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


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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1 Introduction 1


1 Introduction North Korea’s nuclear weapons program constitutes one of the most serious challenges to international security at the dawn of the 21st century.1 On a global scale, Pyongyang’s development of nuclear arms undermines the nonprolifera- tion regime centering on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). As the in- ternational effort to contain the spread of nuclear weapons is already heavily strained by the existence of three nuclear weapon states—Israel, India, and Pa- kistan—that are not a party to the NPT, North Korea’s continued defiance of the global nonproliferation order gravely challenges the viability of this regime. Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program poses a direct prolifera- tion risk in that it raises the threat that the North’s nuclear equipment and mate- rials find their way onto the international nuclear black market. The regime of dictator Kim Jong Il has collaborated with the nuclear smuggling ring of Pakis- tani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan in the past, and more recently Pyongyang is suspected of having provided Syria with a nuclear reactor. Beyond these global challenges, the North Korean nuclear weapons program destabilizes regional se- curity in Northeast Asia. Since Northeast Asian security relations are highly competitive and governed by balance-of-power mechanisms in the absence of effective multilateral institutions, North Korea’s continued development of nuc- lear arms severely undermines the security of its neighboring countries and troubles the American alliance system undergirding Northeast Asia’s regional security order. The United States is confronted with these challenges of the North Korean nuclear program...

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