October 2, 2006
new book revisits North Korea nuclear crisis
van der horst
It seems like Marion Creekmore has been everywhere talking about North Korea and his new book on former President Jimmy Carter’s 1994 trip to the rogue nuclear power: Creekmore has appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” lectured at the Southern Center of International Studies and at Emory’s own Halle Institute for Global Learning, and has co-written—with Emory president emeritus and former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, James Laney—an op-ed for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Currently a distinguished visiting professor of history and political science, Creekmore was the University’s first vice provost for international affairs, first director of the Halle Institute and a program director at The Carter Center. He also was an American diplomat for 28 years, serving in many different roles, including chief of mission to India and ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Republic of Maldives.
As program director of The Carter Center, Creekmore accompanied Carter on the famous 1994 trip to North Korea, now the subject of Creekmore’s book, “A Moment of Crisis.” At that time, the United States was on the brink of war with North Korea, and Creekmore argues that Carter’s trip prevented the conflict by convincing the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons program.
On Sept. 20, Creekmore was the featured speaker at the Southern Center for International Studies (SCIS). Peter White, president of SCIS, asked him questions both about his book and the present situation in North Korea.
Creekmore talked about the “very eerie feeling” he had when crossing the Demilitarized Zone—a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer zone between North and South Korea—with Carter into North Korea. He said that Carter viewed his mission as possibly the last chance for a peaceful solution to the conflict. Furthermore, Carter had been told by the American general commanding troops in South Korea that a war could be won by the United States, but the cost would be 50,000 American lives, 250,000 South Korean military lives, and 650,000 North Korean military lives, in addition to the death of millions of civilians and one trillion dollars in economic damage.
Creekmore recalled meeting Kim Il Sung, the leader of North Korea in 1994 and father of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. He reflected that he thought the elder Kim was “quite enlightening” and said that the dictator enjoyed talking to Carter about trout fishing.
When asked about what course the United States should take today, Creekmore said that he favors negotiations with North Korea and thinks sending a senior U.S. official to the country to start negotiations would be a smart idea.
He cautions that an active North Korean nuclear program would likely cause Japan to start a nuclear weapons program and would open up the possibility of North Korea selling nuclear weapons to terrorists or other nations because the country is in financial distress.
Creekmore argues that North Korea is not likely to use nuclear weapons since the world community would quickly respond to any nuclear attack by the country. He believes that North Korea would be open to giving up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees and other incentives.
Carter not only wrote the introduction to “A Moment of Crisis,” but also praised Creekmore’s book on “Larry King Live,” saying “he’s written a remarkable analysis of how the 1994 situation is being almost exactly duplicated now, and how the two are related. Any American who’s interested in and concerned about the North Korean threat ought to read this book. It’s going to be a textbook for educating people on what we might do in the future.”