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“Maximum pressure 2.0” campaign employing all tools of national power “likely represents the only way to denuclearize North Korea without resorting to war,” new think tank report finds
Includes recommendations related to diplomacy, military posture, cyber operations, sanctions, and information and influence activities
Washington, D.C., December 6 – The United States should target Pyongyang with a new “maximum pressure 2.0 campaign” that employs all tools of national power and seeks to persuade Kim Jong Un to relinquish the regime’s weapons of mass destruction, according to a new comprehensive report released today by the D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
In “Maximum Pressure 2.0: A Plan for North Korea,” six FDD experts explain that current U.S. policy has failed to persuade Kim to denuclearize and assess that the North Korean threat remains undiminished. Based on this, the authors recommend that the United States, working with its allies and partners, implement a “Plan B” integrating diplomacy, military posture, cyber operations, sanctions, and information and influence activities. While the experts acknowledge that this plan could increase tensions in the short-term, they suggest “such a campaign likely represents the only way to denuclearize North Korea without resorting to war.”
“Kim Jong Un’s nuclear and missile programs represent a grave threat to the U.S. and our allies, and we cannot allow him to drag-out the status quo indefinitely,” says co-editor Bradley Bowman, senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. “In the short term, if Kim fails to demonstrate good faith with tangible steps toward relinquishing his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, the United States should lead an aggressive and comprehensive new pressure campaign without delay.”
“Kim will give up his nuclear program only when he concludes that its cost to him and his regime is too great – that is, when he believes possession of nuclear weapons threatens his survival,” explains co-editor David Maxwell, FDD senior fellow and former planner with the ROK/U.S. Combined Forces Command. “But external pressure alone, although important, will almost certainly fail to create the right cost-benefit ratio. It is the threat from the North Korean elite, military, and people that is most likely to cause Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.”
The anthology represents the combined work of FDD’s three centers on American power: the Center for Cyber and Technology Innovation, the Center on Economic and Financial Power, and the Center on Military and Political Power.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a Washington, DC-based non-partisan policy institute focusing on foreign policy and national security. Visit our website at www.fdd.org and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
North Korea’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons represent a grave threat to the United States and its allies. To convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to relinquish these weapons, the Trump administration initiated a “maximum pressure” campaign. This effort imposed significant economic costs on North Korea and incentivized Kim to come to the negotiating table. So far, however, this pressure has been insufficient to persuade him to denuclearize.
It is certainly possible that no level of pressure will persuade Kim to change course. But there is a need to test that proposition. The United States and its partners have not yet implemented a more aggressive and comprehensive maximum pressure campaign that targets Kim’s cost-benefit analysis. Such a campaign likely represents the only way to denuclearize North Korea without resorting to war.1
This monograph proposes that the United States, working with its allies and partners, implement a “Plan B” to drive Kim to relinquish his nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Such a campaign must integrate all tools of national power, including diplomacy, military, cyber, sanctions, and information and influence activities.
After setting the scene in the introductory chapter, this study includes a dedicated chapter on each of the five lines of effort that together should constitute a “maximum pressure 2.0” campaign. Each chapter is written by experts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and provides background, analysis, and specific recommendations.
In the chapter titled “Aggressive Diplomacy,” Mathew Ha, David Maxwell, and Bradley Bowman warn against falling prey again to the North Korean regime’s longstanding practice of diplomatic deception. The authors note that Pyongyang routinely makes provocations both to advance its nuclear and missile capabilities and to win valuable concessions through negotiations. They also note that Pyongyang has violated every agreement it has reached over the last 20 years. The authors caution against additional presidential-level summits. Instead, they encourage the United States to redouble its efforts to jumpstart substantive working-level dialogues that establish specific timetables for the inspection, dismantlement, and verification of each nuclear and missile facility. In order to build necessary unity with South Korea and Japan while shaming China and Russia for obstructionism, the authors emphasize the importance of a comprehensive public diplomacy campaign that provides America leverage in its standoff with Pyongyang.
In the chapter titled “Military Deterrence and Readiness,” David Maxwell, Bradley Bowman, and Mathew Ha emphasize the importance of South Korea-U.S. military readiness in deterring North Korean aggression, protecting U.S. interests, empowering effective diplomacy, and supporting a maximum pressure campaign. The authors note that the North Korean military threat has not decreased. They also note the assessment of the U.S. Department of Defense’s 2019 Missile Defense Review that North Korea has “neared the time when” it could “threaten the U.S. homeland with missile attack.” The authors propose several specific steps to strengthen allied military readiness, protect U.S. national security interests, and support a maximum pressure 2.0 campaign. In the end, they note, American power is what deters North Korea.
In the chapter titled “The Cyber Element,” Mathew Ha and Annie Fixler note that Pyongyang continues to employ an aggressive cyber campaign to generate revenue and conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. The authors call for a U.S.-led cyber-enabled information and offensive cyber campaign targeting North Korea. They propose specific cyber-related actions against China, Russia, and other countries to persuade them to dismantle North Korea’s cyber network. To help carry out these efforts, the authors call for the creation of a joint South Korea-U.S. cyber task force.
In the chapter titled “U.S. Sanctions Against North Korea,” David Asher and Eric Lorber detail the existing sanctions regime targeting North Korea. The authors describe Pyongyang’s efforts, working with Chinese entities and others, to circumvent these sanctions. The authors propose specific measures to increase the economic pressure on Pyongyang. Examples include revitalizing the North Korea Illicit Activities Initiative, designating the leadership of major Chinese banks that engage in prohibited transactions with North Korea, hardening small banks against North Korean sanctions evasion, and targeting joint ventures. In short, there is more room to squeeze the North Korean regime.
In the chapter titled “Information and Influence Activities,” David Maxwell and Mathew Ha argue that aggressive information and influence activities represent an essential component of a successful maximum pressure 2.0 campaign. The authors believe that external pressure alone is unlikely to persuade Kim to denuclearize. They recommend a number of specific information and influence activities targeting North Korea’s regime elite, second-tier leadership, and general population. These activities would seek to foster Kim’s perception that the security of his rule will continue to deteriorate until he decides to relinquish his nuclear weapons. Even if information and influence activities do not yield the desired outcome, these tools can prove useful in the event of renewed military conflict.
“It is in the interest of the U.S. and South Korea to negotiate a fair extension of the SMA that does not raise accusations among the Korean population that the U.S. is a mercenary force in their country while also addressing concerns of the U.S. that its allies shoulder as much of their own defense burden as possible.”
Contentious talks to renew the U.S.-South Korea military cost-sharing agreement threatens to strain an over six-decade alliance, one that advances key American interests and serves as the cornerstone of peace and security in one of the world’s most important regions.
Since 1991 the U.S. and South Korea have negotiated multiyear Special Measures Agreements (SMA) that govern how costs are shared for the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in Korea. When the previous agreement expired at the end of 2018, talks proved so difficult that a makeshift one-year agreement was all that could be managed. Nonetheless, South Korea agreed to raise its contribution 8.2% to KRW 1.04 trillion (almost $900 million), which covers about 50% of local basing costs, a bottom-line target for the U.S. last year.
U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris has stated that “Korea, like other allies, can and should do more.” In one regard Ambassador Harris is right: the cost of deterring North Korea’s relentless weapons build-up continually increases the cost of common defense.
But the Korean press has reported that the U.S. “ask” is for South Korea to increase its annual contribution five-fold (to nearly $5 billion), while the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs is seeking a “reasonable and equitable” increase. Closing such a large gap would be extremely challenging politically for the South. And it is worth noting that some in Congress, such as U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, have praised South Korea’s contribution.
Are the U.S. demands fair or are they mercenary? And is South Korea a “free rider,” a country that scrimps on its own defense spending and overly depends on allies? Let’s look at how South Korea measures up.
First, South Korea’s numbers show that it is not shirking its defense burden. It spent 2.6 % of GDP in 2018 on its defense budget, and plans to spend 2.9% by 2022. That far outpaces the NATO benchmark of 2% and eclipses the levels spent by Germany, 1.2%, and Japan, 0.9% (the U.S was 3.2%).
Second, South Korea is the third-largest purchaser of military goods from the U.S. – $6.7 billion from 2008 to 2017 – and it does not seek subsidies from U.S. taxpayers for its purchases, unlike Israel and Egypt. South Korea is ramping up its defense spending to localize its defense capability and raise its military posture.
Third, South Korea shouldered around 90% of the $11 billion capital expenditure for the consolidation of U.S. bases south of the Han River to Camp Humphreys, forming America’s “largest power projection platform in the Pacific,” according to the Defense Department. And South Korea does not charge rent.
Moreover, South Korea has demonstrated that it is a dependable ally supporting U.S. military actions in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq in the past and most recently agreeing to a U.S. request to send a naval destroyer to guard merchant ships in the Strait of Hormuz.
Even though the evidence shows that South Korea is not a “free rider,” does that alone justify maintaining the alliance?
Yes. Much is at stake in maintaining global order. The 66-year U.S.-South Korea alliance has kept the peace and maintained geopolitical conditions for mutual prosperity. South Korea is America’s sixth-largest trade partner and its major corporations are increasingly investing in the U.S, creating high-paying jobs for American workers. A prosperous South Korea is good for America.
It is in the interest of the U.S. and South Korea to negotiate a fair extension of the SMA that does not raise accusations among the Korean population that the U.S. is a mercenary force in their country while also addressing concerns of the U.S. that its allies shoulder as much of their own defense burden as possible. Polling shows that Korea’s highly favorable perception of the U.S. has taken a big hit. And the Korean government is hyper-sensitive to public opinion.
There is too much at stake for the U.S. to ask for too much, and thus risk alienating a responsible and reliable ally, and for South Korea to not pay its fair share given the wealth that Korea has achieved thanks to the security ensured by the U.S. military presence. Creative negotiations could strengthen, not weaken, the alliance.
At a congressional hearing in July, members of Congress expressed concern that the failure of the SMA talks could lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Korea, a result China and Russia would welcome. That would probably be the death knell of the alliance.
Thomas Byrne is President and CEO of The Korea Society, and former Asia Pacific/Middle East Regional Manager at Moody’s Sovereign Risk Group.
General (Ret) Walter L. Sharp is former UNC/CFC/USFK Commander, a Director of The Korea Society and the current Chairman of the Korea Defense Veterans Association.
The Korea Defense Veterans Association supports the ROK-U.S. Alliance as the linchpin for stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and the region. Part of that stability is deterring North Korea and any other nation from taking actions that could weaken the security of the region.
KDVA believes that the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) between the Republic of Korea and Japan has an important part in supporting regional security by facilitating the exchange of sensitive military information for both countries.
The termination of this agreement would benefit North Korea at a time when the Kim regime is looking to take advantage of any rift in the relationship between the Republic of Korea, United States, and Japan.
KDVA urges all parties to work together for the greater goal of security and prosperity in the region.
For our part, we will increase our efforts for improving these ties. Only by working together to resolve our issues can we maintain the security that has benefited the people of South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
“Together for the ROK-U.S. Alliance”
Walter L. Sharp
General, U.S. Army (Ret)
President and Chairman of the Board
Korea Defense Veterans Association