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The Change toward Cooperation in the George W. Bush Administration’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy toward North Korea

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Jonas Schneider

This book offers a case study in foreign policy change: It examines why the Bush administration suddenly redirected its nuclear nonproliferation policy toward North Korea in the aftermath of North Korea’s first nuclear test in October 2006, abandoning its former confrontational approach in favor of a more accommodating line. Existing explanations of this course reversal draw on the security implications of a growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. domestic politics, and changing decision-making dynamics within the Bush administration. Employing before-after comparison, the study refutes these accounts – and it offers an alternative explanation: The Bush administration altered its nonproliferation policy toward North Korea toward a cooperative course because after the nuclear test, it perceived fundamentally improved prospects for fruitful cooperation on North Korea’s denuclearization.

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Foreword XV

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Foreword The case of North Korea constitutes probably the most spectacular failure of the international efforts toward nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, culminating in the NPT Treaty. The isolated regime in Pyongyang represents a peculiar mixture of Stalinism and Fascism, with a „beloved leader“—as the regime’s propaganda calls the dictator. During the 1980’s and the following decade the regime has managed to produce fissionable nuclear material, and it exploded a plutonium device in October 2006. Today experts suspect that North Korea, which has de- clared it has accumulated 37 kilograms of plutonium, has some five or six nu- clear warheads at its disposal. At the same time the regime is developing long- range missiles, highlighting the threat not only to its neighbours South Korea and Japan, but also to the Pacific area as a whole. As Jonas Schneider rightly states in the introduction of his study, the United States of America feels particu- larly affected by this challenge. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program not only threatens the United States’ Northeast Asian allies, but also undermines the global NPT regime. This concerns the proliferation of nuclear material and know-how to third parties as well as the potential destabilization of other world regions, e.g. the Middle East. Schneider does not deal with U.S. policy toward North Korea in general, but he is asking a specific research question: Why has the administration of Presi- dent George W. Bush changed its policy after North Korea’s first nuclear test from the previous „tough“ approach toward...

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