The Six-Party Talks agreement of February 2007 raised hopes that
the long-standing North Korean nuclear weapons crisis would be
resolved, but the Beijing Agreement has significant shortcomings
that are cause for serious concern. Even though North Korea's
covert nuclear weapons program using highly enriched uranium (HEU)
triggered the current impasse, the agreement does not explicitly
limit the program. Nor does it ensure that North Korea will divest
itself of its existing nuclear weapons stockpile or delineate
verification requirements to ensure that North Korea does not again
cheat on its international obligations.
As negotiators flesh out the agreement's vague provisions,
the U.S. needs to pursue a two-track policy to ensure that North
Korea ends its nuclear weapons programs.
First, Washington should maintain pressure on Pyongyang
to ensure compliance by:
- Calling on the international community to implement
the sanctions against North Korean nuclear and missile programs
contained in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718;
- Guarding against North Korean proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction (WMD);
- Targeting Pyongyang's illegal activities (e.g.,
counterfeiting, money laundering, and drug smuggling) through
international financial restrictions and law enforcement; and
- Highlighting North Korean human rights violations.
Second, the U.S. should insist that negotiations
unequivocally cover North Korea's plutonium and uranium programs,
dismantlement of nuclear facilities, and disposal of fissile
material and nuclear weapons. Washington should insist on a
rigorous and invasive verification regime, similar to the regimes
for the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), Intermediate-Range
Nuclear Forces (INF), and Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)
treaties. Only through extensive verification measures that
achieve total transparency of Pyongyang's nuclear program can the
Six-Party Talks confidently and successfully denuclearize
The Roots of the Current Crisis
In October 2002, then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James
Kelly confronted North Korean officials with accusations that
Pyongyang was pursuing a covert HEU nuclear weapons program.
Although the 1994 U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework focused on
constraining the plutonium-based nuclear weapons program at
the Yongbyon nuclear facility, it also referenced the 1992
North-South Joint Denuclearization Declaration in which both
Koreas pledged not to possess uranium enrichment facilities. The HEU program
also violated North Korea's commitment to the Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
North Korea's acknowledgement of the HEU program during the
bilateral meeting, which it later publicly denied, led the
U.S. to stop deliveries of heavy fuel oil and construction of the
two light-water reactors in North Korea that were stipulated
under the Agreed Framework. Pyongyang responded by evicting
IAEA inspectors, withdrawing from the NPT, reactivating the
reactor, and reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel into additional
It is significant that North Korea began its HEU program in the
late 1990s in a benign threat environment under U.S. President
Bill Clinton and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung. Both were
intent on engaging North Korea and providing diplomatic and
economic benefits in return for non-threatening behavior by
Pyongyang. The timing belies Pyongyang's assertions that the
program was born of an inherent fear of foreign threat and in
response to President George W. Bush's foreign policy.
Pyongyang's decision to violate its international denuclearization
commitments when it was receiving large-scale aid, engaged in
missile negotiations with the U.S., and meeting with the South
Korean president and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
does not bode well for the veracity of any future denuclearization
U.S. Estimates of the HEU Program
Some U.S. policymakers suggested that the U.S. intelligence
community was uncertain about the HEU program. In late February
2007, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, lead
negotiator for the Six-Party Talks, stated regarding North Korea's
purchase of aluminum tubes for centrifuges:
[If they] did not go into a highly enriched uranium program,
maybe they went somewhere else-fine. We can have a discussion
about where they are and where they've gone. It's a complex
program, it would require a lot more equipment than we know
that they have actually purchased. It requires some considerable
production techniques, that, we're not sure they've mastered
Negotiators may have intended these comments to lower the
bar for North Korean compliance by allowing Pyongyang to admit
to only an experimental HEU program. Such tactics, however,
reduce Washington's negotiating leverage, and Washington should
expect North Korean negotiators to exploit it.
Former senior U.S. government officials directly involved in
negotiations with the North Koreans indicate that the intelligence
community was unanimous in its 2002 assessment that North
Korea had an active program to acquire materials for enriching
sufficient uranium to develop weapons. Where disagreements
existed, they were over the extent of the progress that North Korea
had made or would likely make toward achieving a covert capability
to produce uranium.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf subsequently admitted
that renegade nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan provided uranium
hexafluoride (UF6), centrifuges, and other technical assistance to
With centrifuges and UF6, North Korea has the means and material to
produce fuel-grade and even weapons-grade uranium. In February
2007, the head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service
told the National Assembly that North Korea has an HEU program.
Joseph DeTrani, the intelligence community's Korea Mission
Manager, told a congressional panel in late February that the U.S.
had high confidence in 2002 that North Korea was pursuing an
HEU program. Since that time, he added, "All of the intelligence
agencies judge, most with moderate confidence, that this effort
continues." North Korea's lack of success so far may be
due to technical difficulties or to international nonproliferation
pressure and financial restrictions. Deputy Secretary of State
and former Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte stated
on March 5 that he had "no doubt" that North Korea has had an HEU
program and that this "continues to be the judgment of the
Downplaying the HEU program's significance to allow Pyongyang to
claim an alternative purpose would be a serious mistake.
Washington's self-imposed ambiguity reduces its negotiating
leverage and creates an opening for North Korean negotiators
Averting a Crisis: The September 2005
After several inconclusive negotiating rounds, participants in
the Six-Party Talks prevented the collapse of multilateral nuclear
negotiations by agreeing to a vaguely worded joint statement in
September 2005. This minimalist statement of principles
postponed any U.S. ability to bring the North Korean nuclear issue
to the U.N. Security Council and reduced the potential for
Washington to gain Chinese, South Korean, or Russian backing for
increased pressure on North Korea.
At the same time, Pyongyang was deterred from escalatory
behavior until it felt it was not achieving its strategic
objectives through negotiations. Although diplomats maintained the
viability of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear impasse, none
of the contentious issues that divided the U.S. and North Korea
The Long, Bumpy Road to the Beijing
North Korea's launch of a long-range missile on July 4, 2006,
and first test of a nuclear weapon on October 9, 2006, brought
about the resumption of Six-Party Talks after a 13-month hiatus. By
demonstrating a willingness to engage in extremely provocative
behavior, Pyongyang increased regional tension and forced the
U.S. to reengage. Yet the regime itself, economically weakened by
international financial restrictions, was brought back to
negotiations by the unexpectedly strong U.N. response to the
nuclear test and pressure from China.
U.S.-led restrictions against North Korean illicit activities,
including counterfeiting and money laundering, had
significantly affected the regime's economic well-being.
Moreover, foreign banks and companies had become increasingly wary
of dealing with North Korea, no matter how legitimate the business,
for fear that the U.S. might later identify them as accomplices in
In September 2005, two Chinese banks froze assets affiliated
with North Korean entities suspected of WMD proliferation or
illicit activities. Additional Chinese banks imposed restrictions
on North Korean financial transactions after the July 2006 missile
launches and, according to Chinese trade data, cut off fuel
deliveries to North Korea during September.
Kim Jong-il likely assessed that transferring the nuclear issue
from the Security Council to the Six-Party Talks would dull the
edge of international anger over North Korea's nuclear test and
avert additional sanctions; hinder U.S. efforts to gain
Chinese, Russian, and South Korean support for firmly
implementing Resolution 1718; prevent Beijing and Seoul from
joining the Proliferation Security Initiative; and allow
resumption of Chinese and South Korean economic aid.
The Bush Administration was motivated to be flexible to
avoid having to confront North Korea and Iran simultaneously over
their nuclear weapons programs when U.S. public support was
declining because of the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.
The Administration was weakened by an overextended military,
growing criticism by Republican Members of Congress, and the
November 2006 election in which the Democratic Party took control
The Beijing Agreement: First Step on a
Long Journey or a Treadmill?
The Beijing Agreement defused regional tensions by extending the
diplomatic process and deferring international confrontation over
North Korea's nuclear test, but it did not resolve any of the
contentious issues that divide the U.S. and North Korea.
Although the accord provides significant momentum for
follow-on discussions, reaching agreement on (to say nothing of
implementing) full North Korean denuclearization will require long,
Speed Bumps on the Road to Denuclearization. Shortly
after the Beijing Agreement was reached, differing interpretations
arose over the terms of the accord. North Korean negotiator Kim
Gye-gwan asserted that Washington had promised that it would
quickly remove North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of
terrorism, a position refuted by the U.S. State Department. He also
insisted on March 9 that Pyongyang's agreement to halt
operations at the Yongbyon nuclear reactor was contingent
on the U.S. lifting its economic restrictions against North Korea
and that a U.S. failure to comply would force North Korea to
take "corresponding steps," such as only partially freezing
operations at Yongbyon if sanctions were only partially lifted.
In March, the collapse of bilateral North Korean- Japanese
normalization talks after only two 45-minute sessions reflects
Pyongyang's intent to pursue selective progress in the
Six-Party Talks. North Korea will likely allow initial progress in
other working groups to isolate Japan and undermine Tokyo's
insistence on resolving the abductee issue.
Fleshing Out the Beijing Agreement
Follow-on negotiations will determine the extent to which the
six-party process succeeds in gaining North Korea's acquiescence to
abandoning its nuclear weapons programs. The U.S. strategy is to
achieve a series of progressively more detailed joint statements
rather than striving for a comprehensive arms control treaty
that delineates all requirements. Although designed to lure North
Korea into lowering its nuclear guard through incremental
diplomatic and economic benefits, the Beijing Agreement nonetheless
has allowed Pyongyang to defuse international pressure against its
nuclear weapons programs.
South Korea and China, which have significant stakes in engaging
North Korea, will be reluctant to abandon the process even if
Pyongyang fails to abide by its commitments. If confronted with
North Korean noncompliance, Seoul and Beijing would likely call for
greater U.S. flexibility to resolve the dispute.
Although a litany of issues needs to be resolved, the principal
sticking points will be the scope of denuclearization, the
sequencing of benefits for denuclearization, verification measures,
and North Korea's demand for alternative energy sources.
Scope of Denuclearization. The lack of an explicit
reference to North Korea's HEU program is troublesome. Proponents
of the Beijing Agreement assert that the issue is implicitly
covered by the plural reference to "nuclear weapons programs" and
the allusion to the 1992 North-South Korea Denuclearization
Declaration, which specifies that both countries "shall not possess
nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities."
Similarly, there are uncertainties over the definitions of
"abandon" and "disable" with regard to North Korea's nuclear
weapons program. Washington assesses the terms as interim
steps toward the destruction of all nuclear-related facilities and
the removal of nuclear weapons from North Korea. Yet shortly after
signing the Beijing Agreement, North Korea asserted that it had
committed only to a "temporary disablement" of the Yongbyon
nuclear reactor. Media reports indicate the U.S. initially
sought to include references to the HEU program and use of
"dismantlement" but backed off when rebuffed by North Korea.
Effective Verification. Assistant Secretary Hill stated
during congressional testimony that there were no current plans for
the IAEA to get access to any site other than Yongbyon. Yet
Resolution 1718, passed in response to North Korea's nuclear test,
declares that the Security Council "decides that the DPRK shall
abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes in
a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner [and] strictly in
accordance with the obligations of [the NPT and IAEA
Verification will be the key to preventing North Korea from
cheating again on its international commitments. This will
require a rigorous and invasive verification regime similar to the
regimes of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START),
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF), and Conventional
Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaties. Six-Party Talks participants
should not replicate provisions in the Agreed Framework that
allowed North Korea to defer IAEA inspections of suspect nuclear
sites for years.
The inspection protocol would allow for baseline inspections of
declared nuclear-related facilities, including storage sites for
fissile material and nuclear weapons. This would allow for
technical sampling to refine estimates of the amounts of
plutonium and HEU produced. Provisions for challenge
inspections would designate points of entry into North Korea by
inspectors, the maximum allowable time between declaration of site
to be inspected and arrival by inspectors, allowable inspection
equipment, and definition of areas subject to inspection.
The destruction protocol would identify which production and
enrichment equipment would need to be destroyed and delineate
required destruction methods (e.g. cutting, crushing, or removal).
It would allow for international inspectors to observe the
destruction at pre-declared facilities.
Only through extensive verification measures that achieve total
transparency of Pyongyang's nuclear program can the Six-Party Talks
confidently and successfully denuclearize North Korea.
Sequencing Benefits. Pyongyang sees normalization of
diplomatic relations as fulfilling a long-standing foreign policy
objective to gain international legitimacy and recognition as
an equal of the U.S. Removal from the list of state sponsors of
terrorism would enable North Korea to apply for aid from
international organizations such as the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank.
However, attaining these objectives requires fulfilling
conditions beyond denuclearization. Pyongyang has been told that
before it can be removed from the terrorism list, it must address
its involvement in the 1983 attempted assassination of the South
Korean president in Rangoon, the 1987 bombing of a Korean Air
plane, and the harboring of Japanese Red Army Faction terrorists.
U.S. officials have commented that North Korea should also
address its abductions of Japanese and South Korean citizens. Yet
it remains unclear whether or not Washington will require a full
resolution of that issue before removing North Korea from the
Assistant Secretary Hill has commented that normalizing
relations with a nuclear North Korea would be difficult to imagine,
suggesting that the process will be longer than Pyongyang may
expect. Before formalizing diplomatic relations, the U.S. should
insist on complete denuclearization; cessation of illegal
activities (counterfeiting of currency and pharmaceuticals, money
laundering, and drug smuggling); and improvement in its human
Concerns have arisen in the past that international
humanitarian aid was diverted to the military or other unintended
recipients (for example, after revelations that North Korea had
diverted donations from the U.N. Development Program to the
Kim Jong-il regime). The extent is unknown, but North Korean
impediments to monitoring led several nongovernmental
organizations to cease operations. The North Korean Human
Rights Act conditions any "significant increases" in U.S.
humanitarian assistance on "substantial improvements in
transparency, monitoring, and access to vulnerable populations."
The U.S. policy reversal encapsulated in the Beijing Agreement
will make Seoul feel less constrained in resuming its largely
unconditional provision of aid to North Korea, which had been
halted following Pyongyang's 2006 long-range missile launch and
nuclear test. However, South Korea has been reluctant to demand
stringent monitoring requirements for fear of alienating Pyongyang
and risking its engagement policy.
Provision of Alternative Energy Sources. North Korea had
conditioned its acceptance of the September 2005 Joint Statement on
the other nations providing two light-water reactors (LWRs) as
stipulated in the 1994 Agreed Framework. The U.S. responded that
Pyongyang had lost its right to civilian nuclear reactors due to
its covert HEU program. Assistant Secretary Hill commented in
September 2005 that providing LWRs was a "non-starter"
North Korea has pursued a nuclear program for 25 years and used
it solely to make weapons-grade plutonium for atomic bombs-
not for generating electricity. Not a single light bulb has been
turned on as a result of the nuclear reactor in North Korea.
Seoul's attempt to resolve the dispute by offering to provide 2
million kilowatts of electricity annually backfired when Pyongyang
deftly pocketed the concession and continued to demand the
LWRs. South Korea's electricity proposal will cost an estimated $11
billion through 2018, according to Korea Electric Power
Corporation estimates. Seoul has already contributed 70 percent of
the $1.5 billion spent to date on the $4.5 billion LWR project.
Since the dispute threatened to derail efforts to achieve a
Joint Statement, delegates deferred the issue and simply "expressed
their respect and agreed to discuss, at an appropriate time, the
subject of provision of [a] light water reactor to the
Although the Beijing Agreement made no reference to LWRs,
North Korea is unlikely to abandon the demand. Pyongyang sees LWRs
as a matter of national pride, a capability to generate power
domestically that cannot be turned off by the U.S. or South Korea,
a means to divide its opponents, and a negotiating ploy to divert
attention away from its nuclear weapons programs.
Pyongyang's negotiators will likely resurrect their LWR demands
during later stages of negotiation as the required payment for
giving up fissile material and nuclear weapons. Vice Foreign
Minister Kim Gye-gwan told Charles Kartman, U.S. special envoy for
Korean Peninsula affairs under the Clinton Administration, that
Pyongyang would demand LWRs in return for denuclearization. The U.S.
should not accept North Korean demands for LWRs. If alternative
power sources become an inducement in the latter stages of the
six-party process, the focus should be on thermal power
Change of Heart or Change of
Successful diplomatic resolution of the nuclear impasse will
require a fundamental shift in North Korea's strategy, but such a
shift is unlikely. Most experts doubt that Pyongyang will give up
the strategic benefits of its nuclear weapons programs since
they provide regime survival, deterrence against U.S. attack,
enhanced prestige, and leverage for economic benefits. Kim
Jong-il will be emboldened by perceptions that Washington does not
have a military option-due to Seoul's proximity to the DMZ,
the Iraqi security situation, and the potential face-off with
Iran.Deputy Foreign Minister Kang Sok-ju said in November 2006,
"[W]hy would we abandon nuclear weapons? Are we saying we conducted
a nuclear test in order to abandon them?"
U.S. negotiators admit they are not sure whether or not North
Korea has made the strategic decision to give up nukes. A Chosun
Ilbo/Gallup Korea poll following the February 13 Beijing
agreement indicated that 77 percent of South Korean
respondents, usually the most complacent about North Korean
intentions, did not believe Kim Jong-il would abandon his
nuclear programs. A Wall Street Journal/ NBC News
Poll indicated that 62 percent of U.S. respondents thought the
Beijing Agreement "will not make a real difference in ending North
Korea's nuclear program."
Implications of Failed Talks
By building momentum for the Six-Party Talks through initial
conciliatory gestures, North Korea may be seeking to gain
acceptance for future noncompliance, such as an incomplete
data declaration. Washington would then face a choice between
ratcheting up pressure with limited international support or
acquiescing to North Korean demands. South Korea, China, and Russia
would rebuff any measures to punish North Korea, such as cutting
aid deliveries or reimposing economic sanctions. Seoul, Beijing,
and Moscow would instead press Washington to reduce its negotiating
demands and show greater "flexibility."
An impasse in the Six-Party Talks works in Pyongyang's favor,
providing a diplomatic victory by gaining de facto
international acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear state. The
outrage that marked the initial U.N. response to North Korea's July
missile launch and October nuclear test has dissipated.
An inability by Pyongyang to gain its strategic economic and
diplomatic objectives could lead it to resume high-risk
confrontation tactics. Kim Jong-il's range of potential escalatory
actions includes a reversal of pledges to freeze reactor operations
at Yongbyon, additional nuclear and missile tests, provocative
actions along the DMZ or maritime demarcation line, shadowing
or intercepting U.S. reconnaissance aircraft, division-level or
corps-level military exercises outside of normal training cycles,
and announcement of wartime preparations by the military and
populace. Pyongyang might conduct such actions in conjunction with
diplomatic entreaties to gain Chinese and South Korean
A failure of the Six-Party Talks to achieve Pyongyang's
denuclearization will lead to more North Korean nuclear weapons,
which would pose a greater proliferation risk. An increased nuclear
weapons inventory alters the military balance on the Korean
Peninsula because it enables North Korea to shift strategies from
nuclear deterrence to nuclear warfighting, provides second-strike
capability, and could trigger a regional arms race.
North Korea's Growing Nuclear Arsenal.
Estimates of North Korea's nuclear weapons are inexact and
based on a series of assumptions. Most experts assume that
Pyongyang has reprocessed approximately 50 kilograms of
weapons-grade plutonium-enough for eight to 12 nuclear
weapons. How many weapons North Korea has produced is not known.
In the absence of a negotiated settlement, North Korea could
have an additional five nuclear weapons by 2012 on its current
trajectory. Although the two long-range missile test launches in
1998 and 2006 were failures, Pyongyang will likely have the
capability by 2012 to attack the western U.S., if not the entire
country, with its nuclear-capable Taepo Dong missile.
Greater Proliferation Risk. Mounting global
criticism of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and a concurrent
suspicion of U.S. intelligence estimates have led to an aversion to
the forceful diplomacy that is necessary to prevent the current
nonproliferation regime from collapsing. International
acquiescence to the spread of nuclear weapons undermines the
effectiveness of the NPT and the U.N. Security Council. This, in
turn, sends a signal to Iran and other aspiring nuclear weapons
states that the U.N. lacks resolve, thereby increasing the
potential for proliferation of weapons, components, and
Detecting and preventing a North Korean nuclear shipment to a
rogue state such as Iran or to a terrorist group would be extremely
difficult, and preventing a nuclear weapon from entering the U.S.
in a shipping container would be nearly impossible. The best way to
prevent nuclear proliferation is to eliminate the North Korean
Pyongyang must assume that a terrorist group would use a nuclear
weapon provided by North Korea against the U.S. and that Washington
could trace it back to North Korea. Since this would likely lead to
a U.S. retaliatory strike, the risk to the survival of North
Korea's regime outweighs any financial benefit from selling to
a terrorist group. Providing a nuclear weapon to Iran would be less
risky but could still trigger U.S. retribution. That said, an
increasingly isolated North Korea desperate for cash may eventually
choose to proliferate.
What the U.S. Should Do
Given previous North Korean negotiating behavior, the
Six-Party Talks should clearly delineate Pyongyang's
responsibilities to close every potential loophole and prevent a
recurrence of its characteristic tactic of continuing
negotiations after signature. To this end, and to address the
specific problems outlined above in an effective manner:
- Participants should rebuff any attempts by North Korea to
hijack the Six-Party Talks to assuage all of the intrinsic security
concerns that supposedly led Pyongyang to pursue nuclear weapons.
Doing so would condone shifting blame from North Korea's escalatory
behavior and open the door to escalating demands, including
withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from South Korea.
- Washington should underscore that its willingness to
continue discussions is not an open-ended commitment. U.S.
officials should recommend imposing a timetable for progress
and a deadline for completion to prevent Pyongyang from dragging
out negotiations and solidifying international de facto
recognition of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.
- The U.S. should rebuff Seoul's measured approach, as
encapsulated by a South Korean official after the Berlin talks: "It
will take a long time, maybe two or three years if that soon, just
to lay out steps for every stage in the Sept. 19 agreement."
- To enable a more comprehensive public debate over future
Six-Party Talks agreements, the U.S. intelligence community should
prepare an unclassified National Intelligence Estimate that updates
its assessments of North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile
programs. A corresponding classified version with detailed
information would allow congressional intelligence committees
to serve as proxies for American citizens on intelligence
- The U.S. should insist that follow-on agreements explicitly
reference both the plutonium-based and uranium-based nuclear
- The U.S. should develop a common understanding of the
requirement to destroy North Korea's capability to make nuclear
weapons by mandating detailed technical requirements for the
destruction or removal of critical production components.
- The follow-on agreement should provide for securing all fissile
material and fuel rods and placing them under international
monitoring and control as a prelude to eventually disabling all
nuclear weapons and removing them from North Korea.
- North Korea should announce its intent both to rejoin the
Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA Safeguards Agreement immediately
and to abide by all required provisions.
- U.S. officials should insist that North Korea fully disclose
all plutonium-related and uranium-related facilities, including
geographic coordinates and functions, and produce a list of all
production equipment, fissile material, and nuclear weapons. Any
failure to include HEU-related facilities and equipment in the data
declaration would raise questions about Pyongyang's motives.
- Pyongyang should provide this information within 30 days of the
initial working-group meeting and should be warned that any
omissions will hamper its eligibility to receive benefits.
- Washington should insist on the right to conduct short-notice
challenge inspections of non-declared facilities for the duration
of the agreement to redress any questions about North Korea's
nuclear weapons programs. This would include the two suspect sites
that North Korea refused to allow IAEA officials to inspect in
1992, precipitating the first nuclear crisis.
- The denuclearization working group should outline
procedures for unrestricted IAEA inspections throughout North
Korea, and the U.S. should link the provision of significant
benefits to North Korea to the successful implementation of
- The Six-Party nations should condition future humanitarian aid,
development assistance, and membership in international
organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank on monitoring requirements to prevent the diversion of
- The Bush Administration should call upon South Korea and China
not to provide unilateral aid and assistance beyond that included
in a multilateral nuclear agreement. Such aid should count
against the 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent economic,
energy, and humanitarian assistance stipulated in the Beijing
- Washington should advocate imposing conditionality in
South Korean economic engagement, including reconnection of the
inter-Korean railroad, Kaesong Development Zone, and Kumgangsan
It is important for the U.S. to engage in multilateral
negotiations as a means to test North Korea's commitment to rid
itself of nuclear weapons. By engaging in a good-faith effort
to resolve the nuclear impasse diplomatically, the U.S. can better
leverage South Korea, China, and Russia for stronger measures
against North Korea if the Six-Party Talks collapse.
During these negotiations, however, the U.S. cannot acquiesce to
North Korean pressure tactics nor abandon its principles of
adhering to international agreements and punishing those who
violate them. To do so would risk going from an ineffective North
Korean policy to a dangerous one. Failure to ensure that North
Korea lives up to its agreements not only rewards Pyongyang for bad
behavior, but also encourages the regime to continue doing so.
Even if the U.S. attains the negotiating goals suggested in
this paper, the Six-Party Talks will fail if North Korea has not
made the strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons
completely. A collapse of the talks or even a prolonged stalemate
has dire ramifications for regional stability and international
nonproliferation efforts. Because few experts believe that North
Korea will fully comply with its commitments, the U.S. should
begin contingency planning for alternative outcomes.
Klingner is senior research fellow for Northeast Asia
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