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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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9 Conclusion 149

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9 Conclusion This thesis has asked for the reasons why the Bush administration, after North Korea’s nuclear test, suddenly altered its nuclear nonproliferation policy toward North Korea toward a more accommodating line. The preceding four chapters have tested one hypothesis each for explaining this abrupt policy shift. This final chapter will bring the results of these empirical tests together in order to answer the study’s central research question, and it will explore their broader signific- ance. First, the chapter will recapitulate the findings from the appraisal of the four hypotheses. Subsequently, it will look at the theoretical implications of the empirical results. A final section will inquire into what the findings of the study mean for the world of policy. 9.1 Summary of the Empirical Findings The shift in the Bush administration’s nonproliferation policy toward North Ko- rea after the nuclear test did not result from a heightened U.S. threat assessment as regards the implications of the North Korean nuclear weapons program for U.S. security. This is because Pyongyang’s nuclear breakout did not precipitate a more dramatic threat perception on the part of the Bush administration. North Korea’s capability to build functional nuclear arms had been presumed in Wash- ington for years, so the nuclear test did not change anything in this respect. Moreover, North Korea’s nuclear arms continually failed to pose a direct threat to the territory of the United States, and did not alter the military balance be- tween North Korea and U.S. allies Japan and South Korea....

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