the South-North Join Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Under the declaration, both countries agreed not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons” or even to “possess nuclear-reprocessing and uranium-enrichment facilities.”

But, in 1994, in part because of those twice-yearly exercises, which may once again, under President Clinton, have involved the possible use of nukes, the North Koreans threatened to withdraw from the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to be free to develop nukes of their own.

There resulted the Clinton-negotiated Agreed Framework of 1994, under which North Korea agreed to not only remain a NPT-signatory, but to “freeze” its plutonium-producing reactors and related facilities and to “eventually dismantle these reactors and related facilities.”

What did the DPRK want in return?

“The US will provide formal assurances to the DPRK, against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the US.”


“1) Within three months of the date of this Document, both sides will reduce barriers to trade and investment, including restrictions on telecommunications services and financial transactions.

“2) Each side will open a liaison office in the other’s capital following resolution of consular and other technical issues through expert level discussions.

“3) As progress is made on issues of concern to each side, the U.S. and the DPRK will upgrade bilateral relations to the Ambassadorial level.”

But then Bush the Younger became President and almost immediately repudiated Clinton’s efforts to implement the Agreed Framework, telling South Korea’s president and North Korean emissaries he had no intentions of normalizing relations with North Korea.

Then in September 2002, months after we now know Bush the Younger had already decided to provoke a war with Iraq, Bush unilaterally abrogated the Agreed Framework, charging that North Korea had a secret enriched-uranium nuke program.

Well, Bush couldn’t provoke Iraq’s dictator, but on the eve of Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq, DPRK’s dictator did withdraw from the NPT and restarted his weapons-grade plutonium-producing reactor.

There resulted the so-called Six-Party (China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea and United States) talks.

The Third Round of the Fifth Six-Party talks recently concluded with the parties agreeing, inter alia, that

“The DPRK and the U.S. will start bilateral talks aimed at resolving bilateral issues and moving toward full diplomatic relations."

Fantastic! Diplomatic recognition of the DPRK! Finally, peace talks between North and South Korea can begin.

But then, at the Asia-Pacific summit in Australia, recently, Bush emerged from talks with current South Korean president – Roh Moo-hyun – to announce progress made in the talks on the issue of DPRK’s "nuclear program."

Roh, who apparently does not understand English very well, said

"I think I did not hear President Bush mention the declaration to end the Korean War just now… If you could be a little bit clearer in your message, that would be very much appreciated".

To which Bush replied:

“I can’t make it any more clear, Mr. President. We look forward to the day when we can end the Korean War. That will happen when Kim Jong-il verifiably gets rid of his weapons programs and his weapons.”

There you have it. A Korean War Peace Treaty – which is what all Koreans want most – may well lead to North-South reunification and would certainly mean an end to the "enduring relationship" and the abandonment of US garrisons in South Korea, with a concomitant loss of US influence in the region.

But none of that can occur until the DPRK proves it does not have the secret enriched-uranium nuke program Bush accused the DPRK and Iraq and Iran of having back in 2002, which resulted in the DPRK proceeding to develop and test the plutonium nukes they had agreed not to develop under the South-North Agreement and under the Agreed Framework and under the NPT.

Of course, the Koreans now know it proved impossible for the Iraqis or Iranians to prove to Bush that they don’t have the secret nuke programs he claims they have. So, Peace Treaty first, then dismantlement of actual nuclear programs.

But Bush should look on the bright side; since he’s determined to establish an "enduring relationship" with Iraq, with garrisons on the Iranian border, the Koreans have just told him where he can get the necessary troops.

Read more by Gordon Prather

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.