EXECUTIVE LECTURE FORUM: Activities: 2000: Abstract: Shear

August 31, 2000

Deputy Director David B. Shear, Office of Korean Affairs, U.S. Department of State

In his excellent briefing, Deputy Director David Shear explained why the United States, in good conscious, engaged diplomatically with North Korea, which by all means is still one of the world’s worst regimes. He emphasized that of all the communist countries surviving the fall of the Soviet Union, North Korea is probably the only remaining communist country that is truly Stalinist. In fact, he said, North Korea’s leader, Kim Yung-Il, the Korean Peoples Army and the North Korean Communist Party maintain absolute control over the North Korean population. In the name of central economic control, the North Korean regime has pursued an economic policy contributing to the death by starvation of possibly hundreds of thousands of people.

The United States never-the-less chose in 1994, after more than four decades of hostility, to engage North Korea diplomatically. The American administration decided to engage the North Korean diplomatically in the early 1990's because we judged that we could not achieve our foreign policy and security goals in any other way. It was a very hard decision (sometimes a very unpopular decision given the nature of the North Korean regime) but a decision had to be taken, given the threat to our security, emphasized our speaker.

The United States made some concessions but we’ve gotten important concessions in return: a freeze on the North Korean nuclear program at P’yongyang and a North Korean moratorium on long range missile testing. There is always a chance that the North Koreans will go back on their agreements. If they go back on their agreements, we’ll go back on ours, concluded Director Shear his sobering analysis of the complex U.S.-North Korean relations.

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