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  • Strategic Thinking about the Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four Parties Caught between North Korea and the United States
  • Captain Lucius Tillman (bio)
Strategic Thinking about the Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four Parties Caught between North Korea and the United States, by Gilbert Rozman. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. ix, 264 pp., notes, index. $56.20 cloth.

On October 9, 2006, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) announced that it had detonated a nuclear weapon underground, thus becoming the eighth country to declare itself a nuclear power. In his book Strategic Thinking about the Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four Parties Caught between North Korea and the United States, Professor Gilbert Rozman takes a unique approach to examining why the Six-Party Talks between the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia failed to prevent North Korea’s nuclear test. Rather than “rehash the hopes or disappointments of the U.S. or the inflated language of the North Koreans through the cycle of talks failures, and renewed hopes” (p. 17) that has transpired since the United States first denounced the North for enriching uranium in October 2002, Rozman instead attempts to answer two questions about each of the other four countries involved in the Six-Party Talks: (1) What was the country’s response to the crisis? (2) What was the regional context of the country’s response? (p. v). By examining in turn the Korean nuclear crisis from the perspective of each of the parties involved, Rozman illustrates the complexity of the Northeast Asian security framework.

Regrettably, Rozman’s work exhibits a number of distracting defects. First, his four-stage framework for analyzing the crisis is extremely confusing. Second, his disdain for the Bush administration detracts from his otherwise exceptional analysis. Finally, grammatical errors and vague references to people, events, and policies familiar only to those with an in-depth knowledge of Northeast Asia distract the reader from focusing on the important lessons Rozman relates in his book.

Rozman breaks the Korean nuclear crisis into four stages. The first stage begins in October 2002 with the United States denouncing North Korea’s highly enriched uranium program (p. vii) and threatening economic sanctions or military action if North Korea does not abandon the program (p. 18). It ends in August 2003 with the agreement by the United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia to explore a solution to the crisis through a series of Six-Party Talks (p. 20). The second stage covers the three rounds of Six-Party Talks that took place between August 2003 and June 2004 and the fourth round that took place in the summer of 2005, during which the United States maintained the hard line that North Korea would not be rewarded with any security guarantee or economic assistance until it had denuclearized, and the [End Page 198] North refused to consider the process of denuclearization unless it receives guarantees of security and economic incentives up front (p. 21). The third phase, which Rozman describes as a period of “malign neglect by the United States,” covers the period between the third and fourth rounds of Six-Party Talks and the period between the fourth round of talks and the October 2006 North Korean nuclear test. The fourth phase covers from October 2006 through the fifth round of Six-Party Talks, during which a Joint Agreement was finally reached to end the crisis (p. 18).

While simple in concept, Rozman’s four-stage analytical framework is overly complex in application for a few reasons. First of all, stages two and three overlap in time. Thus, when Rozman makes a statement such as “Sino-South Korean coordination . . . became a subject of some speculation in 2005 . . .” (p. 127) the reader is left to wonder whether the coordination took place during Stage 1 or Stage 2 of the crisis. Additionally, Rozman has a tendency to jump around in time as he attempts to explain what is occurring in a particular country during a particular stage of the crisis, which, counter to his intentions, only adds to his reader’s confusion. Furthermore, by organizing the book first by country and then by stage of...


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pp. 198-200
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