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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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Part 1. The Need to Normalize Relations Between Countries


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The principle of diplomatic recognition developed after the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 (Fabry 2010). In an ideal world, states will have diplomatic relations with one another without restrictions. Instances of deliberate nonrecognition are anomalies which indicate conflicts that may threaten to destabilize the international system.

Currently, several small countries that claim sovereignty are not universally recognized—Abkhazia, Adzharskaya, Artsakh, Kosovo, Republic of China (Taiwan), Sahrawi, Somaliland, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. Rivalries between major powers primarily account for the anomalies.

But larger countries play a significant role in world politics and cannot be ignored. Accordingly, the present book develops two detailed case studies to illustrate how the process of moving from nonrecognition to normalization may occur by identifying the necessary and sufficient factors involved. The analysis focuses on the most critical element—negotiations that enable former enemies to seek normal diplomatic relations, using the wisdom derived from the field of international diplomacy (Murray, Sharp, Criekmans, Wiseman, Melissen 2010).

The first chapter explains why failure to normalize relations is abnormal. The second chapter provides theoretical alternatives for explaining why ← 1 | 2 → relations can become normal. Part II contains a detailed account of efforts at normalization with North Korea and Vietnam, two countries where the United States has sent troops and fought wars. Part III and the Epilogue provide several surprising conclusions.


Fabry, Mikulas (2010)...

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