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PacNet #46 – U.S.-North Korea: Right Decision, but for the Wrong Reason

The White House’s decision not to include a visit to North Korea in President Clinton’s current trip to Asia due to lack of progress in U.S.-DPRK missile talks is the right one, even if it is being done for the wrong reason. While U.S. efforts to eliminate North Korea’s potential missile threat are important, there are more significant issues to be resolved before a Presidential trip is warranted, including an assessment of the impact such a visit would have on North-South reconciliation efforts. Absent greater forward progress in intra-Korean relations and some genuine reciprocity toward Seoul on the part of Pyongyang, a U.S. presidential visit could easily prove counter-productive to U.S.-Republic of Korea efforts to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. It could also put undue pressure on Tokyo to rush its own normalization process with Pyongyang. As a result, suggestions that Clinton may still try to squeeze a trip in before January 20th are disturbing.