North Korea: A Love Story

October 15, 2017

President Donald Trump has faced a firestorm of criticism in his first months regarding his dealings with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un. Trump has been widely admonished, from both sides of the aisle, for the twitter threats he has made against North Korea, but he continually speaks in a seemingly careless manner. Trump’s “Fire and fury” quote has worried citizens worldwide regarding his ability to peacefully deescalate the situation, along with intimidating our favorite despot. These comments not only stir distrust in Trump’s ability to handle the situation at hand, but his overall competence as a president. All of that aside, can we really put the blame on Trump’s demeanor if this situation escalates? Trump’s tweets are not what have put us in a decades long stalemate with an increasingly more dangerous tyrannical leader, nor have they have funded the nuclear programs which led said leader to having nuclear capacity. These blunders and many more are the results of inaction from previous presidents. The mainstream media praises the sort of wishful-thinking-diplomacy which has been employed by the past three successing presidents. All three knew the dangers of North Korea and it’s psychotic despots but instead of taking action, formulating resolutions and agreements with hopes that one day Kim Jong-Il and then Kim Jong-Un would just come to their senses. Their inability to draw red lines and make unpopular decisions is why we are where we are, not because of tweets.

President Bill Clinton

Clinton took office in 1993 one year after reports from DPRK were sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). North Korea was required to send reports regarding the nuclear plant’s production as agreed upon in the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) signed in 1985. These reports were inconsistent with IAEA testing (especially involving that of two particular plants which had a general mismatch involving plutonium, the primary element used in the production of nuclear weapons). This inconsistency led the IAEA to request further inspections to which DPRK refused. Soon afterwards in March of 1993 DPRK announces intention to withdraw from NPT which they carry out July of the next year.

In an attempt to deescalate the situation, as opposed to taking action, the fresh president successfully negotiated an ingenious new deal gifting North Korea 4 billion dollars. In exchange for the money North Korea agreed to shut down the two nuclear reactors where plutonium was found and to terminate their nuclear enrichment program entirely. But that is not all, under this Joint Framework Agreement Clinton also permitted the building of two new light-water nuclear reactors which were supposed to “make it much harder for them to produce nuclear weapons” according to Clinton. Despite all of the delicacy and discretion that Clinton showed while crafting a deal that would supposedly make “South Korea and our allies will be better protected”, according to the man himself, what happened? North Korea began to enrich their nuclear program anyway.

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President George W. Bush

After assuming the presidency in 2001 Bush’s Secretary of State Colin Powell states that the administration “plan[s] to engage with North Korea to pick up where President Bill Clinton left off”.

In 2002 North Korea sends a letter to the IAEA informing them that they are going to reopen reactors shut off as agreed to in the Joint Framework Agreement. The letter also declared they were going to remove seals and monitoring equipment set up under the Framework Agreement by IAEA. North Korean officials justified this breaking of the treaty by claiming the purpose of restarting these plutonic reactors was to create energy.

In 2003 the CIA estimates North Korea “ha[d] produced enough plutonium” for one or two nuclear weapons. This plutonium was made before the Joint Framework Agreement in the plants which North Korea stated were being reopened.

Later in 2003 officials confirm North Korea has reactivated the five-megawatt nuclear reactor that had been shut down under Framework.

Early in 2006 the Bush administration imposes anti-ballistic missile testing sanctions on North Korea which are broken in July of 2006 when North Korea test fires seven ballistic missiles; long, medium, and short-range missiles.

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President Barack Obama

Just a few months into Barack Obama’s presidency on April 5, 2009, North Korea launches a modified version of its long range Taepodong-2 ballistic missile. The United Nations condemns the launch (due to it directly breaking a past agreement) and calls to strengthen sanctions on DPRK. North Korea responds by pulling from the six-party talks and stating it “will no longer be bound” to any of its agreements. Along with this North Korea states they will reverse efforts against nuclear proliferation and will once again extract plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.

In December of the same year, Obama sends a team of U.S. representatives along with a letter to Kim Jong-Il asking to resume six-party talks. Two days later Thailand authorities seize 35 tons of weapons from a North Korean plane, which according to the Thai government, was headed towards the Middle East.

Obama’s failure to uphold the red line that he drew up against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad showed the world a hesitance to take military action, something that the new leader Kim Jong-Un would soon take advantage of. The first example thereof took place in March of 2012 when North Korea was given aid from Obama in exchange for a pledge to stop all long-range missile launches. North Korea broke this pledge less than a month later testing a 3-stage liquid fueled rocket.

All through 2016 North Korea tested a whole host of medium to long-range missiles which were all met with powerful UN statements changing the course of North Korean paper shredders, along with a lack of diplomatic or military action from our former commander and chief.

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