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

Series:

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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7 The Domestic Politics of U.S. Nuclear Nonproliferation Policy toward North Korea 109

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7 The Domestic Politics of U.S. *uclear *onproliferation Policy toward *orth Korea The two previous chapters have analyzed whether the implications of North Ko- rea’s nuclear weapons program for the security of the United States and the prospects for effective six-party cooperation can account for the redirection of the Bush administration’s nonproliferation policy toward North Korea after the nuclear test. This chapter explores the domestic politics of U.S. nonproliferation policy toward North Korea as the third potential independent variable explaining the change in U.S. policy. If the decision makers on the Bush team concluded that shifting U.S. nonproliferation policy toward North Korea to the more ac- commodating line of conditional containment would increase their political in- fluence, or that an absence of such a change would jeopardize their political power, these policy makers may have redirected U.S. policy in order to enhance, or secure, their domestic political influence. In the investigation of the domestic politics of U.S. nonproliferation policy toward North Korea in this chapter, it is appropriate to consider the administra- tion analytically as a whole, as opposed to different departments and actors, and to reduce it to the president. This is because only the president can authorize ma- jor foreign policy changes like the redirection of the Bush administration’s non- proliferation policy toward North Korea. Hence, if President Bush made the de- cision to alter U.S. nonproliferation policy toward Pyongyang based on the do- mestic politics of U.S. North Korea policy, he did so with his own domestic...

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