The National Security Archive’s second collection on U.S.-Korean relations covers, as did Part One, the full range of diplomatic, security, and economic relations between the United States and its ally, South Korea; and the challenges to the U.S. posed by an adversarial North Korea. The documents – obtained and selected since the publication of Part One – add significant breadth and depth to the Archive’s coverage of events and issues from Nixon into the first Obama administration. The collection contains 1,634 records originating with the State Department, the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, and other agencies, including key documents from the WikiLeaks database.
Among the notable new materials are selections from the Secretary of State’s Morning Intelligence Summary on developments in the two Koreas during the George H.W. Bush presidency. Nearly half of the new documents date from the Clinton presidency, which faced the dual challenges of working with its allies to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, as well dealing with the Asian economic crisis that struck South Korea and the region in the late 1990s. The WikiLeaks documents, carefully reviewed for sensitivity by the collection’s editor, are particularly useful for researchers because they shed significant light on the renewed tensions with North Korea in recent years. During the George W. Bush presidency, the U.S. included Pyongyang as part of the “axis of evil,” and the 1994 Framework Agreement unraveled after North Korea admitted it had violated its pledge to halt work on nuclear weapons.
During the first year of the Obama presidency, North Korean provocations continued to hinder the ongoing six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue. Each of these developments has helped to ensure that the Korean Peninsula will remain a top-priority concern for the United States for the foreseeable future.
The divided Korean Peninsula represents one of the critical unresolved legacies of the Cold War. The potential for renewed conflict in the region and the hope for a final peace continue to pose significant political and security challenges for American policy. This set, compiled from the latest records declassified by the U.S. government (augmented by selections from the WikiLeaks database), offers a highly curated look at a persistent, multifaceted flashpoint that promises to occupy global attention for the foreseeable future.
Incorporating records from all the major agencies concerned with U.S.-Korean relations, the collection permits scholars to refer directly to primary documents of central importance in researching these events and issues, including but not limited to policy reviews; internal assessments of various aspects of North and South Korea’s foreign, military, and economic policies; and intelligence reports; as well as memoranda of conversation and diplomatic cables that provide an intimate view of the dynamics of the U.S.-South Korean relationship. Thus, the documents will be of great relevance to scholars in a variety of fields, including: