Rewarding North Korea : Theoretical Perspectives on the 1994 Agreed Framework

Journal article

Martin, Curtis H. (2002) Rewarding North Korea : Theoretical Perspectives on the 1994 Agreed Framework, Journal of Peace Research 39 (1): 51–68.


This article tests theoretical propositions of sanctions theory against a 'crucial case study' of the US-DPRK Agreed Framework, which since 1994 has employed incentives to influence North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. By electing an incentives-based strategy, the Agreed Framework appears to invalidate the proposition that positive sanctions are unlikely to be employed between adversaries. However, the choice can be explained in part by the unique political and security environment on the Korean peninsula, by the absence of viable policy alternatives for the USA and its allies, and by the relatively low cost to the USA. The subsequent history of implementation, however, amply confirms a number of theoretical caveats and leaves in doubt the ultimate success of the Agreed Framework. The case illustrates how diplomatic and political pressures on both sender and recipient have altered the baseline of expectations away from a pragmatic and partial improvement in relations and toward the sweeping and more problematic goal of an 'all or nothing' transformation of the adversarial relationship. Positive sanctions were caught between the perceived advantages of de-linking proliferation concerns from other contentious security issues and the domestic political advantages to the sender of greater linkage. The latter tendency is illustrated by the 1999 Perry plan, which abandoned 'limited engagement' in favor of a 'comprehensive and integrated approach'. While this policy shift may have bought time for administration policy, it did not resolve the contradictions inherent in a low-trust relationship. As it reassesses US policy towards the DPRK, the new US administration is likely to draw on the more skeptical view of positive incentives found in sanctions theory. The case of the Agreed Framework challenges several assumptions of sanctions theory, but it is too soon to claim that it in-

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