Unfulfilled Diplomacy: The U.S.-DPRK Relationship and the Agreed Framework

Randolph, Patricia S., East Asian Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Dimberg, Ronald G., Department of History, University of Virginia

In February 2003, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) restarted its graphite-moderated reactors at Yongbyon, putting an end to the nuclear freeze that had lasted nearly a decade. This event has been termed the “collapse” or the “breakdown” of the 1994 Agreed Framework, what was perhaps the most landmark agreement between the United States and North Korea since the signing of the Korean War Armistice Agreement several decades before.

The Agreed Framework provided an optimistic turn of events for U.S.-DPRK relations in the 1990s by avoiding what was predicted to be a second bloody and costly war on the peninsula. Furthermore, it marked the commencement of U.S. engagement policy with North Korea and laid the foundation for U.S.-DPRK relations during two presidential administrations and the Kim Jong Il leadership. Its collapse in 2003 was no small matter.

Critics of engagement with North Korea have been quick to cite the collapse of the Agreed Framework as simply a byproduct of engaging a rogue and untrustworthy state such as North Korea, or as John Bolton once put it, “the world’s most accomplished serial violator of international agreements.” However, a review of the Agreed Framework and its implementation reveals that the breakdown of the Agreed Framework was a lengthy and complex process in which both parties contributed and not simply a matter of North Korean deceitfulness.

The purpose of this thesis is twofold: 1) to bring to light the incidents where the U.S. strayed from or was unable to carry forward agreements made with North Korea and thereby contributed to the breakdown of the engagement process, and 2) to show that there have been several incidents where Pyongyang has responded favorably to positive engagement by the United States between 1994 and 2003.

My arguments differ from the works of leading academics in Korean studies because I provide a detailed and comprehensive study of how the Agreed Framework was implemented through extensive research of U.S. government documents (to include declassified U.S. intelligence), official North Korean press releases and United Nations testimony, in addition to news and academic sources. Furthermore, I do not assess whether or not engagement policy was a success or a failure, but instead state that we cannot make this assessment because there has yet to be a sincere attempt to engage North Korea and unfortunately the window to do so has passed.

MA (Master of Arts)
graphite-moderated reactors, United States, William Perry, North Korea, Clinton, heavy oil, Non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Axis of Evil, Taepodong, heavy fuel oil, South Korea, Bush, normalization, plutonium, IAEA, KEDO, engagement, Agreed Framework, security issues, light-water reactors, sanctions, uranium, Joint Declaration, four party peace talks, joint excercises, North-South Summit 2000, Yongbyon, Kim Jong Il, Japan, foreign policy
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