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The Debate Over How to Deal with North Korea

The past 10 years have been marked by a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans over America's North Korea policy. When the Clinton administration held high-level talks and negotiated the 1994 Agreed Framework with the North Koreans, Republicans called it appeasement. Now Democrats are criticizing President Bush's approach to the DPRK, maintaining that labelling North Korea part of the "axis of evil" and refusing to engage in direct talks serves no useful security purpose. Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with Richard Perle, Thomas Hubbard, Madeleine Albright, Robert Gallucci, Stephen Bosworth, and William Perry, in which they discuss the two administrations' contrasting approaches, the current nuclear crisis, and the U.S. refusal to talk with the North unless Japan, South Korea, and China are involved.

Examining the Lessons of the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Deal

In 1994, the U.S. had been on the brink of war with North Korea over its threat to go nuclear. The Clinton administration negotiated a deal known as the Agreed Framework, in which the North promised to freeze and eventually dismantle its graphite-moderated reactors and related facilities in exchange for alternative energy supplies and, eventually, normalization of political and economic relations with the U.S. It was, in effect, the North's first agreement with the outside world. Defenders of the deal argue it averted a devastating war. But critics call the deal an outrage and say it amounts to blackmail and bribery. In these excerpts from their interviews with FRONTLINE, diplomats and policy makers debate the merits of the 1994 deal and why, in the end, it was never fully implemented.

North Korea's Nuclear Threat

Since October 2002, North Korea has admitted to a secret uranium-enrichment program, kicked international inspectors out of the country, announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and restarted its plutonium program. Pyongyang maintains that it needs nuclear bombs to defend itself against a U.S. attack. In excerpts from their FRONTLINE interviews, William Perry, Thomas Hubbard, and Ashton Carter debate how close the North may be to achieving its nuclear ambitions.

The Baffling 'Hermit Kingdom'

In excerpts from their interviews with FRONTLINE, Jimmy Carter, Stephen Bosworth, William Perry, Thomas Hubbard, Ashton Carter, Donald Gregg, and Madeleine Albright offer some thoughts on North Korea's belligerent rhetoric and unpredictable behavior.

related readings and links

Key Documents

1994 Agreed Framework

The text of the agreement signed by the U.S. and North Korea after bilateral talks in Geneva.



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