Frequently Asked Questions:
The US and North Korea

The Korea Support Network

1. Is North Korea a threat to the US?

North Korea is not a military threat to the US. It is a small country the size of Pennsylvania. Its economy has been in serious decline for over a decade. It has no troops outside its own borders. It has fought no wars for the past 50 years. The US has a yearly defense budget of $400 billion; North Korea’s is estimated to be $6 billion.

2. Why would North Korea be afraid of the US?

The US stations 37,000 troops in South Korea, and thousands more in Japan, whose only purpose is to fight a possible war with North Korea. President Bush has declared North Korea to be part of an axis of evil, along with Iraq and Iran. The US demonstrated its new policy of pre-emptive war in Iraq. US administration officials have discussed and initiated planning for pre-emptive strikes against North Korea nuclear facilities or the North Korea leadership.

3. Is North Korea developing nuclear weapons?

Although the CIA has long suggested that North Korea might have one or more nuclear weapons, U.S. intelligence does not have a clear fix on any possible North Korea nuclear program (New York Times 5-8-03). Recently North Korea has implied that it has nuclear weapons and is developing more. However, US officials have said they think North Korea may be bluffing, trying to strengthen its bargaining position.

4. What would happen if the US went to war with North Korea?

A war with North Korea would profoundly threaten international peace. It would be devastating for both North and South Koreans. Not only would the North bear the brunt of bombing by the US, the South Korean capital city Seoul, with 20 million people, is within range of North Korean artillery and missiles. Because of the large military forces in both North and South, a preemptive strike by the U.S. or renewed hostilities could lead to a protracted war causing millions of casualties. Japan could be drawn into the war if North Korea fired missiles against US military bases in Japan. A war in Korea would destabilize US relations with China.

5. Is a peaceful resolution of tension between the US and North Korea possible?

North Korea in talks with the US in China in April 2003 offered to give up its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the signing of a non-aggression treaty, economic aid and a normalization of relations. North Korea has strong economic reasons for wanting normalized relations with the U.S. It is creating free trade zones and inviting foreign investment. South Korean companies are investing millions of dollars in North Korea. Normalized relations with the US would open up the possibility of further international investment and loans and economic aid.

6. How does South Korea want the US to deal with North Korea?

South Korea wants the United States to resolve differences with North Korea only through peaceful means. The South Korean government believes that its policy of seeking reconciliation with North Korea through negotiations, trade and economic investment is working. South Korea urges the US to follow the path of diplomacy and negotiation.

7. What was the agreed framework under the Clinton administration?

In exchange for North Korea’s freeze of its nuclear power plants and halting plutonium production, the US, during the Clinton administration, promised, along with South Korea and Japan, to provide North Korea with two light water nuclear reactors. The United States also agreed to provide annual deliveries of heavy fuel oil to compensate North Korea for the energy it would lose while the new reactors were being constructed. Both countries also promised to work toward a normalization of political and economic relations. The United States also said it would provide formal assurances against the threat or use of nuclear weapons against North Korea.

8. Who is responsible for its breakdown?

During 2002 the agreed framework came apart. The US bears responsibility for the breakdown because it halted required fuel shipments and continues to maintain barriers to trade, investment and telecommunications in violation of the agreement. In addition, it has allowed the construction of the required nuclear power plants to fall years behind the negotiated schedule. Moreover, the U.S. has yet to issue a formal statement renouncing the offensive use of nuclear weapons against the North. North Korea also bears responsibility because it launched a uranium enrichment program and then restarted its nuclear reactors.

9. Why would the US government want to keep tensions high with North Korea?

The Unites States needs enemies to justify its tremendous military expenditures and its military bases throughout the world. After the end of the Cold War, a possible war with North Korea has remained one of the few military justifications for the continued US defense buildup. A North Korean threat is the only justification given for the Bush administration’s missile defense program.

10. What policy should the US have?

For fifty years Koreans and Americans have lived with the possibility of war in Korea. It is time to end the threat of war and normalize relations with North Korea. All of the surrounding countries – South Korea, Japan, China and Russia – insist that the path of diplomacy, not war, is the path to take. The US should steadily work for improved relations with North Korea. It should end the making of military threats. It should encourage expanded trade and investment with North Korea. It should seek the negotiation of a non-aggression pact with North Korea and a peace treaty to formally and finally end the Korean War.

The Korea Support Network brings together organizations and individuals from throughout the Unites States, who are concerned about peace, justice and reconciliation in Korea. KSN is a forum for sharing information and planning common work.