Experts: Lift sanctio on North
UPI Think Tanks
WASHINGTON, May 2
(UPI) -- American economic sanctions against North Korea should be lifted as an
incentive to encourage the country to dismantle its nuclear weapons program, but
only if it meets stringent goals for disarmament and economic development,
according to think tank policy experts.
Kimberly Ann Elliott, a
research fellow at the Institute for International Economics and Center for
Global Development, says that President George W. Bush has embraced increased
trade as a mechanism for promoting democracy and prosperity in other nations and
should apply the same principles for North Korea.
down the road as part of a very big package would hopefully lead ultimately to
economic change in North Korea, as well as in its relationship with the United
States," Elliot told United Press International. "(But) only if a deal can be
struck that suggests to North Korea that it really has to move in the direction
of fundamental economic reform would further lifting of the sanctions be
In her recent policy brief, "Economic Leverage and the
North Korean Nuclear Crisis," Elliot says the largest carrot the United States
brings to the negotiating table is a willingness to allay the security fears of
Pyongyang in the aftermath of the American invasion of Iraq. Although there are
no easy answers to the question of how best to deal with North Korea's nuclear
ambitions, Elliot argues that negotiating for North Korea's nuclear disarmament
and focusing on its energy and economic growth needs in the process provide the
best solution among the available options.
However, she adds that
economic sanctions that are not directly related to security concerns should be
lifted only as part of a carefully calibrated, verifiable, and reciprocal
agreement between the two nations.
During talks between the United
States and North Korea convened by China in Beijing last week, Pyongyang offered
to abandon its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for large economic and
diplomatic returns. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that the
offer was being examined by the Bush administration and that talks were ongoing
with the South Korean, Japanese, Russian and Australian governments over the
North Korean nuclear problem. The Bush administration has demanded that North
Korea abandon its nuclear programs as a prelude to the beginning of any
substantive talks, while the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK, has
asked for security guarantees before any major talks begin.
administration official told UPI that the White House is mulling over its
overall policy options, including the pursuit of economic sanctions through the
United Nations. However, the North Korean government said Wednesday that any
attempt by the United States to seek U.N. sanctions would be a "green light" for
Robert Alvarez, director of the nuclear policy project at the
liberal Institute for Policy Studies, said that Elliot's idea of gradually
dropping America's economic sanctions against North Korea is a step in the right
direction in terms of dealing with the country's important economic problems.
Alvarez was also a senior policy adviser to the secretary of defense in the
Clinton administration and led teams to North Korea as part of the effort to
control nuclear weapons materials in the country under a failed 1994 agreement
between the two nations.
Alvarez said that focusing on negotiations is
the only viable option available to the United States because other options --
including forced regime change through military action and tougher economic
sanctions -- are too dangerous given the instability of the Korean peninsula.
"I am of the belief that we need to have some form of engagement,"
Alvarez told UPI. "The minuses outweigh the pluses in terms of the other
approaches because you are really risking their ( North Korea's) collapse, not
only economically but also socially. This is a very heavily armed society and
its collapse would have very disastrous implications for the region,
particularly for South Korea, China, and possibly Japan."
experts on North Korea agree that lifting American economic sanctions is the
proper approach. Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar at the conservative American
Enterprise Institute, said that lifting the economic sanctions would not be
effective for reining in North Korea because the country does not have a normal
economy. Instead of the typical economic development and trade model dominant
across the world, he said North Korea's economy is based largely on "extorting"
aid from other nations.
"In the end, the lifting of economic sanctions
will make very little difference to the North Korean economic situation," he
said. "It has a Bizzaro World version of trade policy."
acknowledged that although economic sanctions are notoriously ineffective in
pressuring regimes to change their behavior, they remain an important part of
isolating the DPRK from international aid and make it almost impossible for
North Korea to receive funds from international financial institutions like the
World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. In
addition, Eberstadt said the very design of the North Korean economy makes it
more vulnerable to the impacts of sanctions than more traditional economies,
because its extortion policies tie its survival so closely to financial help
from other countries.
"The economic restrictions and sanctions also
have a psychological impact," said Eberstadt. "They place some opprobrium on the
DPRK and indicate that it is the reprobate regime that we know and love, and the
North Korean government seems to be under the impression that the U.S. economic
sanctions are one of the reasons for their stunning economic failure. If the
(DPRK) government truly believes this, then they are underestimating their part
in this and it gives us some important leverage."
Tamotsu Nakano, a visiting fellow
at the liberal-centrist Brookings Institution and chief researcher for KRI
International, a leading Japanese consulting firm, says that broader economic
integration within the region is the key to effectively engaging North Korea. In
a lecture on Wednesday at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of
Advanced International Studies, known as SAIS, Nakano discussed his ideas
for a grand integration of North Korea's energy and trade infrastructure into
that of the entire Northeast Asia region.
"Northeast Asia is a region
where there are potential conflicts but also potential for (economic)
development," said Nakano. "We (need to) try
and create a symbiotic community in the economic sphere here."
the Reagan administration's economic engagement of South Africa during the 1980s
is the model that should be followed. While Japan and Europe used economic
sanctions as a means to try to end apartheid in South Africa, the United States
relied on constructive engagement to try to encourage economic development and
"I want to apply this theory to North Korea," he said. "I
believe the most advanced security framework is a cooperative security
frameworks based on economic development."
However, analysts critical
to this approach said that North Korea is a totalitarian regime that has shown
its willingness to act outside of the norms of the international community, and
therefore cannot be relied upon as a partner. They point to Iraq under the rule
of Saddam Hussein as a lesson. Iraq was once fairly well integrated into the
international financial community through its oil sales, but still developed
into a threat to American interests.
The creation of ties and provision
of economic assistance to the regime of DPRK leader Kim Jong Il -- either
through direct aid or economic development efforts -- also raises questions
about whether the United States and its allies would be propping up his
totalitarian regime through such actions. Elliot said that negotiating with the
country presents difficult questions, but that they are outweighed by the
"It is just not clear that not propping up the
regime is an option given the realities in the region," said Elliot. "I think
the idea is to try and create the incentives to lead the regime in the direction
of at least economic reforms so that it can at least better provide for its