Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Incentives Matter: North Korea edition

This week, the North Koreans tested their first Nuke. Is anyone surprised?

Look at their incentives! Is there any reason we should have expected them to abandon their nuclear program?

We can’t do much to punish them for it--we have already imposed sanctions and the Iraq War restricts most avenues of military response (scarce military and attention resources).

And we haven’t offered them anything in exchange for continuing their nuclear weapons program--the Bush administration has refused to even talk directly with the North Koreans let alone put any carrots on the table.

A better question is why WOULDN’T they build a nuke? An even better question is how long can US foreign policy continue like this?

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Nice Wiki article describing the history of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

So much information on Wikipedia...

I've heard a lot of people blaming Clinton for only putting carrots on the table. Do you solely blame the current administration?

Since I'm no good at foreign policy, what do you think the US should do?
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I have heard people criticize Bill Clinton for this too and I wonder if the criticism is fair.

As I understand it, the US signed an agreement with North Korea in 1994 that said we would give them certain things in exchange for stopping their plutonium enrichment program.

In 2002, North Korea announced that they had been secretly conducting a uranium enrichment program. This program was not explicitly covered by the 1994 agreement, but the Bush Administration claimed it violated the spirit of the agreement.

So it sounds like the agreement the Clinton administration negotiated was not actually initially violated (as some pundits seem to imply). But we obviously didn’t want them enriching uranium either. So how did the Bush administration handle the situation?

They put on a tough front, didn’t directly negotiate with the North Koreans, and removed positive incentives established in the 1994 agreement (such as suspending fuel oil shipments). So with less incentive to adhere to the 1994 agreement, what do you think the North Koreans did? Well, in December of 2002, the North Koreans kicked out the UN’s IAEA and unsealed 1,000 spent fuel rods in direct violation of the 1994 agreement.

So how did the Bush administration handle THAT situation? They invaded Iraq. Three years later North Korea probably tested a nuclear weapon.

I personally can’t see how the Clinton Administration can be blamed at all for this. But I am not very well educated on foreign policy. So I open to rebuttal. :P
I also hear that the tight sanctions are bankrupting their government, so maybe they'll behave, cut back on military projects, and try to at least feed their population. Maybe Bush is trying a "cold war" angle. I have no idea.
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