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United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam

Explaining Failure and Success

Michael Haas

Dr. Michael Haas’ book, United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam: Explaining Failure and Success, aims to explain a significant, beguiling discrepancy in U.S. foreign relations: How has American diplomacy with Vietnam proved so successful when compared with its efforts to negotiate with North Korea? Haas undertakes a comparative analysis of foreign policy decisions to determine how relationships between the U.S. and each country have diverged drastically, in spite of a legacy of U.S. occupation in both regions. By tracing diplomatic interactions historically, comparatively quantifying diplomatic missteps on the part of the U.S., and cross-testing four paradigms of international relations, Haas presents a case for why the U.S. has succeeded in developing good relations with Vietnam while failing to achieve them with North Korea.

Nuclear war haunts the world today because the U.S. has refused to negotiate a peace agreement with North Korea for more than six decades, yet the U.S. is on friendly terms today with Vietnam, a former enemy. This book answers why, finding that Washington’s diplomacy with both countries explains the dramatic difference. Among four theories posed, power politics and presidential politics are refuted as explanations. Mass society theory, which focuses on civil society, finds that negotiations regarding American soldiers missing in action paved the way for success with Vietnam but not with North Korea. But diplomacy theory—tracing moves and countermoves during diplomatic interactions—reveals the real source of the problem: The United States provided reciprocated unilateral positive gestures to Vietnam while repeatedly double crossing North Korea. Although Pyongyang repeatedly offered to give up nuclear developments, Washington offered no alternative to Pyongyang but to develop a nuclear deterrent to safeguard the country against a devious and hostile U.S.

The book, in short, serves as a serious corrective to false narratives and options being disseminated about the situation that fail to appreciate North Korea perspectives. Now that North Korea has a nuclear deterrent, diplomacy is the only route toward a de-escalation of tensions so that the United States can live peacefully with North Korea in a manner similar to its relations with nuclear China and nuclear Russia. More broadly, United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam demonstrates what happens when Washington plays the role of global bully, whereas more resources are needed for developing diplomatic talent in a world that will otherwise become more dangerous.

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Chapter 2. Theories of Normalization


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Instances of diplomatic efforts to move from deliberate nonrecognition to achieve mutual diplomatic recognition are a crucial subset of the study of rapprochement (cf. Rock 1989; Kacowitz 1998; Kacowitz, Bar-Simon-Tov, Elgstrom, Jerneck 2000; Kupchan 2011; Darnton 2014). Another related focus of study is of the willingness of parties engaging in military conflict to negotiate peace agreements (Ghosn 2010). In the former case, conclusions vary depending on whether parties are allies, rivals, the intensity of the dispute, and changes in leadership. In regard to the latter concern, the principal finding is that newly installed leaders are more likely to make the concessions necessary to enter into negotiations and to make them succeed than long-time leaders who often stick to previous positions. However, the cases analyzed herein follow a different pattern.

Within the study of normalization and rapprochement, alternative paradigms compete for acceptance, challenging scholars to provide evidence to accept, advance, or refute them. Two involve variants of the Rational Choice Paradigm—the Deterrence and Selectorate paradigms. A third is the Mass Society Paradigm, and the final theory is the Community Building Paradigm. Although paradigmatic claims can be diagrammed (Figures 2.1–2.4), authors of the Rational Choice variants rarely consider historical progression in causal terms or the black boxes represented by the arrows. ← 11 | 12 →

Deterrence Paradigm

The first Rational Choice variant, the Deterrence Paradigm, views the shift from nonrecognition to normalization through a lens...

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