Marching Toward a U.S.-North Korea Summit: The Historical Case for Optimism, Pessimism, and Caution

Marching Toward a U.S.-North Korea Summit: The Historical Case for Optimism, Pessimism, and Caution

The history of denuclearization efforts on the Korean peninsula gives reason for pessimism, caution, and optimism. Attempting to critically engage that history can help the United States narrow uncertainty, prepare for a long diplomatic process should one…

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No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. –Heraclitus

  "Here we go again." "It’s Groundhog Day with North Korea." "We’ve seen this script before." These sorts of refrains have been common among North Korea watchers — and those who play them on TV — ahead of the summit slated for June 12 in Singapore between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and President Donald Trump. After significant brinkmanship over whether the meeting would take place, the on-again, off-again summit looks likely to be held as originally planned. The United States has engaged North Korea in two major denuclearization processes, not to mention separate inter-Korean and multilateral efforts, over the past quarter-century. All have failed to produce the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization that the United States has sought on the Korean Peninsula.[1] Some skeptical of the bilateral summit charge that this history of failure is likely to repeat itself. Meanwhile, optimists suggest that something new in the upcoming process has opened the possibility of a different outcome.[2] History can be a useful guide to avoid repeating mistakes, but events are rarely as neat and tidy as a sound bite seems to suggest. The history of nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, as well as multilateral discussions such as the six-party talks, is far more complex than most voices in the media and policy circles acknowledge. This history offers cause for pessimism, optimism, and caution about current prospects for denuclearization.[3]

Pessimism: Denuclearization Is Harder Now Than During Past Efforts

Many of those who are pessimistic about the Trump-Kim summit point to failed efforts to achieve complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization and ask why this time should be any different. In one sense, the pessimists are not pessimistic enough. North Korea’s nuclear program has advanced significantly since the last major diplomatic efforts at denuclearization. In the intervening years, the possibility of denuclearization has become even more distant. This section contrasts the situation today with the state of the North Korean nuclear threat when the 1994 Agreed Framework and the joint statement of the 2005 six-party talks were reached. Seen through that lens, contentions that history may repeat itself underestimate the current challenge. In Brief: The Agreed Framework and Six-Party Talks There have been two major diplomatic efforts to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear program. In the early 1990s, North Korea initiated an international crisis by taking provocative steps toward developing a nuclear bomb: removing fuel rods from its five-megawatt plutonium reactor at Yongbyon and initiating its withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which North Korea had legally pledged to forego nuclear weapons. The United States engaged Pyongyang in an effort to resolve the crisis, and the two sides signed the Agreed Framework in 1994. In short, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for energy and economic assistance, security guarantees, and political promises, including specific efforts toward the normalization of bilateral relations.[4] The Agreed Framework faced challenges in implementation, however, and collapsed in late 2002 and early 2003. The United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia initiated the six-party talks later in 2003.[5] Seeking to distinguish between the 1994 framework’s temporary freeze on nuclear production and a more comprehensive and lasting goal, the six countries announced, after two years and four rounds of negotiations, that they “unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”[6] The 2005 joint statement of those talks laid out the basic principles of a nuclear deal that would be refined more specifically in a pair of implementation agreements two years later. In late 2008, however, the participating countries reached an impasse over important technical verification issues. Whereas in 1994 North Korea had pledged to freeze its nuclear program, in 2005 Pyongyang promised to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs in exchange for energy and economic assistance, security guarantees, normalized diplomatic relations, and negotiations toward a “permanent peace regime.”[7] Although the two sets of negotiations were different in important ways, the broad structure was consistent: North Korea promised to move away from nuclear weapons in exchange for a similar basket of incentives. Denuclearization Today The North Korean nuclear program of 2018 is not the nuclear program of 1994, when Washington and Pyongyang negotiated the Agreed Framework. It is not even the nuclear program of 2005, when the six-party talks produced its joint statement. Since these diplomatic milestones, Pyongyang’s nuclear development and long-range missiles have advanced in major ways, crossing a series of critical technical barriers. These programs have grown significantly more difficult to reverse since earlier denuclearization efforts were underway. Since the 1990s, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has grown from a theoretical capability to an actual one. North Korea’s first nuclear test occurred in 2006, a year after the joint statement of the six-party talks was released. Before this, the North Korean leadership could not be confident that their efforts to build a nuclear bomb would actually work. Indeed, the North’s first nuclear test produced more of a whimper than a bang. The explosion yielded less than one kiloton, prompting a variety of theories about why it had been a low-yield test. As such, the fundamental challenge for these earlier negotiations was to prevent North Korea from building a nuclear weapon and to persuade Pyongyang to roll back its attendant programs. These efforts resembled something like the more recent nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany in the sense that American negotiators and their allies could capitalize on North Korea’s uncertainty about whether it could succeed in building a bomb and crossing the nuclear-weapons threshold. Today, by contrast, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un controls a nuclear arsenal that has benefited from six tests. His is not a start-up business seeking proof of concept but, rather, an established enterprise with a demonstrated ability to detonate increasingly powerful nuclear weapons. After the 2006 nuclear test produced a lower-than-expected yield, then-leader Kim Jong Il ordered a second test, in 2009, that erased any doubt about North Korea’s basic ability to build and detonate a nuclear weapon.[8] North Korea’s third nuclear test, in 2013, came amid Pyongyang’s pronouncements that the test provided critical information that would help the regime’s effort to miniaturize a nuclear weapon in order to mount it on a missile. The third test may also have utilized uranium in its bomb design. The regime’s previous tests used plutonium, thus, testing weapons using this second path to the bomb expanded its capabilities. North Korea’s fourth test, in 2016, demonstrated the country’s thermonuclear capability for the first time.[9] The fifth and sixth tests, in 2016 and 2017 respectively, sought bigger yields still.[10] Rather than preventing North Korea from crossing the nuclear-weapons threshold, the denuclearization challenge has become much harder: Somehow, the genie must be put back in the bottle. [quote id="1"] Meanwhile, North Korea has steadily advanced its ability to develop, test, and field operational ballistic missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons. Critically, the regime has diversified its ballistic missile force to create a survivable second-strike capability, thereby securing an essential element to deter its primary adversary, the United States.[11] In 1994, North Korea was capable of striking some American bases and allies but not the U.S. homeland. That year — the same year Washington and Pyongyang signed the Agreed Framework — North Korea began producing its Nodong medium-range ballistic missile and fielded the missile the following year. The Nodong could strike South Korea and most of Japan but still not the United States.[12] In 1998, North Korea flight-tested its Taepo Dong-1 prototype, which flew over Japan, rattling the Japanese government in particular and accelerating Tokyo’s cooperation with Washington on missile defense. The flight test ushered in a new round of missile diplomacy between the United States and North Korea. Pyongyang maintained a unilateral moratorium on long-range-missile flight tests for six years, refraining from launching another Taepo Dong rocket until 2006.[13] As the two sides negotiated the Agreed Framework and, later, the joint statement of the six-party talks, North Korea did not have the capability to hit the United States with its missiles. Today, however, North Korea is perilously close to having a demonstrated delivery vehicle to strike the continental United States with nuclear weapons. Since coming to power in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has ordered scores of missile launches, including long- and short-range ballistic missiles. Both long- and short-range ballistic missiles can test technologies used in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).[14] In 2017, North Korea conducted three ICBM flight tests. After the third test, Kim Jong Un declared his nuclear deterrent complete.[15] While this claim was probably premature,[16] Kim expressed confidence that his country had attained a complete package of miniaturized nuclear weapons and survivable delivery vehicles that could reach the continental United States.[17] The main components of North Korea’s fissile material production have also shifted significantly. In the leadup to the 1994 Agreed Framework, North Korea had only one fissile material production site: the plutonium program at Yongbyon. The site was known, surveilled, and, in theory, could have been verifiably frozen with reasonable confidence. By the time of the six-party talks, the United States was aware of a nascent and covert North Korean uranium enrichment program that violated its Agreed Framework pledges. The CIA publicly disclosed to Congress its judgment that North Korea had started this program in 2000.[18] Other assessments date the origins of Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment as early as 1996.[19] Regardless of whether Pyongyang started its uranium enrichment program then or in 2000, plutonium production was North Korea’s sole route to the bomb in 1994 and its primary but not exclusive nuclear production capability in 2005. Today, North Korea acquires substantially more fissile material for weapons from its well-established uranium enrichment facilities than it does from its plutonium program. Pyongyang’s uranium program also has more growth potential than its plutonium program in absolute terms. One unclassified research project estimated that by 2020, North Korea’s only five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon could produce 14 nuclear weapons from plutonium, while two centrifuge plants could produce about 56 weapons from uranium.[20] Put another way, the North Korean uranium enrichment program produces far more fissile material for nuclear weapons today, and its higher annual output is central to the growth of Pyongyang’s arsenal over time. When it comes to trying to negotiate verifiable denuclearization, the distinction between the plutonium and uranium routes to the bomb is critical. In 2010, North Korean officials showed the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon to a prominent U.S. nongovernmental delegation. The manner and speed of the facility’s construction suggested strongly that this was not the country’s first enrichment facility.[21] Commercial satellite imagery and other publicly available sources offer no proof of a third enrichment facility, but that should not provide much comfort. It is not clear how many uranium enrichment sites North Korea has because they are easier to hide than their plutonium counterparts. [quote id="2"] This should concern American policymakers as verification was the shoal upon which the six-party talks foundered.[22] During those talks, Washington wanted to conduct soil and nuclear waste samples to verify North Korea’s claims; Pyongyang refused. The “Second Phase Actions for the Implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement,” agreed to on Oct. 3, 2007, outlined what would be required of North Korea to disable its five-megawatt reactor. The agreement did not explicitly require North Korea to allow these samples to be taken but stipulated that disablement would proceed in a “verifiable” manner.[23] Washington interpreted this to mean it could use sampling to verify Pyongyang’s actions under the second-phase agreement before it proceeded. Pyongyang, however, saw things differently: It wanted to save the issue of sampling for a “third phase” agreement, at which point it could either demand additional concessions and use the sampling issue as a bargaining chip, or not agree to sampling at all.[24] Verification is, of course, central to any sustainable agreement. And the devil is in the details. These kinds of technocratic aspects, which political leaders tend not to ponder, have derailed high-level, multiyear diplomatic initiatives. Diplomatic efforts could again sink over critical technical details if negotiators do not learn from the past. While Kim Jong Il may have hoped during negotiations in the 1990s and again during the six-party talks that his and his father’s decades-long efforts to develop nuclear weapons would someday provide a deterrent against U.S. invasion, his son, Kim Jong Un, has this capability. In the past, North Korea’s nuclear program was aspirational. Today, it is an active part of the country’s national defense. Before, verifying a deal focused primarily on a plutonium program was difficult. Now, the prominence of the uranium program in addition to the plutonium program makes the challenge even greater. It is not the same river.

Caution: New Leaders on Both Sides

In addition to the technical advancements in Pyongyang’s nuclear program since the last two major diplomatic efforts, important political changes have taken place in North Korea and the United States. During the Agreed Framework negotiations and the six-party talks, Kim Jong Il was effectively at the helm. Although North Korea’s founder and charismatic leader, Kim Il Sung, was in power until his death in 1994, and famously held important roles such as receiving former President Jimmy Carter in Pyongyang amid the crisis, Kim Il Sung told a Western reporter that by 1992 his son was running the country.[25] Kim Il Sung tapped his son as his successor in 1980 and gradually shifted power to him. As such, the Agreed Framework and six-party talks were, for North Korea, essentially a Kim Jong Il production. Today, Kim Jong Un is in charge and his personal stamp can be seen on nuclear diplomacy. Kim the youngest differs substantially in ruling style and approach from his father, something that matters greatly for the current round of summits. Kim Jong Il was an introverted micro-manager. Living in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il closely controlled process and avoided public appearances. While Kim Il Sung was known for his charisma, Kim Jong Il could not even manage to give the annual new year’s day address. Instead, he instituted a policy of publishing the annual statement as an editorial in three newspapers.[26] Imagine if an American president decided to forego the annual State of the Union address and instead published his views on the White House website. That would be less of a break from past precedent than Kim Jong Il’s decision. Kim Jong Il gave one — or possibly two — extremely short speeches in his entire tenure. He was also absent from public view during the first three years of his formal reign, citing the traditional mourning period after his father’s death. Kim Jong Un is a different kind of leader. He has explicitly modeled himself after his still-revered grandfather rather than his relatively unpopular father.[27] He has brought back the annual new year’s day address. He appears in public with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, something Kim Jong Il had avoided. Kim Jong Un has also resurrected the Korean Workers’ Party, restarting the long-defunct party congresses. Tapes smuggled out of North Korea in the 1980s showed Kim Jong Il privately expressing insecure views of his personal stature that are consistent with his psychological profile.[28] In contrast, Kim Jong Un exudes confidence and has shown himself ready to personally lead the current round of nuclear diplomacy through a series of summits with South Korea, China, and the United States. It is natural and appropriate to look to the history of U.S.-North Korean and multilateral denuclearization efforts for insights into the upcoming talks. First, however, one must consider whether Kim Jong Un is following his father’s playbook. On the critical issue of his ruling style, Kim Jong Un has parted ways with his father. It stands to reason, then,[29] that his priorities and methods concerning nuclear diplomacy may not be a carbon copy of his father’s approach. Kim Jong Un proposed summit diplomacy with Trump, rather than having lower-level officials work toward a possible capstone summit by hashing out the details first. The younger Kim has taken the political risk upon himself and made it more difficult to blame subordinates for possible diplomatic failure. Leaders are always important in high-stakes diplomacy, but the summit approach makes their personality and predilections even more central to the outcome. The United States is only at the head of a long trail of diplomacy, and it is not at all clear that previous journeys foreshadow the current one. On the American side, there is also a new sheriff in town. The United States negotiated the Agreed Framework and the joint statement of the six-party talks under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively. Their administrations had different views on diplomacy with North Korea. Senior members of the Bush administration criticized the Agreed Framework negotiated under Clinton, which suffered a number of implementation challenges, including — but not limited to — the revelation of North Korea’s nascent uranium enrichment program.[30] The differences between the two U.S. administrations were stark enough that some insiders dubbed the Bush administration’s approach “ABC — Anything But Clinton.”[31] The Bush administration, however, quickly shifted to its own diplomatic effort with the North Koreans after the final collapse of the Agreed Framework. This time around, there were more seats at the table, different areas of emphasis, and intra-government intrigue,[32] but two things remained constant: the basic parameters of seeking a complete and permanent denuclearization of North Korea, and recognition that this would require some reciprocal and unpopular concessions. With a few notable exceptions, the two U.S. administrations operated — at the most general level — alike. [quote id="3"] Donald Trump fashions himself a new kind of political leader. His engagement in tit-for-tat rhetorical barbs in 2017 — such as when he threatened to bring down “fire and fury”[33] on North Korea, or when he called Kim Jong Un “little rocket man”[34] — marked an outlier for American presidential behavior. Trump’s public comments about military options — including limited military strikes that could not denuclearize North Korea by force but, it was hoped, would push Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table — prompted substantial criticism about the wisdom of such an approach.[35] Trump quickly shifted gears in 2018, however, by accepting Kim Jong Un’s summit invitation, conveyed through the South Korean president. He has sent Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang twice — first as director of the CIA and secretary of state-designate and then as secretary of state — to advance the summit and secure the release of three unjustly imprisoned Americans.[36] Trump’s policy tools, including carrots, such as peace regime negotiations and sanctions relief, and sticks, including renewed sanctions and military moves, remain roughly the same as those available to his predecessors. But his willingness to meet Kim Jong Un early, to call off the summit, and to recommit to it within days demonstrates the greater element of uncertainty as to how the United States will begin and sustain a diplomatic process with the North Koreans. The men entering the river are different.

Optimism: Allies, Peace Regime, and Learning

Achieving complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a tall order. Getting it on the cheap or for free is taller still. If success is framed in these terms alone, there is little room for optimism. If, however, progress is defined as concretely minimizing the North Korean nuclear threat and moving toward an ultimate goal of denuclearization in such a way that the benefits to national interests outweigh the costs of concessions, then there is room to be optimistic. In short, optimists can argue that a successful agreement is one that leaves the United States and its allies better off than they are in the current situation and on the current trajectory. The U.S.-South Korean combined approach, serious consideration of creating a peace regime, and the real possibility of learning from past agreements together provide reason to be cautiously optimistic about the way forward in U.S.-North Korean diplomacy. The U.S.-South Korean Combined Approach North Korea gains tactical advantage when it can split the United States from its Northeast Asian allies, specifically South Korea. The United States, South Korea, and Japan have many more shared interests and values than differences, but North Korea knows where to find natural cleavages and has traditionally sought to exploit them. North Korea has long favored bilateral diplomacy with the United States in hopes of sidelining South Korea and Japan. Tensions in the U.S.-South Korean alliance have also challenged previous efforts to maintain a united front against North Korea. Han Sung-joo, who served as South Korea’s foreign minister during the Agreed Framework negotiations, noted that then-South Korean President Kim Young-sam wanted to ensure the Americans were not “too soft” on the North Koreans. At the same time, the South Korean president did not want to raise the risk of military conflict that threatened to destroy his capital. The conservative South Korean president, worried about his domestic political support, also needed to assure his people that the United States was closely consulting him at every turn.[37] He wanted to make sure the American approach was neither too hot nor too cold at each stage of negotiations and sought to communicate this to South Koreans. The United States and South Korea were not in lockstep during the Agreed Framework, and Seoul worried about not having direct access to the North Koreans on a matter central to its national security. Kim Young-sam’s successor, Kim Dae-jung, came from the opposite end of the South Korean political spectrum and wholeheartedly endorsed engaging North Korea. Kim Dae-jung made history with the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 — just five months before the election of George W. Bush. Kim Dae-jung’s “Sunshine Policy” sought to change North Korean behavior through unconditional engagement, while Bush settled on a more confrontational approach to North Korea’s objectionable actions. Alliance managers sought to keep the two sides linked, but it remained an ongoing challenge.[38] Differences among allies are inevitable, but the combined approach provides reasons for optimism that this time may be different. Never before has an inter-Korean summit, let alone two, been explicitly set up ahead of a U.S.-North Korea summit. The South Korean presidential office recognizes that it cannot push North Korean denuclearization alone and has sought to influence U.S. engagement with the North Koreans as well as its own. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has met early success with balancing his policy of engaging North Korea while keeping the United States firmly invested in the process. The road is long, and it will become even more difficult. The two sides will face tough choices and trade-offs as the North Koreans begin to articulate their core demands. Nevertheless, Washington and Seoul have gotten off to a solid start. Peace Regime In contrast to previous diplomatic rounds, North Korea’s long-held demand to negotiate a peace treaty to replace the armistice and formally end the Korean War seems to be on the table. The Agreed Framework did not mention a peace regime or peace-treaty negotiations, but it opened the door to four-party talks —among the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and China — on these topics.[39] The Agreed Framework contained U.S. security guarantees to Pyongyang but lacked a specific and concrete quid pro quo on denuclearization and a peace regime. The 2005 joint statement promised to “negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum.”[40] The Russians convened the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism Working Group in Moscow three times. It was one of the five working groups of the six-party talks, but it did not produce concrete outcomes. The United States favored discussing a peace regime after North Korea denuclearized, and Pyongyang did not want to wait.[41] The six-party talks, in practice, produced an agreement for denuclearization in exchange for sanctions relief and aid. Demanding that North Korea denuclearize amounts to asking it to voluntarily relinquish the world’s most powerful weapons. And reminders that its nuclear development violates international law do not move Pyongyang. Likewise, sanctions relief and aid can contribute to North Korea’s economy but would not supplant the security that it believes nuclear weapons provide. Declassified documents from Pyongyang’s socialist-bloc allies demonstrate that, in the 1970s, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung saw peace-treaty negotiations as a means to try to reduce and ultimately end the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula. One of his senior party officials told a friendly foreign delegation in 1972,
The international public sees as just and honest our proposal to conclude a peace treaty between the two Koreas, to withdraw American forces and to reduce the militaries. If we conclude a peace treaty, the Americans would have no reason to stay there.[42]
The intervening four decades have produced varying assessments of North Korea’s intentions and objectives regarding peace regime negotiations. The United States will have to wait for Kim Jong Un’s articulation of his specific demands to adjudicate between competing assessments. One thing, however, is fairly certain: North Korea will seek to supplant its perceived security losses from denuclearization with phased and reciprocal adjustments to the U.S. military presence on and around the Korean Peninsula. How is this good news? Most analysts say that North Korean denuclearization is simply impossible.[43] Kim Jong Un does not want to go the way of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, who, lacking a nuclear deterrent, met their violent deaths after U.S.-led or -supported military operations. The peace regime issue brings to the fore difficult trade-offs and options for the highest-level decisions by elected U.S. leaders and American allies. After hearing the North Korean demands, seeking to negotiate them down, and considering the verifiable implementation measures, the United States and its allies will face a basic decision: Is the trade-off worth it at any stage? Elected leaders may have to consider difficult adjustments to the U.S. military presence on the peninsula, such as the size and scope of military exercises, strategic asset deployment, and the nature of the permanent presence in exchange for verified, late-stage steps toward denuclearization. They may decide that whatever deal is on the table with North Korea is not worth the cost, but an acceptable deal might be laid out as well. Having North Korea’s demands communicated directly from its leader to America’s is superior to wading through the many contrasting assessments of what North Korea really wants. Learning The Trump administration has the benefit of being able to learn from the past. Secretary of State Pompeo has noted repeatedly that he has read the CIA’s history of negotiations with North Korea and vowed not to repeat past mistakes. Unlike the Agreed Framework negotiators, Pompeo has historical points of reference on negotiating with North Korea about its nuclear program. One lesson is the importance of blocking North Korea from pocketing concessions. If Pyongyang can reverse its concessions, the United States and its allies must be able to do the same. This simple lesson has not been followed in earlier negotiations. In 2007, the six parties agreed to “Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement,” which laid out in specific terms the first round of reciprocal steps to implement the 2005 agreement. North Korea pledged to disable its Yongbyon reactor, allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to monitor the disablement, and issue a “list of all of its nuclear programs as described in the Joint Statement.” The “parallel” action from the United States included removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, lifting sanctions imposed through the Trading with the Enemy Act, and providing an initial tranche of heavy fuel oil as energy assistance.[44] North Korea’s disablement procedures were temporary, reversible, and intended to elicit further implementation protocols that did indeed come. When the six-party talks failed in 2008 over verification issues, North Korea was in a position to expel IAEA inspectors and move to restart the Yongbyon reactor immediately, though it delayed the restart for several years. After North Korea expelled the inspectors, the United States quickly reimposed by executive order the same authorities found in the Trading with the Enemy Act,[45] and North Korea lost out on deliveries of heavy fuel oil. The United States could not, however, reinstate North Korea on the terrorism list immediately. Once removed, relisting legally required North Korea to commit another terrorist act, and the United States did not reimpose this designation until 2017.[46] While some have argued that the United States could have relisted North Korea earlier under certain legal interpretations, the sort of “snapback” sanctions like those embedded in the Iran nuclear agreement did not exist to discourage North Korea from trying to pocket concessions in the first place. In the absence of an external enforcement mechanism or a broader relationship that keeps other international agreements on track, carefully crafted quid pro quos that have equal degrees of reversibility and importance can help sustain lasting agreements by maintaining the same incentive structure for both sides to continue abiding by the terms. [quote id="4"] Learning from history also requires a balanced understanding of past events. Since writing history is the practice of selecting which past events are significant enough to merit recording, there is always room for author bias. A one-sentence history of North Korea-related nuclear negotiations could simply note that no effort has achieved North Korea’s complete denuclearization. At this most basic level, American and allied negotiators failed to meet their core objective. If one delves more deeply, however, the history quickly becomes more complex. Both nuclear agreements delayed and degraded North Korea’s nuclear program — and a reciprocal price was paid for these concessions. The Agreed Framework verifiably froze for eight years North Korea’s plutonium program, which was its only fissile material production facility at the time of the negotiations. North Korea had three plutonium reactors under construction ahead of the Agreed Framework — one five megawatts, one 50 megawatts, and one 200 megawatts. The smallest of the three was the most developed, but the Agreed Framework effectively put the nail in the coffin of the other two.[47] Some point to a counterfactual to highlight the value of this nuclear agreement: “Experts estimate that without the Agreed Framework, North Korea could have hundreds of nuclear weapons at this point.”[48] But the Agreed Framework was a nuclear agreement, not a plutonium agreement, and North Korea cheated by initiating a uranium enrichment path to the bomb during the framework’s shaky years of implementation. The United States provided North Korea with more than $400 million in energy assistance. South Korea and Japan contributed additional significant sums through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO).[49] Concurrently, the United States and its international partners provided humanitarian assistance to North Korea during its late 1990s famine, which was never explicitly linked to the nuclear agreement. Critics charged that the aid propped up the regime amid its greatest existential crisis since the Korean War.[50] Likewise, the six-party talks verifiably shut down North Korea’s plutonium reactor for six years. It did not concretely address, however, the nascent but growing uranium enrichment threat. North Korea also received sanctions relief, some of which was not reversed until last year. Pyongyang was returned its unfrozen assets from a Macau bank and, more significantly, changed its banking practices to limit America’s ability to impose the same type of financial pain using the same tool.[51] Proponents and opponents of engagement argue about what would have happened without these agreements. But counterfactuals are a dangerous analytical tool. It is impossible to know what would have happened if one historical variable had shifted. Would North Korea have more than 100 nuclear weapons today with three functioning plutonium reactors had there been no Agreed Framework? Or would the regime have collapsed under its own weight without the Western aid? It is impossible to say. Everyone has preconceived ideas and biases, but critical readers of this history who seek to genuinely learn from the past should be equally wary of counterfactuals that support or oppose preconceived ideas.

Conclusion

History is messy. Neither proponents nor opponents of the Trump-Kim summit should feel confident that history is on their side. History reveals reasons for pessimism, optimism, and caution. Attempting to critically engage the history of these nuclear negotiations can help the United States narrow uncertainty, prepare for a long diplomatic process should one transpire, and perhaps learn some tactical lessons. Given the paucity of concrete data on Kim Jong Un and his decision-making, humility in analysis is warranted. Confident statements about what the North Korean leader seeks before he tells us are misplaced. North Korea’s nuclear program has advanced significantly since the last nuclear deals, but the two sides seem to be getting closer to a formula for a possible deal. Any deal — if one is indeed possible — is likely to involve difficult trade-offs for both sides. Experts can help illuminate public debate on the merits of these trade-offs, but elected leaders will ultimately need wisdom for the hard decisions ahead. Patrick McEachern is an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is co-author of North Korea, Iran, and the Challenge to International Order (Routledge: 2018). The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State or the U.S. government. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Roman Harak [post_title] => Marching Toward a U.S.-North Korea Summit: The Historical Case for Optimism, Pessimism, and Caution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => marching-toward-a-u-s-north-korea-summit-the-historical-case-for-optimism-pessimism-and-caution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-06 11:37:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-06 15:37:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=606 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The history of denuclearization efforts on the Korean peninsula gives reason for pessimism, caution, and optimism. Attempting to critically engage that history can help the United States narrow uncertainty, prepare for a long diplomatic process should one transpire, and perhaps learn some tactical lessons. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 3 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => His is not a start-up business seeking proof of concept but, rather, an established enterprise with a demonstrated ability to detonate increasingly powerful nuclear weapons. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => It is not clear how many uranium enrichment sites North Korea has because they are easier to hide than their plutonium counterparts. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => It is natural and appropriate to look to the history of U.S.-North Korean and multilateral denuclearization efforts for insights into the upcoming talks. First, however, one must consider whether Kim Jong Un is following his father’s playbook. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The United States, South Korea, and Japan have many more shared interests and values than differences, but North Korea knows where to find natural cleavages and has traditionally sought to exploit them. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 639 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 180 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] The effort toward complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization is known as CVID. [2] The South Korean government has been at the forefront of the optimists, arguing that this round of summits could portend a different outcome than past attempts. See its website dedicated to the series of summits — called Peace, A New Start — and articles such as that by Xu Aiying and Sohn JiAe, “Inter-Korean Summit Makes Headlines Around the World,” Peace, A New Start: 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, May 1, 2018, http://www.korea.net/Government/Current-Affairs/National-Affairs/view?affairId=656&subId=640&articleId=158382. For a critique arguing that history suggests greater pessimism around the summits, see Bruce Klingner, “Nice Try, North Korea and South Korea, But Your Pledges Are Airy, Empty Confections,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-klingner-north-korea-declaration-is-mostly-empty-promises-20180501-story.html. [3] “Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is standard language that has been used throughout post-Cold War diplomacy with North Korea on its nuclear program. It is in the 1992 “Joint Declaration of South And North Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the 1994 Agreed Framework, the 2005 “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” and the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, among other agreements. As operationalized in these agreements and pursued in practice, the phrase refers to the elimination of North Korean facilities that can produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons and verified removal of any nuclear weapons on the peninsula. [4] For a more thorough overview of the 1994 Agreed Framework, see Kelsey Davenport, “The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, August 2017, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/agreedframework. [5] For an overview of the six-party talks, see Kelsey Davenport, “The Six-Party Talks at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, July 2017, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/6partytalks. [6] Department of State, “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” Sept. 19, 2005, https://www.state.gov/p/eap/regional/c15455.htm. [7] “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks.” [8] For more on North Korea’s first nuclear test, see Emma Chanlett-Avery and Sharon Squassoni, North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Motivations, Implications, and U.S. Options (Washington: Congressional Research Service, Oct. 24, 2006), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL33709.pdf. [9] Thermonuclear weapons, also known as hydrogen bombs, utilize fusion and can produce a more powerful blast, while atomic weapons utilize fission. For a short and readable article on the difference and its application to North Korea, see Stephanie Pappas, “Hydrogen Bomb vs. Atomic Bomb: What’s the Difference?” Live Science, Sept. 22, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/53280-hydrogen-bomb-vs-atomic-bomb.html. [10] “North Korea Nuclear Tests: What Did They Achieve?” BBC, Sept. 3, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-17823706. [11] Patrick McEachern, “North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine Under Kim Jong Un,” APLN Policy Brief, Dec. 21, 2017, http://www.a-pln.org/_mobile/briefings/briefings_view.html?seq=1030. [12] “No Dong 1,” Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project, accessed June 1, 2018, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/no-dong/. [13] Alex Wagner, “Albright Visits North Korea; Progress Made on Missile Front,” Arms Control Association, November 2000, https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_11/albrighttalks. “North Korea Test-Fires Several Missiles,” New York Times, July 4, 2006, https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/04/world/asia/04cnd-korea.html. [14] The U.N. Security Council has criticized North Korea’s ballistic missile development and demanded the suspension of “all ballistic missile related activity” in a series of resolutions since North Korea’s 2006 Taepo Dong-2 launch. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1695, adopted in 2006, demands that North Korea suspend “all ballistic missile related activity.” The Security Council’s demand is not limited to missiles of a certain range given the ability to test components of long-range missiles using short-range launches. Likewise, the resolutions’ wording effectively demands the cessation of rocket launches configured as a space launch for satellites as these launches also can be used to test and refine technologies for long-range ballistic missiles. [15] Korean Central News Agency, “Kim Jong Un Guides Test Fire of ICBM Hwasong 15,” Nov. 29, 2017. [16] Kim’s claim is probably premature given some additional technical hurdles and unfinished business on some systems such as the GORAE-class ballistic missile submarine. [17] Korean Central News Agency, “Kim Jong Un Guides Test Fire of ICBM Hwasong 15,” Nov. 29, 2017. [18] CIA, Untitled Unclassified Estimate, Nov. 19, 2002, GALE Document Number KQUSOP990053924. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf later noted that Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan delivered centrifuges to North Korea in 2000, as recounted by Sigfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Siegfried S. Hecker, “What I Found in North Korea: Pyongyang’s Plutonium Is No Longer the Only Problem,” Foreign Affairs, Dec. 9, 2010, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/northeast-asia/2010-12-09/what-i-found-north-korea?page=show. [19] A prominent North Korean defector claimed that a decision to enrich may have been made as early as 1996, and the South Korean foreign minister asserted the same. North Korean imports of the critical components followed in subsequent years. Kim Yong Hun, “North Korea Obtained HEU from Pakistan,” DailyNK, Aug. 11, 2010, http://english.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk02200&num=6680. Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Started Uranium Program in 1990s, South Says,” New York Times, Jan. 6, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/world/asia/07korea.html. [20] For an excellent technical discussion, see David Albright, “North Korea’s Nuclear Capabilities: A Fresh Look,” Aug. 9, 2017, http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/north-koreas-nuclear-capabilities-a-fresh-look-power-point-slides/10. Albright cautions that these estimates are “rough” and require a variety of informed assumptions about North Korea’s nuclear operations, bomb design, and other variables. Numbers cited here are rounded to the nearest whole nuclear weapon and reflect median estimates for “weapons equivalents.” [21] Siegfried S. Hecker, “Nuclear Developments in North Korea,” (Stanford University: Center for International Security and Cooperation, Mar. 20, 2012), https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/HeckerPBNCfinal.pdf. [22] Condoleezza Rice, No Higher Honor (New York: Crown Publishers, 2011). [23] Department of State, “Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement,” Oct. 3, 2007, https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/oct/93217.htm. [24] Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Limits Tests of Nuclear Site,” New York Times, Nov. 12, 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/world/asia/13korea.html. [25] Kim Hakjoon, Dynasty: The Hereditary Succession Politics of North Korea (Stanford, CA: Walter Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2015), 101. [26] Patrick McEachern, Inside the Red Box: North Korea’s Post-Totalitarian Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 43–44. [27] Andrei Lankov, “NK’s Founding Father, Kim Il-Sung,” Korea Times, Apr. 17, 2016, http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2016/04/638_202760.html. [28] Barbara Demick, “Secret Tape Recordings of Kim Jong Il Provide Rare Insight into the Psyche of his North Korean Regime,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-kimtapes-snap-20161026-story.html. [29] For a more in-depth discussion of differences in ruling style and approach between Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, see Patrick McEachern, “Centralizing North Korean Policymaking Under Kim Jong Un,” Asian Perspective (forthcoming). [30] Charles Kartman, Robert Carlin, and Joel Wit, “Policy in Context: A History of KEDO, 1994–2006” (Stanford, CA: Center for International Security Cooperation and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, June 2012), https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/A_History_of_KEDO-1.pdf. [31] James B. Steinberg, “The Bush Foreign Policy Revolution,” Brookings Institution, June 1, 2003, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-bush-foreign-policy-revolution/. [32] Mike Chinoy, Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008). [33] Noah Bierman, “Trump Warns North Korea of ‘Fire and Fury,’” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 8, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-trump-warns-north-korea-of-fire-and-1502220642-htmlstory.html. [34] “Trump Calls Kim Jong Un ‘Little Rocket Man’ on Twitter,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 30, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-updates-everything-president-trump-calls-kim-jong-un-little-rocket-1512093131-htmlstory.html. [35] For the most comprehensive and succinct criticism of the idea of limited military strikes, see Abraham M. Denmark, “The Myth of the Limited Strike on North Korea,” Foreign Affairs, Jan. 9, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2018-01-09/myth-limited-strike-north-korea. [36] Carol Morello, Anna Fifield, and David Nakamura, “North Korea Frees 3 American Prisoners Ahead of a Planned Trump-Kim Summit,” Washington Post, May 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pompeo-north-korea-can-haverichly-deserved-opportunities-in-return-for-peace/2018/05/09/b51febfa-51a4-11e8-b00a-17f9fda3859b_story.html. [37] “Living History with Former ROK Foreign Minister Han Sung-joo,” Beyond Parallel, Dec. 5, 2016, https://beyondparallel.csis.org/living-history-han-sung-joo/. Choe Sang-hun, “Korean Crisis Is Different This Time,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/world/asia/04iht-letter.html. [38] Charles L. Pritchard, Failed Diplomacy: The Tragic Story of How North Korea Got the Bomb (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2007). [39] James L. Schoff and Yaron Eisenberg, Peace Regime Building on the Korean Peninsula: What’s Next? (Cambridge, MA: Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, May 2009), 3, http://www.ifpa.org/pdf/PeaceRegimeInterimMay09.pdf. [40] “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” https://www.state.gov/p/eap/regional/c15455.htm. [41] R. Michael Schiffer, “Envisioning a Northeast Asian Peace and Security Mechanism,” in Understanding New Political Realities in Seoul, ed. L. Gordon Flake and Park Ro-byug (Washington: Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, 2008), 59–78. [42] P. Urjinlhundev, “Protocols of the Talks between Mongolian and North Korean Government Delegations,” Mar. 17, 1972. [43] For a sophisticated statement of this position and its implications for policy, see Sung Chull Kim and Michael D. Cohen, eds., North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: Entering the New Era of Deterrence (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2017). [44] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement,” Feb. 13, 2007, http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/n_korea/6party/action0702.html. [45] The White House, “Letter – Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea,” Jan. 2, 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/02/letter-imposing-additional-sanctions-respect-north-korea. [46] Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger, “Trump Returns North Korea to List of State Sponsors of Terrorism,” New York Times, Nov. 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/us/politics/north-korea-trump-terror.html. [47] Federation of American Scientists, “Yongbyon,” Mar. 4, 2000, https://fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/facility/yongbyon.htm. [48] Davenport, “The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance.” [49] Mark E. Manyin and Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Foreign Assistance to North Korea (Washington: Congressional Research Service, April 2014), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40095.pdf. [50] For a succinct and contemporary review of competing arguments for and against aid, among other considerations, see Robert A. Manning and James Przystup, “Starve North Korea — Or Save It? Right Now We’re Doing Both,” Washington Post, June 23, 1996, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1996/06/23/starve-north-korea-or-save-it-right-now-were-doing-both/97ea3f5d-511b-4286-b743-be7e6ef1efa9/. [51] John Park and Jim Walsh, Stopping North Korea, Inc.: Sanctions Effectiveness and Unintended Consequences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Security Studies Program, August 2016), 16, https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/Stopping%20North%20Korea%20Inc%20Park%20and%20Walsh%20.pdf. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 468 [post_author] => 137 [post_date] => 2018-02-13 04:00:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-02-13 09:00:33 [post_content] => According to most theories of nuclear proliferation, North Korea did not stand much of a chance of successfully acquiring nuclear weapons. As an economically backward, neopatrimonial regime subject to the threat of preventive strikes and war, North Korea should have failed. Few theories gave it a sporting chance of successfully nuclearizing. Yet here we are, staring down an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-sized barrel of the world’s 10th nuclear weapons power.[1] 2017 was a banner year for the North Korean nuclear weapons program, as Kim Jong Un sprinted to develop a range of missile capabilities — including a credible ICBM capability — and a thermonuclear weapon. A program that was once derided as a joke, especially after its first purported nuclear test in 2006, is now anything but that. Why did academic theories of nuclear proliferation so seriously underestimate North Korea, and how should we adjust our theories to better account for future nuclear proliferators, so that we do not repeat that mistake? Understanding why academic theories failed to forecast North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is important for reasons of both policy and scholarship. From a policy perspective, theories of proliferation ideally would help governments forecast the most probable future proliferators, such that decision makers could design effective policy interventions ahead of time, either to help forestall acquisition or prepare for its consequences. The fact that academic theories generally failed to predict North Korean acquisition calls into question whether they can reliably serve this sort of role. From a more parochial scholarly perspective, identifying why academic theories failed to forecast North Korean acquisition of nuclear technology is important, particularly in the context of the recent “renaissance” of nuclear security studies.[2] Given the large sums of money and human effort that have gone into studying nuclear proliferation in the last decade, the academic community needs to be clear and accountable in identifying not only our advances, but also our failures and blind-spots. We begin this article by tracing North Korea’s nuclear program through time, discussing the various moments when it began, halted, and could have been potentially stopped, and then, finally, taking a look at its final sprint to the nuclear weapons finish line. We then take stock of how various theories of nuclear proliferation fared in predicting North Korea’s success in acquiring nuclear weapons. Few fare well, particularly those theories that focused on North Korea’s security environment, access to technology and foreign supplies, and regime type. Theories examining North Korea’s orientation toward the international economy and the United States fare better, but even these do not provide full explanations for North Korean behavior. Next, we discuss how to move forward as a research program, given that nuclear proliferation is both a rare event and not a fully predictable process. This is not a call to abandon current theories of proliferation by any means, but is instead intended as a wake-up call — academic theories underestimated North Korea, and they therefore need to be adjusted to take into account what we have learned from this failure. Specifically, we argue that academic theories should reconsider the role of threats of military force, economic development, foreign technological support, and regime type, and place greater emphasis on the ability of proliferators to prevent or withstand the pressure of coercive nonproliferation measures. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings for nonproliferation policy, arguing that the North Korea case underlines the limits of export control policies and unilateral sanctions, the importance of timely policy intervention and inducements, and the fragility of nonproliferation bargains to domestic political dynamics.

A Brief History of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Program

The Early Years: January 1960-January 1992 North Korea’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons began in the early 1960s, when it requested Soviet and Chinese help with developing a nuclear weapons program. Both declined, but Moscow agreed to train North Korean nuclear scientists and help Pyongyang develop a peaceful nuclear program. After China tested its first nuclear device in October 1964, North Korea approached Beijing with another request for aid in nuclear weapons development, which was again refused. Over the next decade and a half, North Korea continued unsuccessfully to seek nuclear assistance from abroad, including from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and, again, from the Soviet Union and China. By the end of the 1970s, North Korea decided to pursue a program on its own, with Kim Il Sung ordering the development of a gas-graphite reactor at Yongbyon, which could be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.[3] North Korea deliberately chose a reactor design that used natural uranium and did not require heavy water, thus minimizing dependence on external supplies.[4] Indeed, in describing North Korea’s program more than a decade later, a U.S. official observed, “Of all the nuclear weapons programs in the Third World, this is the most indigenous.”[5] By the mid-1980s, the reactor at Yongbyon was complete. Meanwhile, the United States and Soviet Union began to take notice of North Korea’s suspicious nuclear activities. In 1985, at Washington’s urging, Moscow convinced North Korea to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in exchange for a Soviet agreement to provide power reactors.[6] In September 1986, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report concluded that, “whether [or not] the current nuclear developments in North Korea reflect a nuclear weapons program, they represent a considerable developing capability.” However, the same report noted, “If North Korea intends to pursue a nuclear weapons program, it has made its job much more difficult by signing the NPT.”[7] By 1988, despite having signed the NPT, North Korea still had not reached a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Meanwhile, signs emerged that Pyongyang might be building a reprocessing facility, which could be used to extract plutonium from spent reactor fuel. This combination of red flags led the CIA to observe that “close scrutiny of the North’s nuclear effort is in order,” even though it admitted, “we have no evidence that North Korea is pursuing a nuclear weapon option.”[8] The following year, after a Washington Post story drew attention to North Korea’s reprocessing facility and potential nuclear weapons program, North Korea publicly denied that it was seeking nuclear weapons.[9] Around this time, the U.S. government concluded that North Korea was indeed pursuing nuclear weapons.[10] That conclusion was bolstered by evidence that North Korea was testing sophisticated conventional explosives at Yongbyon, indicating that Pyongyang could be developing an implosion-type nuclear weapon.[11] Over the next two years, North Korea’s sense of insecurity sharpened, as its Soviet ally collapsed and both Russia and China sought to improve relations with Seoul. Meanwhile, the United States and Russia worked to convince North Korea to accept IAEA safeguards. But Pyongyang demanded the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from the peninsula along with a negative security assurance as a precondition for accepting any such safeguards.[12] When the IAEA Board passed a resolution in September 1991 calling on North Korea to implement a safeguards agreement, a North Korean official suggested his government would only do so if the U.S. “nuclear threat” dissipated and “if the pressure put upon us is removed.”[13] [quote id="1"] A few weeks later, as part of an initiative to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal globally as the Cold War wound down, President George H.W. Bush announced that U.S. tactical nuclear weapons would be withdrawn from foreign bases. This led the North Korean government to announce, “If the United States really withdraws its nuclear weapons from South Korea, the way of our signing the nuclear safeguards accord will be opened.”[14] U.S. government officials around this time also were considering an initiative whereby both South and North Korea would be asked to commit to not reprocess spent nuclear fuel, which would help address proliferation risks but would go beyond North Korea’s obligations under the NPT.[15] U.S. nonproliferation efforts finally bore fruit in late 1991, when North Korea agreed to accept IAEA safeguards and reached an agreement with Seoul under which the two countries pledged not to develop nuclear weapons.[16] The leaders of North and South Korea also agreed to a nonaggression pact.[17] The nuclear agreement, formally concluded in January 1992, additionally required the two Koreas to refrain from enrichment, reprocessing, and hosting nuclear weapons, to be verified by bilateral inspections.[18] In the same month, as a gesture of good will toward Pyongyang, Washington and Seoul announced that they would cancel their joint military exercises for the year, leading North Korea to finally sign an IAEA safeguards agreement.[19] The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis: February 1992-May 1994 The momentum toward nonproliferation and improved relations on the Korean Peninsula did not last long. In February of 1992, as North Korea stalled on ratifying the safeguards agreement, U.S. officials warned that Pyongyang might only be a few months away from a rudimentary weapons capability.[20] Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence suggested that North Korea was continuing construction on its reprocessing facility, hardening it against potential attack, and perhaps removing equipment prior to inspections.[21] In the spring of 1992, North Korea finally ratified the safeguards agreement, submitted its declaration of nuclear activities to the IAEA, and allowed inspections, but this only roused further concerns. Inspectors uncovered several inconsistencies in the North Korean declaration, found evidence that equipment had been removed from the reprocessing plant (which North Korea had previously denied existed), and were refused access to several undeclared sites suspected of storing nuclear waste. IAEA analysts also determined that North Korea had likely produced more than the small amounts of plutonium to which it had admitted.[22] Over the course of that summer, the United States, Russia, China, and Europe all pressured North Korea to comply more fully with the IAEA. Meanwhile, China restored diplomatic relations with South Korea and Russia began to loosen ties with Pyongyang.[23] As an October 1992 U.S. Defense Department memo observed, “What is becoming clear is that North Korean non-cooperation is more evident as IAEA becomes more aggressive in its inspections.”[24] In early 1993, with the Clinton administration now in office, the United States and South Korea announced that they would hold their annual military exercise — which had been canceled the year before — making reference to North Korea’s lack of full compliance with the IAEA and North Korea’s failure to agree to a bilateral inspection regime with South Korea. For its part, the IAEA demanded that North Korea allow special inspections of its suspected nuclear waste storage sites, giving Pyongyang 30 days before it would refer the issue to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).[25] In March, as the military exercise began, North Korea declared it would withdraw from the NPT in 90 days, leading the IAEA Board of Governors to turn over the issue to the UNSC. After China signaled it would not support sanctions against North Korea, the United States again turned to diplomacy, offering to hold talks with Pyongyang on a range of issues — including military exercises, security assurances, and nuclear inspections — if it would be accommodating on the nonproliferation issue.[26] Although China opposed North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, it feared that strong sanctions might cause the regime to collapse, leading to a refugee crisis on its borders.[27] Over the summer of 1993, talks with the United States led North Korea to suspend its NPT withdrawal. The United States agreed to help North Korea acquire light-water power reactors in exchange for North Korea’s cooperation with inspections.[28] By the end of the year, however, North Korea was again dragging its feet on inspections, seeking a broader grand bargain with the United States as its price for cooperation.[29] At the same time, U.S. officials concluded that North Korea may have already acquired enough plutonium for a nuclear device,[30] causing the United States to try to line up support for sanctions at the United Nations, an effort again obstructed by China.[31] After North Korea agreed to allow new IAEA inspections in March 1994, the United States and South Korea announced that they would suspend their joint military exercises and hold additional talks with Pyongyang.[32] But North Korea blocked inspectors from visiting parts of its reprocessing facility at Yongbyon, leading the IAEA to pull out its team.[33] This, in turn, led Washington to cancel scheduled talks with North Korea, announce that it would indeed hold its military exercise with South Korea, and begin reinforcing its military posture in the region, including moving Patriot missile batteries to South Korea.[34] With North Korea warning that the peninsula was “on the brink of war,” China again signaled opposition to U.N. sanctions.[35] Soon thereafter, Secretary of Defense William Perry publicly stated that a military strike was a possibility if diplomacy and sanctions failed.[36] After another U.S. negotiation attempt failed, North Korea began unloading spent fuel rods from its Yongbyon reactor,  laying the groundwork for the separation of additional plutonium. In June, IAEA Director Hans Blix declared that the agency had permanently lost the capability to verify whether North Korea had diverted nuclear materials for use in a weapons program. As tensions continued to rise, the United States proposed an arms embargo against North Korea at the United Nations, while both South and North Korea prepared for possible military conflict.[37] The Agreed Framework and its Demise: June 1994-March 2003 The North Korean nuclear crisis was only defused when former President Jimmy Carter traveled to North Korea in June and met with Kim Il Sung. Carter identified a potential bargain that would involve the United States agreeing to hold high-level talks with Pyongyang in exchange for a North Korean commitment to allow IAEA inspections, to not refuel its reactor, and to refrain from further reprocessing of spent fuel.[38] A few weeks later, Kim Il Sung died and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il, who finished the nuclear negotiations his father had started.[39] In October 1994, after several months of negotiations, the United States and North Korea concluded the Agreed Framework. The deal required Pyongyang to freeze operation of its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, agree to inspections, remain in the NPT, move toward implementation of the 1992 denuclearization pact with South Korea, and not reprocess any more spent fuel. In exchange, Washington agreed to provide North Korea with heavy oil, to help it acquire two light-water power reactors, and to move toward broader improvements in relations, including increased diplomatic contacts, removal of sanctions, a negative security assurance, and, ultimately, normalization of relations.[40] By the late 1990s, however, the Agreed Framework had run into difficulties. Partly due to congressional opposition, the United States was behind in delivering the promised benefits to North Korea.[41] In particular, the United States was late in starting construction on the light-water reactors and had been repeatedly late in providing oil. It also had lifted few sanctions and had maintained North Korea on the list of state sponsors of terror. Meanwhile, there were no substantial moves toward normalization.[42] Then, in 1998, the United States detected the construction of a large underground complex in North Korea, which officials worried might be a covert nuclear site.[43] That same year, North Korea tested a new medium-range ballistic missile, the Taepodong-1, firing it over Japan and into the sea.[44] The test was especially concerning because it indicated that North Korea would soon have the ability to target all of Japan.[45] Washington responded by threatening to scuttle the Agreed Framework, leading North Korea to allow an inspection of the underground site in question. Although no evidence of nuclear activity was found, U.S. intelligence soon began to notice indications that North Korea was procuring components for an enrichment program, possibly with aid from Pakistan.[46] Indeed, around this time, North Korea began receiving assistance in enrichment from the AQ Khan network.[47] Despite these challenges, a few signs of cooperation emerged at the tail end of the Clinton administration. Clinton put former Secretary of Defense William Perry in charge of coordinating North Korea policy, who worked toward renewed cooperation.[48] Instead of confronting North Korea over its rudimentary enrichment program and threatening to pull out of the Agreed Framework, the Clinton administration decided to pursue additional negotiated agreements. After all, North Korea had technically been complying with its obligations under the Agreed Framework, which focused on its plutonium program — a far bigger proliferation threat than its nascent enrichment program at the time.[49] In late 1999, Pyongyang agreed to a missile test moratorium in exchange for the easing of U.S. economic sanctions,[50] and in late 2000, the United States and Pyongyang held a series of high-level meetings, including a trip by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to North Korea to discuss the missile issue.[51] In December 2000, with his administration’s time running short, President Clinton decided to pause the negotiations, putting the ball in the court of the incoming George W. Bush administration.[52] [quote id="2"] The Bush administration, opposed to a policy of accommodation toward North Korea, initially halted negotiations and insisted on harsher terms, including broader inspection rights and limits on North Korea’s conventional force posture.[53] In October 2002, after the 9/11 attacks and North Korea’s inclusion in the Bush administration’s “Axis of Evil,” the United States accused North Korea of running a secret uranium enrichment program. Recriminations and threats between the two sides soon caused the Agreed Framework to break down, leading North Korea to kick out inspectors, withdraw from the NPT, and restart nuclear activities at Yongbyon.[54] The Bush administration, for its part, cut off oil shipments and suspended construction on light-water reactors in North Korea.[55] North Korean officials began citing U.S. military actions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq as justifying their need to develop nuclear weapons. Indeed, there are indications that Kim Jong Il was seriously concerned about the prospect of U.S. military action in 2003.[56] Why did the Agreed Framework break down? It seems reasonable to conclude that both sides bear some of the fault. Although North Korea clearly violated at least the spirit of the agreement by starting a secret enrichment program, it is also clear that the United States was not following through on its own obligations. The key problem, as Siegfried Hecker points out, was that “Washington saw the Agreed Framework primarily as a nonproliferation agreement,” while North Korea “viewed the political provisions of the Agreed Framework, which called for both sides to move toward full normalization of political and economic relations, to be the heart of the pact.”[57] This fundamental asymmetry in how the Agreed Framework was understood may help explain both the failure of the United States to pursue broader improvements in relations in a timely fashion, as well as the North Korean decision to pursue an enrichment capability when the Agreed Framework was not playing out as it had envisioned. It also suggests that a desire for improved relations with Washington has been an important motivation for North Korean decision-makers, which perhaps implies that “carrots” are as or more important than “sticks,” in dealing with Pyongyang, a point we return to below. Crossing the Finish Line: April 2003-December 2017 Despite withdrawing from the NPT, North Korea continued to seek economic, diplomatic, and security benefits in exchange for limiting its program, threatening to test a nuclear device or export nuclear materials if its demands were not met.[58] While the Bush administration would not agree to these demands, it did begin negotiations with Pyongyang in the context of the Six-Party Talks, beginning in August 2003 and continuing until 2009. These talks were organized and hosted by China and also included South Korea, Japan, and Russia.[59] At the end of 2004, the IAEA Director concluded that North Korea likely possessed enough plutonium for four to six bombs.[60] The following year, U.S. intelligence detected the construction of a tunnel that could be used for a nuclear test, while Pyongyang continued to demand concessions from the United States, including the provision of power reactors, which had been promised in the Agreed Framework.[61] In September 2005, during the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks, North Korea committed in principle to denuclearization in exchange for political and economic concessions.[62] Nevertheless, despite this progress, the United States imposed sanctions on entities involved in North Korean weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and levied an array of financial sanctions intended to cut down on Pyongyang’s illicit economic activities.[63] In July of 2006, with the Six-Party Talks on hold due to North Korean opposition to America’s sanctions policy, Pyongyang tested six missiles, leading the UNSC to impose sanctions banning missile-related trade with North Korea.[64] In early October, North Korea warned it would soon conduct its first nuclear test, citing U.S. hostility and sanctions as justification.[65] A few days later, despite international warnings, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, although the low yield suggests the device did not work as intended, measuring less than one kiloton.[66] The UNSC responded by imposing new sanctions on North Korea, covering trade in armaments and luxury goods, although provisions allowing for the inspection of North Korean cargo were weakened by Russian and Chinese opposition.[67] Soon thereafter, at Chinese prodding, Pyongyang announced it would return to the negotiating table.[68] In February 2007, an agreement was reached by the six negotiating parties, which called on North Korea to freeze its plutonium program and accept inspections at Yongbyon in exchange for the lifting of certain U.S. sanctions, the provision of fuel oil, economic aid, Washington taking North Korea off its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and movement toward normalization of relations with the United States.[69] After North Korea began to receive sanctions relief, it started to implement its side of the deal in the summer of 2007. The following summer, the Bush administration further eased sanctions, but stalled on removing North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.[70] In September, North Korea blocked IAEA inspectors from monitoring Yongbyon, displeased that the United States had not yet delivered some of the promised benefits.[71] After a deal was struck on verification measures the following month in exchange for North Korea’s removal from the state-sponsor-of-terrorism list, Pyongyang backtracked on the agreement, leading the United States to suspend the provision of fuel.[72] [quote id="6"] Tensions continued after the Obama administration entered the White House in 2009, with North Korea testing a Taepodong-2 missile in April of that year, which led the UNSC to tighten the enforcement of missile sanctions. North Korea responded by escalating the situation further, kicking out inspectors, pulling out of negotiations, and warning it would resume its nuclear program.[73] On May 25, 2009, North Korea conducted its second nuclear test, with a yield estimated between two and eight kilotons, leading the UNSC to pass additional sanctions, including a wider arms embargo and tighter financial restrictions.[74] The following year, Pyongyang revealed a centrifuge enrichment plant at Yongbyon, which could allow it to produce highly-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.[75] North Korea also committed two armed provocations in 2010, sinking a South Korean vessel and shelling the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.[76] For the duration of its time in office, the Obama administration adopted a policy of “strategic patience” toward Pyongyang, increasing the diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea in an effort to convince the regime to return to the negotiating table while hoping for a change in regime orientation. After Kim Jong Un succeeded his father in December 2011, the United States and North Korea reached the short-lived Leap Day Agreement in February 2012, whereby North Korea temporarily limited its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for economic aid, a deal that Pyongyang soon violated. From this point onward, North Korea declined to seriously negotiate, focusing instead on building up its nuclear and missile capabilities.[77] This uncompromising North Korean posture has continued under the Trump administration, which has adopted a strategy of both sanctions and threats of preventive military force.[78] Between 2010 and 2017, North Korea conducted four nuclear tests (one in 2013, two in 2016, and one in 2017). The most recent test, in September 2017, is estimated to have well exceeded 100 kilotons in yield, suggesting North Korea has developed a thermonuclear or boosted fission device.[79] During the same period, North Korea conducted more than 80 missile tests, including several that demonstrate the country’s ICBM capability, putting the U.S. homeland within striking distance.[80] In 2017, the Defense Intelligence Agency estimated that North Korea may possess as many as 60 nuclear weapons.[81] North Korea achieved this impressive progress in its nuclear and missile programs despite steadily increasing international sanctions pressure, including six rounds of U.N. sanctions and gradually escalating U.S. sanctions.[82] The most recent U.N. sanctions, passed in August and September 2017, prohibited the import of North Korean coal, iron, lead, seafood, and textiles, and limited North Korea’s ability to buy oil and refined petroleum.[83]  Yet these stronger measures have almost certainly come too late — no country has ever given up an indigenously developed nuclear arsenal of this size and sophistication.

How Did Academic Theories Perform?

Why North Korea pursued nuclear weapons is hardly a puzzle. The country finds itself in one of the most dangerous security environments in the world, facing a conventionally superior, nuclear-armed American-South Korean alliance on its borders. Since the end of the Korean War, which ended in armistice and not a peace agreement, both the North and the South have openly called for reunification. The pursuit of nuclear weapons — if it were successful — would provide North Korea with, at the very least, invasion insurance. This is not to say that there are not reinforcing domestic political motivations. Nuclear weapons have become a symbol of the Kim regime’s legitimacy and power. North Korea’s nuclear program also makes it far more relevant in global affairs than it otherwise would be, giving it a kind of status. But the primary motivation is security, to deter against a conventional invasion by the United States and efforts by South Korea to reunify the Korean Peninsula on Western terms. [84] It is somewhat surprising, then, that North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons only popped on the radar screen of the United States intelligence community in the late 1980s. In 1982, a CIA report analyzing the next decade of nuclear proliferation concluded that, despite interest in reactors, “we have no basis for believing that the North Koreans have either the facilities or materials necessary to develop and test nuclear weapons.”[85] By the mid-1980s, however, North Korea’s development of a nuclear reactor started raising concern that Pyongyang might be pursuing nuclear weapons, though the intelligence community still doubted that North Korea would risk nuclear pursuit given its vulnerability and the prospect of reactive South Korean proliferation.[86] Twenty years later, North Korea would test its first fission device. Thirty years later, North Korea would undeniably become the world’s 10th nuclear weapons power. Few theories of nuclear proliferation, if any, gave North Korea a chance of reaching that milestone. Below, we catalog how academic theories fare in predicting North Korea’s chances of successfully acquiring nuclear weapons. To be clear, we focus on theories that purport to explain the acquisition of nuclear weapons (or lack thereof), as opposed to the related literature on why states pursue nuclear weapons. Moreover, we limit our discussion to theories that are intended to apply generally to all countries, as well as theories that are intended to apply to specifically to countries like North Korea. In other words, these are fair tests of the theories under consideration; we are applying the theories to a case in which they are intended to apply. [quote id="3"] Realist theories on nuclear proliferation assume that states acquire nuclear weapons for security purposes. Indeed, quantitative studies have found that states in enduring rivalries and with more military disputes are more likely to acquire nuclear weapons.[87] In their most extreme form, realist theories argue that if a state has a strong enough security imperative, nothing can stop them from acquiring the bomb. According to Kenneth Waltz, for example, “no country has been able to prevent other countries from going nuclear if they were determined to do so.”[88] Yet there is something fundamentally unsatisfying about this argument, since it is impossible to measure a state’s level of determination with any degree of certainty, thus rendering the theory tautological. If a state does acquire nuclear capabilities, it was really determined; if it does not, it must not have been very motivated. Moreover, there are many countries in highly threatening security environments that have pursued and not acquired the bomb, including South Korea, Taiwan, West Germany, Iraq, and Iran. The most complete realist model for what states might successfully acquire nuclear weapons is offered by Alexandre Debs and Nuno Monteiro.[89] They argue that states must have both a willingness and opportunity to proliferate — that means they need a security motivation to proliferate, but the breathing room to do so without facing preventive war (or the credible threat of war) from an adversary. States without reliable allies will, therefore, be more willing to pursue nuclear weapons. This is where Debs and Monteiro place North Korea. They write:
Taking stock, our strategic theory of proliferation accounts for North Korea’s nuclearization. Pyongyang’s security concerns vis-à-vis the South and the United States, combined with the absence of a reliable ally since at least the end of the Cold War, account for Korea’s willingness to proliferate. Its ability to inflict high costs on its adversaries using conventional weaponry deterred counterproliferation military action, granting North Korea the opportunity to become, as of this date, the latest state to have built the bomb.[90]
At first glance, this appears to be a compelling argument; North Korea was strongly motivated by its security predicament to pursue nuclear weapons and was able to do so because it could deter counterproliferation efforts with its conventional threat to Seoul. Yet there are a couple problems with this argument. First, there are a variety of states with similar security motivations, but which failed to successfully acquire the bomb, for example Iran and Iraq. Both countries could hold valuable American allies or assets at risk conventionally, or even worse, with chemical weapons, if the United States attempted a preventive strike. Iraq and Iran (thus far) have failed to successfully acquire nuclear weapons, yet North Korea did. Second, when applied to North Korea, the argument relies on an almost circular claim that the U.S. was deterred from taking military action against North Korea because it never carried out a military attack. Yet the United States seriously considered ordering a military strike on the Yongbyon Reactor in 1994.[91] As Van Jackson demonstrates, North Korea perceived this as a credible threat due to a combination of factors, including U.S. military exercises with South Korea and the recent use of force in the Gulf War. Indeed, according to the testimony of defectors, Kim Jong Il (then head of North Korean military forces) “spent much of March 1993 in a military bunker, issuing commands to field units, a curious action if North Korea did not anticipate the possibility of conflict.”[92] The threat of military force, combined with Jimmy Carter’s intervention and the subsequent offer of inducements, led to the Agreed Framework, which successfully froze North Korea’s plutonium program. Certainly the potential for retaliation against Seoul induced caution in American decisionmakers, yet this is beside the point, since Debs and Monteiro’s theory requires only that the proliferator perceive a credible threat of force. North Korea also likely perceived a credible threat of force in 2003, as noted above, but persisted with its nuclear program anyway. Even this more complete security model does not explain how North Korea defied the odds, when other similarly vulnerable states — all of whom had the ability to lash out conventionally or with chemical weapons — failed to acquire nuclear weapons. A strict test of the preventive war mechanism would underestimate North Korea’s probability of acquiring nuclear weapons. A second family of theories focuses on the ability of authoritarian states to successfully manage a nuclear weapons program. In short, none of these models gave North Korea a fighting chance of succeeding. The most prominent example of this theory is Jacques Hymans’s work in Achieving Nuclear Ambitions.[93] Hymans argues that authoritarian regimes, especially neopatrimonial regimes — where networks based on personal ties make up the regime and its power base — are particularly bad at managing complex projects such as nuclear weapons programs that require cooperation and coordination between scientists, industrial and engineering organizations, and the military. Dictatorships are often too paranoid and incompetent to successfully manage such projects, according to Hymans. [quote id="4"] North Korea is the poster boy for this theory. Hymans argues that North Korea “is the ideal-typical case of neopatrimonialism,” where top-down meddling in programs makes it ripe for spectacular failure in projects as complex as nuclear weapons.[94]At the time his book was published, in 2012, Hymans denied that North Korea was actually a nuclear weapons power. He wrote that the October 2006 nuclear test “was an embarrassing technical failure”[95] and the second one in 2009 “was at best only the most minimal of successes.”[96] Hymans further argued that “it remains unclear if North Korea does or does not yet have an operational nuclear arsenal that it could use in battle.”[97] However, tests are only failures if nothing is learned from them. It is clear that North Korea learned a lot from each of these tests and, in its subsequent nuclear and missile tests, has demonstrated an ability to reach thermonuclear yields in the hundreds of kilotons. It also likely has the capacity to deliver its nuclear weapons to regional targets if not the continental United States. Hymans’ theory predicts, at best, “the project’s snail’s pace of progress,” arguing that “it seems reasonable to assume that maintaining the snail’s pace would be the most North Korea could hope for. Moreover, Pyongyang has proved such an inveterate bluffer in the past that we should stop gasping in fear every time it threatens the world with yet another technological ‘breakthrough.’”[98] And yet, history has proven this argument wrong. The 2017 summer sprint in North Korea’s nuclear and missile program was a clear breakthrough — one cannot bluff intercontinental ranges and thermonuclear yields, which speak a universal language. To his admirable credit, however, Hymans develops a falsifiable and testable theory and is willing to make predictions based on it. Unfortunately, North Korea is clearly an outlier for his theory — the pathologies of the Kim regime may have stymied food production, but not the nuclear weapons program — which once again defied the theoretical odds. A second theory in this family of models is Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer’s work on Iraq and Libya, which similarly focuses on authoritarian regimes’ inability to manage nuclear weapons programs.[99] However, Braut-Hegghammer’s argument focuses not on interference in such programs, but on neglect by weak states with personalist regimes, where power is primarily invested in the hands of one leader rather than a political party or other large group. According to her theory, the capacity of weak states is often restricted by constant efforts to prevent the next coup, which leads to the neglect of projects as complex as nuclear weapons. She argues that Saddam and Gaddafi “lacked the capability even to pay close attention to the performance of these programs because they had weakened their states to strengthen their own hold on power.”[100] Drawing on principal-agent theory, Braut-Hegghammer argues that, rather than meddling in their nuclear programs as Hymans suggests, Saddam and Gaddafi failed to monitor it closely enough, allowing scientists to run their own fiefdoms and sell snake oil to these leaders, which in turn resulted in both countries’ failure to successfully develop nuclear weapons. She writes:
weak states often lack the institutional resources to set up and operate nuclear weapons programs. This is particularly problematic in so-called personalist regimes, such as Iraq and Libya, whose leaders undermine formal state institutions and seek to govern through informal structures of patronage and control.[101]
Although the Kim dynasty is clearly dominated by one-man rule and invests a lot of energy in  preventing coups,[102] Braut-Hegghammer in fact argues that her theory does not apply to North Korea, which she classifies as a “strong state.”[103] This is debatable. Certainly, the North Korean regime is stronger than many observers believed, given that it has, for decades, defied predictions that it would collapse.[104] Yet if North Korea is truly a strong state, it is puzzling that it was not able to prevent hundreds of thousands (and perhaps millions) of its citizens from dying from famine in the 1990s.[105] As David Kang argued in 2012, the evidence suggests that “North Korea is both strong and weak,” and that the state has weakened further in recent decades, stating, “Largely as a result of weakened state control, the economy has experienced increases in commercialization and marketization in recent years.” This, in turn, has “shriveled the central government’s control over the periphery.”[106] Yet, precisely as the North Korean state has weakened, it has made the most dramatic strides in its nuclear weapons program. At the very least, this trend would seem to contradict the pattern expected by Braut-Hegghammer’s theory. The theories described above, which base predictions of the likelihood of acquisition on either security imperatives or regime type, in fact vastly underpredict North Korea’s probability of acquiring nuclear weapons. Similarly, supply-side or diffusion theories also fail at providing a satisfying explanation of North Korea’s nuclear accomplishments. For example, quantitative studies have found that wealthy (or at least moderately wealthy) countries are significantly more likely to acquire nuclear weapons,[107] yet North Korea acquired these weapons despite being one of the poorest countries in the world. Matthew Fuhrmann’s more nuanced supply-side argument focuses on foreign technical support, contending that North Korea “further underscore[s] the significance of the technical base resulting from atomic assistance,” with the North Koreans receiving Soviet assistance in the 1950s and 1960s.[108] The first problem with this argument is that while it might predict that North Korea would succeed, it should also predict that other countries in threatening security environments that received foreign assistance would acquire nuclear weapons, for example Germany, Japan,  South Korea, and Egypt. The second issue is that North Korea did not in fact receive an especially large amount of foreign assistance. Indeed, according to the main metric Fuhrmann uses to measure foreign support — the number of nuclear cooperation agreements — North Korea received far less foreign assistance than the aforementioned countries, and also received significantly less than countries like Ireland, Portugal, and Indonesia, as well as recent proliferators like India, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq. Matthew Kroenig’s supply-side theory emphasizes the role of sensitive nuclear assistance in facilitating nuclear acquisition, which he defines as the transfer of enrichment or reprocessing technology or bomb designs.[109] While North Korea did receive aid in uranium enrichment technology from the AQ Khan network, this does not explain North Korea’s initial acquisition of nuclear weapons, which relied on plutonium [not highly enriched uranium (HEU)] from an indigenously built reactor and reprocessing facility. Indeed, starting in the 1970s, Pyongyang had “minimal foreign assistance” to its nuclear program, using publicly available information to mimic the designs of British reactors and a Belgian reprocessing facility.[110] A related theory by Michael Horowitz argues that the diffusion of 1950s-era military technology to a state like North Korea should not be surprising.[111] Horowitz writes: “How hard is it actually for a determined proliferator to acquire nuclear weapons? The answer? Not as hard as you might expect. And this becomes clearer when you think about the acquisition of nuclear weapons in the context of other military technologies.”[112] Horowitz himself admirably concedes, however, that the diffusion argument suffers the same problem as supply-side explanations: It overpredicts success. He goes on to point out that “simply importing ‘normal’ military technology diffusion models, while helping us understand North Korea, would probably overpredict proliferation in general, particularly in light of international efforts to make weapons acquisition harder. States such as Iraq and Libya tried but failed to acquire nuclear weapons.”[113] It is not as if we, the authors of this article, were right about North Korea either. Co-author Vipin Narang, in his 2014 book on nuclear strategy, essentially punts on North Korea by claiming it was unclear what its nuclear strategy — if any — was at the time of writing.[114] In his work on strategies of nuclear proliferation, Narang argues that North Korea’s probability of success was heightened because it was able to avail itself of a “sheltered pursuit” strategy, enjoying protection first from the Soviet Union and then China. This in turn enabled Pyongyang to proliferate under the cover of its allies — developing the plutonium pathway to nuclear weapons—before shifting to a “hiding” strategy, exemplified when it cheated on the Agreed Framework to develop a secret uranium enrichment pathway.[115] Here, Narang argues that it was the protection from China that helped stave off a United States attack, not just the threat North Korea posed to Seoul. But even this argument likely underpredicts North Korea’s probability of success, because while sheltered pursuit can often succeed, North Korea’s relationship with China has been peculiar in the post-Cold War era, forcing the Kim regime to at times pursue a hiding strategy. Hiding strategies are very risky if discovered, and North Korea’s hidden program was discovered before it even tested its first fission device. What seems to have deterred the United States from attacking North Korea after the 2002 discovery of the hidden enrichment program was the fear that the North had reprocessed enough plutonium from its sheltered pursuit days for several nuclear bombs — not just the conventional threat to South Korea. Essentially, North Korea’s hidden enrichment program was discovered too late to prevent it. While this framework gets some features of North Korea’s behavior correct, the North Korean case is again unique and defies most theoretical predictions. In general, academic theories of nuclear proliferation sorely missed the mark when it comes to North Korea. It is only one case, to be sure, but it is clearly an important one. However, this sober assessment is not meant to suggest that we should abandon our efforts to theorize about the causes and process of nuclear proliferation. Of the 30 or so states that have begun nuclear weapons programs, 10 succeeded in acquiring them. In other words, it is still a relatively uncommon event, and our theories are necessarily probabilistic. Nevertheless, it is notable how few theories gave North Korea a good chance of acquiring the bomb. [quote id="5"] So what can we learn from this outlier? It is important to note here that an outlier case does not disconfirm any theory. All of the theories discussed above make significant contributions toward explaining and predicting certain cases of nuclear proliferation. With that said, it is useful to examine what adjustments to our theories might be advisable based on the North Korean case. We believe the North Korean case illustrates several dynamics worth incorporating into academic theories of proliferation. First, it shows that the threat of preventive war, even when perceived as credible, has limits as a counterproliferation tool. At several points, North Korea viewed the threat of an American attack as credible, and yet it continued its nuclear program, or else only agreed to limits on that program after receiving significant inducements (in the case of the Agreed Framework). Second, it shows that states can still successfully play a cat-and-mouse game of plausible deniability with hidden programs — as South Africa and Pakistan once did with enrichment programs, and North Korea did with both its reactor and its uranium enrichment program. Third, states that can avail themselves of a “sheltered pursuit” strategy — finding a great power patron, although not necessarily an ally, that is willing to essentially underwrite its illicit behavior and protect it from coercive nonproliferation efforts, have a higher chance of succeeding. It is hard to imagine North Korea acquiring nuclear weapons absent Soviet and then Chinese shelter. While China does not relish a nuclear-armed North Korea, and has become increasingly more disturbed by North Korean behavior over time, it has, for the most part, not been willing to use intense pressure against North Korea over this issue. China fears a North Korean regime collapse that would result in large refugee inflows and the possible stationing of U.S. troops along its border following Korean reunification.[116] The states that enjoy such shelter are few and far between, but there will undoubtedly be others. Fourth, even poor states with domestic political pathologies do not need substantial foreign assistance to successfully acquire nuclear weapons. While impoverished and/or authoritarian countries have acquired nuclear weapons before — India, Pakistan, and China, for instance — they all did so with substantially greater foreign support than North Korea received. The point of this exercise is not to dismiss any theories of nuclear proliferation, but rather to take stock of how to adjust these theories in systematic ways to account for how North Korea succeeded, while fully conceding that the proliferation process is unpredictable and probabilistic and that outliers will always exist. It is a worthwhile endeavor to see how the academic community could have better predicted North Korean nuclearization — because there will likely be other proliferators like North Korea in the future. When taken in combination with Mark Bell’s recent work showing that many of the quantitative correlates of nuclear proliferation are not reliable predictors,[117] our examination of the North Korea case suggests that we, as scholars, should be more modest about our theories’ predictive capacities.

Implications for Nonproliferation Policy

In addition to its implications for academic theory, North Korea’s acquisition of a sophisticated nuclear weapons capability has important implications for nonproliferation policy. For one thing, the North Korea case demonstrates that supply-side measures like export controls are insufficient, even against countries with poor economies. Nuclear technology is 70 years old, and North Korea has demonstrated it is possible to construct the facilities needed to produce fissile material indigenously, based on open-source information. This is true not just for the gas centrifuge, as Kemp has demonstrated,[118] but also for the plutonium path to the bomb that North Korea followed. Indeed, North Korea’s focus on domestic development of nuclear weapons, consistent with its self-reliant, or Juche philosophy, likely made it better able to adapt to technical challenges when compared to countries like Libya and Iraq, which relied more heavily on foreign imports. Moreover, the fact that North Korea indigenously developed a nuclear reactor and reprocessing facility in secret, rather than publicly constructing them under the guise of a nuclear energy program, allowed its nuclear program to make greater progress before the international community could react effectively.[119] A second policy implication is that early detection and policy intervention are crucial if nonproliferation success is to be achieved. Compared to other proliferators, North Korea was relatively successful at concealing its nuclear capabilities and intentions. Partly for this reason, strong international pressure was only mobilized in the early 1990s, when North Korea was quite close to acquiring fissile material for nuclear weapons. Indeed, one could argue that even the Agreed Framework came too late, in that North Korea may have already obtained enough plutonium for a couple nuclear devices. The failure of early detection gave policymakers little margin for error, making it easier for North Korea to succeed in its nuclear quest. Third, international sanctions have important limitations when dealing with extremely isolated countries like North Korea. Unilateral U.S. measures, or even joint measures with allies, only go so far when dealing with a country like North Korea, whose political and economic system is designed on the principle of self-reliance. This is consistent with research on nonproliferation by Etel Solingen and Nicholas Miller, whose theories predict North Korean resilience to economic and political pressure, although they focus on outcomes rather than the acquisition of nuclear weapons.[120] As an inward looking regime, Solingen correctly argues that “North Korea has defied political and economic sanctions from great powers and international institutions, allowing state agencies and industries responsible for productive and distributive functions to benefit from international closure.”[121] Relatively insulated from the international economy to begin with, North Korean leaders were willing to sacrifice the well-being of their population while the regime devoted extraordinary resources to its nuclear weapons program. Miller likewise argues that North Korea was relatively invulnerable to sanctions, although he attributes this primarily to Pyongyang’s lack of dependence on the United States, the main enforcer of the nonproliferation regime. Miller’s argument also identifies a scenario where sanctions might have worked against North Korea: namely if they had been multilateral and stronger in scope. However, U.N. nuclear sanctions were not even imposed until North Korea already acquired nuclear weapons in 2006. Moreover, despite its recent cooperation at the United Nations, China has repeatedly dragged its feet on implementing sanctions over the years, dramatically increasing its trade with North Korea between 2006 and 2014.[122] Akin to the notion of “sheltered pursuit,” sanctions face long odds of success if a proliferator is insulated from the international economy and if its primary ally refuses to implement sanctions until it’s too late and then violates the spirit of those sanctions. Fourth, if export controls and sanctions are unlikely to succeed against isolated adversaries like North Korea, and if credible threats of force have been insufficient in the past, more attention should be given to inducements and diplomacy as possible solutions. Although it is politically challenging, both internationally and domestically, to be seen as “rewarding” proliferators by offering inducements, the history of the North Korea case shows that the greatest restraints on its nuclear program were in fact achieved when Washington offered substantial inducements, i.e., the 1994 Agreed Framework. Although North Korea violated the spirit of this agreement by starting a secret enrichment program, the United States also failed to fully live up to its end of the bargain by repeatedly delaying delivery of the promised inducements. Fifth, and relatedly, the North Korea case highlights the fragility of nonproliferation bargains due to changes in the domestic and international political landscape, a dynamic that makes such bargains hard to reach in the first place. The Agreed Framework — the closest the international community came to preventing North Korea from acquiring a credible deterrent — ultimately was hampered by domestic opposition in the United States by Republicans, who opposed the agreement and later slowed its implementation.[123] This case has obvious parallels to the Iran deal, a nonproliferation bargain whose future is in jeopardy due to consistent Republican opposition, which, as in the case of North Korea, is inflamed by missile tests and extraneous bilateral issues. The fate of the Agreed Framework, along with the U.S. decisions to topple regimes in Iraq and Libya despite their WMD disarmament, raises real questions about the viability of nonproliferation deals with adversaries in the future. This leaves us, unfortunately, with an unhappy conclusion: The sort of diplomatic bargains that are needed to deal with proliferators like North Korea will be increasingly difficult to reach and sustain.

Conclusion

The fact that academic theories mostly underestimated North Korea’s chance of successfully acquiring nuclear weapons gives us an opportunity to audit our theories and adjust them based on lessons from this important case. The biggest theoretical lessons from the North Korean example are the following: 1) that our theories may overestimate the power of preventive war threats in deterring states from pursuing nuclear weapons, 2) that determined leaders, even in dysfunctional authoritarian regimes, are not always doomed to fail in this pursuit, and 3) that even poor countries can succeed at acquiring nuclear weapons based on indigenously developed technology. The policy implications are equally grim. Given enough breathing room, even a poor a state that wants nuclear weapons badly enough can acquire them, defying sanctions and threats of force — particularly if it has an ally to shelter it from a strong multilateral coalition. While offering inducements to adversary proliferators may stand a better chance of success, this is politically challenging for countries like the United States; moreover, the credibility of American diplomatic assurances is increasingly shaky. Given the various pathways to the bomb and the geopolitical fractures that proliferators can exploit, we should not assume that what has so far been a rare event — nuclear proliferation — will always continue to be so.
Nicholas L. Miller is assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. His book, Stopping the Bomb: The Sources and Effectiveness of U.S. Nonproliferation Policy, is forthcoming with Cornell University Press.
 
Vipin Narang is associate professor of political science and member of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153
Image: Wikimedia Commons
[post_title] => North Korea Defied the Theoretical Odds: What Can We Learn from its Successful Nuclearization? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => north-korea-defied-theoretical-odds-can-learn-successful-nuclearization [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-03 18:29:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-03 22:29:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=468 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => How well do the existing theories about nuclear proliferation predict North Korea's successful nuclearization? [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 2 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => The United States and Russia worked to convince North Korea to accept IAEA safeguards. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => Perhaps “carrots” are as or more important than “sticks,” in dealing with Pyongyang. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => Few theories of nuclear proliferation, if any, gave North Korea a chance of reaching that milestone. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The pathologies of the Kim regime may have stymied food production, but not the nuclear weapons program. ) [4] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => In general, academic theories of nuclear proliferation sorely missed the mark when it comes to North Korea. ) [5] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The Bush administration further eased sanctions, but stalled on removing North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. ) ) [style] => scholarly [type] => Scholarly [style_label] => The Scholar [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 555 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 137 [2] => 71 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] Although there are only nine nuclear-armed states today, North Korea is the tenth to acquire. South Africa acquired nuclear weapons in the late 1970s and gave them up in the early 1990s. [2] See Stephen Walt, “A Renaissance in Nuclear Security Studies?” Foreign Policy, Jan. 21, 2010, http://foreignpolicy.com/2010/01/21/a-renaissance-in-nuclear-security-studies; and Scott Sagan, “Two Renaissances in Nuclear Security Studies,” H-Diplo/ISSF Forum on “What We Talk About When We Talk About Nuclear Weapons, June 14, 2014, https://networks.h-net.org/node/28443/discussions/31776/h-diploissf-forum-%E2%80%9Cwhat-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-nuclear. [3] Etel Solingen, Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 127-128. [4] Jeffrey Richelson, Spying on the Bomb: American Nuclear Intelligence from Nazi Germany to Iran and North Korea (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2007), 333; Mitchell Reiss, Bridled Ambition: Why Countries Constrain Their Nuclear Capabilities (Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1995), 234. [5] Don Oberdorfer, “N. Korea Seen Closer to A-Bomb; U.S. Officials Say Weapon Capability May Come in Months,” Washington Post, Feb. 23, 1992, A1. [6] Joel S. Wit, Daniel B. Poneman, and Robert L. Gallucci, Going Critical: The First North Korean Nuclear Crisis (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), 3. Also see Jonathan Pollack, No Exit: North Korea, Nuclear Weapons, and International Security (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011), 94. [7] Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), “North Korea: Potential for Nuclear Weapon Development,” Sept. 1986, in “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Record,” ed. Robert Wampler, National Security Archive (hereafter NSA), Electronic Briefing Book (EBB) no. 87, doc. 7. [8] CIA, “North Korea’s Expanding Nuclear Efforts,” May 3, 1988, in “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Record,” ed. Robert Wampler, NSA, EBB no. 87, doc. 10. [9] Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS)/CIA, “Trends,” Aug. 9, 1989, in “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Record,” ed. Robert Wampler, NSA, EBB no. 87, doc. 14. Also see Don Oberdorfer, “North Koreans Pursue Nuclear Arms; U.S Team Briefs South Korea on New Satellite Intelligence,” Washington Post, July 29, 1989, A9. [10] William Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons and North Korea: Who’s Coercing Whom?,” In The United States and Coercive Diplomacy, eds. Robert Art and Patrick Cronin (Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 2003), 164-5. [11] Wit, Poneman, and Gallucci, Going Critical, 6. [12] Reiss, Ambition, 230-237. [13] Don Oberdorfer, “North Korea Balks at Nuclear Accord; Government Cites Outside ‘Pressure,’ Says Signing is Still Possible,” Washington Post, Sept. 17, 1991, A10. [14] T.R. Reid, “West [Europeans], Asians, Welcome Bush’s Arms Initiative; Changes Could Reduce Pressure on Leaders in South Korea, Japan,” Washington Post, Sept. 29, 1991, A33. [15] NSA, EBB 610, doc. 2. [16] Robert Carlin, “North Korea,” Nuclear Proliferation After the Cold War, ed. Mitchell Reiss and Robert Litwak (Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1994), 137-8; and Reiss, Ambition, 238-9. [17] Wit, Poneman, and Gallucci, Going Critical, 10. [18] "Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Jan. 20, 1992, http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/joint-declaration-south-and-north-korea-denuclearization-korean-peninsula. An agreement on inspections was never reached. [19] Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons,” 165; and Carlin, “North Korea,” 139. [20] Don Oberdorfer, “N. Korea Seen Closer to A-Bomb; U.S. Officials Say Weapon Capability May Come in Months,” Washington Post, Feb. 23, 1992, A1. [21] Richelson, Spying, 519. [22] Richelson, Spying, 517-518. [23] Reiss, Ambition, 241-3. [24] Memorandum, William T. Pendley to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, “Subject: North Korea Nuclear Issue — Where Are We Now?” Oct. 27, 1992, in “Engaging North Korea: Evidence from the Bush I Administration,” ed. Robert Wampler, NSA, EBB no. 610, doc. 11. [25] Reiss, Ambition, 247-250. [26] Reiss, Ambition, 250-253. [27] Wit, Poneman, and Gallucci, Going Critical, 31. [28] Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons,” 169. [29] Reiss, Ambition, 256-7; and Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons,” 170-1. [30] Richelson, Spying, 522-3. [31] Julia Preston, “China Breaks Ranks on N. Korean Nuclear Plants; Beijing Refuses to Join U.S., Others in Security Council in Pressuring for Inspections,” Washington Post, Feb. 10, 1994, A24. [32] Thomas Lippmann and T.R. Reid, “N. Korea Nuclear Inspection Begins; U.S. Agrees to Suspend War Games with South Korea to Ease Tensions,” Washington Post, March 4, 1994, A1. [33] Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons,” 172; and Reiss, Ambition, 265-6. [34] Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons,” 173; and Reiss, Ambition; 266. [35] T.R. Reid, “North Korea Warns of ‘Brink of War’; Christopher: Sanctions Will Be Considered if Impasse on A-Sites Continues,” Washington Post, March 23, 1994, A23. [36] Don Phillips, “Sanctions a First Step, U.S. Warns North Korea,” Washington Post, April 4, 1994, A1. [37] Drennan, “Nuclear Weapons,” 173-5; and Reiss, Ambition, 268-271. [38] Reiss, Ambition, 272. [39] Pollack, No Exit, 117. [40] International Atomic Energy Agency, “Agreed Framework of 21 October 1994 Between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” in “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Record,” ed. Robert Wampler, NSA, EBB no. 87, doc. 17. Also see Pollack, No Exit, 114. [41] Siegfried Hecker, “Lessons Learned from the North Korean Nuclear Crises,” Daedalus 139, no. 1 (2010): 49. [42] See Maria Ryan, “Why the US’s 1994 Deal with North Korea Failed — and What Trump Can Learn From It,” The Conversation, July 19, 2017, https://theconversation.com/why-the-uss-1994-deal-with-north-korea-failed-and-what-trump-can-learn-from-it-80578. [43] Richelson, Spying, 527. [44] Robert D. Walpole, National Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs, “North Korea’s Taepo Dong Launch and Some Implications on the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States,” Dec. 8, 1998, in “North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: The Declassified U.S. Record,” ed. Robert Wampler, NSA, EBB no. 87, doc. 19. [45] Sheryl WuDunn, “North Korea Fires Missile Over Japanese Territory,” New York Times, Sept. 1, 1998, A6. [46] Richelson, Spying, 528-530 [47] Pollack, No Exit, 135. [48] Pollack, No Exit, 128. [49] See Jeffrey Lewis, “Revisiting the Agreed Framework,” 38 North, May 15, 2015, http://www.38north.org/2015/05/jlewis051415. [50] David Sanger, “Clinton is Ready to Scrap Some North Korea Sanctions,” New York Times, Sept. 14, 1999, A14. [51] Hecker, “Lessons Learned,” 49-50; and Pollack, No Exit, 128-129. [52] David Sanger, “Clinton Scraps North Korea Trip, Saying Time’s Short for Deal,” New York Times, Dec. 29, 2000, A11. [53] Michael Gordon, “U.S. Toughens Terms for North Korea Talks,” New York Times, July 3, 2011, A9. [54] Richelson, Spying, 530-532; Hecker, “Lessons Learned,” 50; and Pollack, No Exit, 139. [55] Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jeffrey Schott, Kimberly Ann Elliott, and Barbara Oegg, “Case 50-1 and 93-1,” Peterson Institute for International Analysis, May 1, 2008, https://piie.com/commentary/speeches-papers/case-50-1-and-93-1. [56] Pollack, No Exit, 141-142. [57] Hecker, “Lessons Learned,” 49. [58] Richelson, Spying, 532. [59] Pollack, No Exit, 144. [60] David Sanger and William Broad, “North Korea Said to Expand Arms Program,” New York Times, Dec. 6, 2004, A6. [61] Richelson, Spying, 536-7. [62] Hecker, “Lessons Learned,” 50. [63] Hufbauer et al., “Case 50-1 and 93-1.” [64] Hufbauer et al., “Case 50-1 and 93-1.” [65] David Sanger, “North Koreans Say They Plan a Nuclear Test,” New York Times, Oct. 4, 2006, A1. [66] Richelson, Spying, 558; Hufbauer et al., “Case 50-1 and 93-1”; and Mary Beth Nitkin, “North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues,” Congressional Research Service, April 3, 2013, 15. [67] Hufbauer et al., “Case 50-1 and 93-1.” [68] Joseph Kahn and Helene Cooper, “North Korea Will Resume Nuclear Talks,” New York Times, Nov. 1, 2006, A1. [69] U.S. Department of State, “North Korea — Denuclearization Action Plan,” Feb. 13, 2007, https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/february/80479.htm. [70] Arms Control Association, “Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy,” Jan. 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/dprkchron#2007. [71] Steven Lee Myers and Elaine Sciolino, “North Koreans Bar Inspectors at Nuclear Site,” New York Times, Sept. 24, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/25/world/asia/25korea.html. [72] Arms Control Association, “Chronology.” [73] Hufbauer et al., “Case 50-1 and 93-1.” [74] Arms Control Association, “Chronology of U.S.-North Korean and Missile Diplomacy,” January 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/dprkchron. [75] Emma Chanlett-Avery, Ian E. Rinehart, and Mary Beth D. Nikitin, “North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation,” Congressional Research Service, Jan. 15, 2016, 12. [76] Arms Control Association, “Chronology.” [77] Emma Chanlett-Avery et al., “North Korea,” 6-7. [78] See, for example, Steve Holland and Idrees Ali, “Trump: Military Option for North Korea Not Preferred, But Would be ‘Devastating,’” Reuters, Sept. 25, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles/trump-military-option-for-north-korea-not-preferred-but-would-be-devastating-idUSKCN1C026A [79] Arms Control Association, “Chronology.” [80] See the CNS North Korea Missile Test Database, http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/cns-north-korea-missile-test-database. [81] Joby Warrick, Ellen Nakashima, and Anna Fifeld, “North Korea Now Making Missile-Ready Nuclear Weapons,” Washington Post, Aug. 8, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/north-korea-now-making-missile-ready-nuclear-weapons-us-analysts-say/2017/08/08/e14b882a-7b6b-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.d073bd77edf8. [82] Arms Control Association, “Chronology.” [83] Arms Control Association, “UN Security Council Resolutions on North Korea,” Jan. 2018, accessed Jan. 29, 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/UN-Security-Council-Resolutions-on-North-Korea#res2375,. [84] On North Korean motives, see Scott D. Sagan, “Why do States Build Nuclear Weapons?: Three Models in Search of a Bomb,” International Security 21, no. 3 (Winter 1996-1997): 85; Pollack, No Exit, chapters 2-3; Etel Solingen, Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007), 118-140; and Victor Cha, “What Do They Really Want? Obama’s North Korea Conundrum,” Washington Quarterly 32, No. 4 (2009): 119-138. [85] CIA, “A 10-year Projection of Possible Events of Nuclear Proliferation Concern,” May 1983, 5, NSA, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB87/nk02.pdf. [86] CIA, “North Korea: Potential for Nuclear Weapons Development,” Sept. 1986, NSA, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB87/nk07.pdf. [87] See Sonali Singh and Christopher Way, “The Correlates of Nuclear Proliferation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 48, no. 6 (2004): 859-885; and Dong-Joon Jo and Erik Gartzke, “Determinants of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 51, no. 1 (2007): 167-194. [88] Kenneth Waltz, “More May Be Better,” in The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed, by Scott Sagan and Kenneth Waltz (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2003), 38. [89] Alexandre Debs and Nuno P. Monteiro, Nuclear Politics: The Strategic Causes of Proliferation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016). [90] Debs and Monteiro, Nuclear Politics, 297. [91] Ashton B. Carter and William J. Perry, Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America (Washington DC: Brookings Press, 1999), Ch. 4. [92] Van Jackson, Rival Reputations: Coercion and Credibility in US-North Korea Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 159-160. [93] Jacques E.C. Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions: Scientists, Politicians, and Proliferation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). [94] Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions, 253. [95] Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions, 251. [96] Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions, 252. [97] Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions, 252. [98] Hymans, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions, 254. [99] Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer, Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Build Nuclear Weapons (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016). [100] Braut-Hegghammer, Unclear Physics, 1. [101] Braut-Hegghammer, Unclear Physics, 6. [102] See Daniel Byman and Jennifer Lind, “Pyongyang’s Survival Strategy: Tools of Authoritarian Control in North Korea,” International Security 35, no. 1 (2010): 66-68. [103] Braut-Hegghammer, Unclear Physics, 224. [104] See Byman and Lind, “Pyongyang’s Survival Strategy,” and Jong Kun Choi, “The Perils of Strategic Patience with North Korea,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 4 (2015): 57-72. [105] Kang, “Normal,” 153-156. [106] David Kang, “They Think They’re Normal: Enduring Questions and New Research on North Korea — A Review Essay,” International Security 36, no. 3 (2011-2012): 145, 169. [107] For example, Singh and Way, “Nuclear Proliferation,” and Jo and Gartzke, “Weapons Proliferation.” [108] Matthew Fuhrmann, Atomic Assistance: How “Atoms for Peace” Programs Cause Nuclear Insecurity (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012), 190. [109] Matthew Kroenig, Exporting the Bomb: Technology Transfer and the Spread of Nuclear Weapons (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010). [110] See Siegfried Hecker, Sean Lee, and Chaim Braun, “North Korea’s Choice: Bombs Over Electricity,” The Bridge 40, no. 2 (2010): 6. Also see Pollack, No Exit, 94-95. [111] Michael C. Horowitz, The Diffusion of Military Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010); also see Michael C. Horowitz, “How Surprising is North Korea’s Nuclear Success? Picking Up Where Proliferation Theories Leave Off,” War on the Rocks, Sept. 6, 2017, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/how-surprising-is-north-koreas-nuclear-success-picking-up-where-proliferation-theories-leave-off. [112] Horowitz, “How Surprising.” [113] Horowitz, “How Surprising.” [114] Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014). [115] Vipin Narang, “Strategies of Nuclear Proliferation: How States Pursue the Bomb,” International Security 41, no. 3 (Winter 2016-2017): 110-150. [116] On China’s views on North Korea’s nuclear program, see Kihyun Lee and Jangho Kim, “Cooperation and Limitations of China’s Sanctions on North Korea: Perception, Interest and Institutional Environment,” North Korean Review 13, no. 1 (2017): 28-44; and Andrew Kydd, “Pulling the Plug: Can There Be a Deal with China on Korean Unification,” Washington Quarterly 38, no. 2 (2015): 63-77. [117] Mark Bell, “Examining Explanations for Nuclear Proliferation,” International Studies Quarterly 60, no. 3 (2015): 520-529. [118] R. Scott Kemp, “The Nonproliferation Emperor Has No Clothes,” International Security 38, no. 4 (Spring 2014): 39-78. [119] On the effectiveness of a covert rather than overt proliferation strategy, see Nicholas L. Miller, “Why Nuclear Energy Programs Rarely Lead to Proliferation,” International Security 42, no. 2 (2017): 40-77. [120] Solingen, Nuclear Logics; and Nicholas L. Miller, Stopping the Bomb (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, forthcoming). Solingen’s primary dependent variable is the pursuit (rather than acquisition) of nuclear weapons. Miller’s primary dependent variables are pursuit and the success or failure of U.S. sanctions. [121] Solingen, Nuclear Logics, 138. [122] See Eleanor Albert, “The China-North Korea Relationship,” Council on Foreign Relations, Sept. 27, 2017, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-north-korea-relationship. Also see Lee and Kim, “China’s Sanctions.” [123] See, for example, Van Jackson, “Threat Consensus and Rapprochement Failure: Revisiting the Collapse of US-North Korea Relations,” Foreign Policy Analysis, forthcoming. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) ) [post_count] => 2 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 606 [post_author] => 180 [post_date] => 2018-06-05 14:26:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-05 18:26:43 [post_content] =>

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man. –Heraclitus

  "Here we go again." "It’s Groundhog Day with North Korea." "We’ve seen this script before." These sorts of refrains have been common among North Korea watchers — and those who play them on TV — ahead of the summit slated for June 12 in Singapore between North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and President Donald Trump. After significant brinkmanship over whether the meeting would take place, the on-again, off-again summit looks likely to be held as originally planned. The United States has engaged North Korea in two major denuclearization processes, not to mention separate inter-Korean and multilateral efforts, over the past quarter-century. All have failed to produce the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization that the United States has sought on the Korean Peninsula.[1] Some skeptical of the bilateral summit charge that this history of failure is likely to repeat itself. Meanwhile, optimists suggest that something new in the upcoming process has opened the possibility of a different outcome.[2] History can be a useful guide to avoid repeating mistakes, but events are rarely as neat and tidy as a sound bite seems to suggest. The history of nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, as well as multilateral discussions such as the six-party talks, is far more complex than most voices in the media and policy circles acknowledge. This history offers cause for pessimism, optimism, and caution about current prospects for denuclearization.[3]

Pessimism: Denuclearization Is Harder Now Than During Past Efforts

Many of those who are pessimistic about the Trump-Kim summit point to failed efforts to achieve complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization and ask why this time should be any different. In one sense, the pessimists are not pessimistic enough. North Korea’s nuclear program has advanced significantly since the last major diplomatic efforts at denuclearization. In the intervening years, the possibility of denuclearization has become even more distant. This section contrasts the situation today with the state of the North Korean nuclear threat when the 1994 Agreed Framework and the joint statement of the 2005 six-party talks were reached. Seen through that lens, contentions that history may repeat itself underestimate the current challenge. In Brief: The Agreed Framework and Six-Party Talks There have been two major diplomatic efforts to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear program. In the early 1990s, North Korea initiated an international crisis by taking provocative steps toward developing a nuclear bomb: removing fuel rods from its five-megawatt plutonium reactor at Yongbyon and initiating its withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, in which North Korea had legally pledged to forego nuclear weapons. The United States engaged Pyongyang in an effort to resolve the crisis, and the two sides signed the Agreed Framework in 1994. In short, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for energy and economic assistance, security guarantees, and political promises, including specific efforts toward the normalization of bilateral relations.[4] The Agreed Framework faced challenges in implementation, however, and collapsed in late 2002 and early 2003. The United States, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia initiated the six-party talks later in 2003.[5] Seeking to distinguish between the 1994 framework’s temporary freeze on nuclear production and a more comprehensive and lasting goal, the six countries announced, after two years and four rounds of negotiations, that they “unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”[6] The 2005 joint statement of those talks laid out the basic principles of a nuclear deal that would be refined more specifically in a pair of implementation agreements two years later. In late 2008, however, the participating countries reached an impasse over important technical verification issues. Whereas in 1994 North Korea had pledged to freeze its nuclear program, in 2005 Pyongyang promised to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs in exchange for energy and economic assistance, security guarantees, normalized diplomatic relations, and negotiations toward a “permanent peace regime.”[7] Although the two sets of negotiations were different in important ways, the broad structure was consistent: North Korea promised to move away from nuclear weapons in exchange for a similar basket of incentives. Denuclearization Today The North Korean nuclear program of 2018 is not the nuclear program of 1994, when Washington and Pyongyang negotiated the Agreed Framework. It is not even the nuclear program of 2005, when the six-party talks produced its joint statement. Since these diplomatic milestones, Pyongyang’s nuclear development and long-range missiles have advanced in major ways, crossing a series of critical technical barriers. These programs have grown significantly more difficult to reverse since earlier denuclearization efforts were underway. Since the 1990s, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has grown from a theoretical capability to an actual one. North Korea’s first nuclear test occurred in 2006, a year after the joint statement of the six-party talks was released. Before this, the North Korean leadership could not be confident that their efforts to build a nuclear bomb would actually work. Indeed, the North’s first nuclear test produced more of a whimper than a bang. The explosion yielded less than one kiloton, prompting a variety of theories about why it had been a low-yield test. As such, the fundamental challenge for these earlier negotiations was to prevent North Korea from building a nuclear weapon and to persuade Pyongyang to roll back its attendant programs. These efforts resembled something like the more recent nuclear negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany in the sense that American negotiators and their allies could capitalize on North Korea’s uncertainty about whether it could succeed in building a bomb and crossing the nuclear-weapons threshold. Today, by contrast, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un controls a nuclear arsenal that has benefited from six tests. His is not a start-up business seeking proof of concept but, rather, an established enterprise with a demonstrated ability to detonate increasingly powerful nuclear weapons. After the 2006 nuclear test produced a lower-than-expected yield, then-leader Kim Jong Il ordered a second test, in 2009, that erased any doubt about North Korea’s basic ability to build and detonate a nuclear weapon.[8] North Korea’s third nuclear test, in 2013, came amid Pyongyang’s pronouncements that the test provided critical information that would help the regime’s effort to miniaturize a nuclear weapon in order to mount it on a missile. The third test may also have utilized uranium in its bomb design. The regime’s previous tests used plutonium, thus, testing weapons using this second path to the bomb expanded its capabilities. North Korea’s fourth test, in 2016, demonstrated the country’s thermonuclear capability for the first time.[9] The fifth and sixth tests, in 2016 and 2017 respectively, sought bigger yields still.[10] Rather than preventing North Korea from crossing the nuclear-weapons threshold, the denuclearization challenge has become much harder: Somehow, the genie must be put back in the bottle. [quote id="1"] Meanwhile, North Korea has steadily advanced its ability to develop, test, and field operational ballistic missiles that can deliver nuclear weapons. Critically, the regime has diversified its ballistic missile force to create a survivable second-strike capability, thereby securing an essential element to deter its primary adversary, the United States.[11] In 1994, North Korea was capable of striking some American bases and allies but not the U.S. homeland. That year — the same year Washington and Pyongyang signed the Agreed Framework — North Korea began producing its Nodong medium-range ballistic missile and fielded the missile the following year. The Nodong could strike South Korea and most of Japan but still not the United States.[12] In 1998, North Korea flight-tested its Taepo Dong-1 prototype, which flew over Japan, rattling the Japanese government in particular and accelerating Tokyo’s cooperation with Washington on missile defense. The flight test ushered in a new round of missile diplomacy between the United States and North Korea. Pyongyang maintained a unilateral moratorium on long-range-missile flight tests for six years, refraining from launching another Taepo Dong rocket until 2006.[13] As the two sides negotiated the Agreed Framework and, later, the joint statement of the six-party talks, North Korea did not have the capability to hit the United States with its missiles. Today, however, North Korea is perilously close to having a demonstrated delivery vehicle to strike the continental United States with nuclear weapons. Since coming to power in December 2011, Kim Jong Un has ordered scores of missile launches, including long- and short-range ballistic missiles. Both long- and short-range ballistic missiles can test technologies used in the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).[14] In 2017, North Korea conducted three ICBM flight tests. After the third test, Kim Jong Un declared his nuclear deterrent complete.[15] While this claim was probably premature,[16] Kim expressed confidence that his country had attained a complete package of miniaturized nuclear weapons and survivable delivery vehicles that could reach the continental United States.[17] The main components of North Korea’s fissile material production have also shifted significantly. In the leadup to the 1994 Agreed Framework, North Korea had only one fissile material production site: the plutonium program at Yongbyon. The site was known, surveilled, and, in theory, could have been verifiably frozen with reasonable confidence. By the time of the six-party talks, the United States was aware of a nascent and covert North Korean uranium enrichment program that violated its Agreed Framework pledges. The CIA publicly disclosed to Congress its judgment that North Korea had started this program in 2000.[18] Other assessments date the origins of Pyongyang’s uranium enrichment as early as 1996.[19] Regardless of whether Pyongyang started its uranium enrichment program then or in 2000, plutonium production was North Korea’s sole route to the bomb in 1994 and its primary but not exclusive nuclear production capability in 2005. Today, North Korea acquires substantially more fissile material for weapons from its well-established uranium enrichment facilities than it does from its plutonium program. Pyongyang’s uranium program also has more growth potential than its plutonium program in absolute terms. One unclassified research project estimated that by 2020, North Korea’s only five-megawatt reactor at Yongbyon could produce 14 nuclear weapons from plutonium, while two centrifuge plants could produce about 56 weapons from uranium.[20] Put another way, the North Korean uranium enrichment program produces far more fissile material for nuclear weapons today, and its higher annual output is central to the growth of Pyongyang’s arsenal over time. When it comes to trying to negotiate verifiable denuclearization, the distinction between the plutonium and uranium routes to the bomb is critical. In 2010, North Korean officials showed the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon to a prominent U.S. nongovernmental delegation. The manner and speed of the facility’s construction suggested strongly that this was not the country’s first enrichment facility.[21] Commercial satellite imagery and other publicly available sources offer no proof of a third enrichment facility, but that should not provide much comfort. It is not clear how many uranium enrichment sites North Korea has because they are easier to hide than their plutonium counterparts. [quote id="2"] This should concern American policymakers as verification was the shoal upon which the six-party talks foundered.[22] During those talks, Washington wanted to conduct soil and nuclear waste samples to verify North Korea’s claims; Pyongyang refused. The “Second Phase Actions for the Implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement,” agreed to on Oct. 3, 2007, outlined what would be required of North Korea to disable its five-megawatt reactor. The agreement did not explicitly require North Korea to allow these samples to be taken but stipulated that disablement would proceed in a “verifiable” manner.[23] Washington interpreted this to mean it could use sampling to verify Pyongyang’s actions under the second-phase agreement before it proceeded. Pyongyang, however, saw things differently: It wanted to save the issue of sampling for a “third phase” agreement, at which point it could either demand additional concessions and use the sampling issue as a bargaining chip, or not agree to sampling at all.[24] Verification is, of course, central to any sustainable agreement. And the devil is in the details. These kinds of technocratic aspects, which political leaders tend not to ponder, have derailed high-level, multiyear diplomatic initiatives. Diplomatic efforts could again sink over critical technical details if negotiators do not learn from the past. While Kim Jong Il may have hoped during negotiations in the 1990s and again during the six-party talks that his and his father’s decades-long efforts to develop nuclear weapons would someday provide a deterrent against U.S. invasion, his son, Kim Jong Un, has this capability. In the past, North Korea’s nuclear program was aspirational. Today, it is an active part of the country’s national defense. Before, verifying a deal focused primarily on a plutonium program was difficult. Now, the prominence of the uranium program in addition to the plutonium program makes the challenge even greater. It is not the same river.

Caution: New Leaders on Both Sides

In addition to the technical advancements in Pyongyang’s nuclear program since the last two major diplomatic efforts, important political changes have taken place in North Korea and the United States. During the Agreed Framework negotiations and the six-party talks, Kim Jong Il was effectively at the helm. Although North Korea’s founder and charismatic leader, Kim Il Sung, was in power until his death in 1994, and famously held important roles such as receiving former President Jimmy Carter in Pyongyang amid the crisis, Kim Il Sung told a Western reporter that by 1992 his son was running the country.[25] Kim Il Sung tapped his son as his successor in 1980 and gradually shifted power to him. As such, the Agreed Framework and six-party talks were, for North Korea, essentially a Kim Jong Il production. Today, Kim Jong Un is in charge and his personal stamp can be seen on nuclear diplomacy. Kim the youngest differs substantially in ruling style and approach from his father, something that matters greatly for the current round of summits. Kim Jong Il was an introverted micro-manager. Living in the shadow of his larger-than-life father, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il closely controlled process and avoided public appearances. While Kim Il Sung was known for his charisma, Kim Jong Il could not even manage to give the annual new year’s day address. Instead, he instituted a policy of publishing the annual statement as an editorial in three newspapers.[26] Imagine if an American president decided to forego the annual State of the Union address and instead published his views on the White House website. That would be less of a break from past precedent than Kim Jong Il’s decision. Kim Jong Il gave one — or possibly two — extremely short speeches in his entire tenure. He was also absent from public view during the first three years of his formal reign, citing the traditional mourning period after his father’s death. Kim Jong Un is a different kind of leader. He has explicitly modeled himself after his still-revered grandfather rather than his relatively unpopular father.[27] He has brought back the annual new year’s day address. He appears in public with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, something Kim Jong Il had avoided. Kim Jong Un has also resurrected the Korean Workers’ Party, restarting the long-defunct party congresses. Tapes smuggled out of North Korea in the 1980s showed Kim Jong Il privately expressing insecure views of his personal stature that are consistent with his psychological profile.[28] In contrast, Kim Jong Un exudes confidence and has shown himself ready to personally lead the current round of nuclear diplomacy through a series of summits with South Korea, China, and the United States. It is natural and appropriate to look to the history of U.S.-North Korean and multilateral denuclearization efforts for insights into the upcoming talks. First, however, one must consider whether Kim Jong Un is following his father’s playbook. On the critical issue of his ruling style, Kim Jong Un has parted ways with his father. It stands to reason, then,[29] that his priorities and methods concerning nuclear diplomacy may not be a carbon copy of his father’s approach. Kim Jong Un proposed summit diplomacy with Trump, rather than having lower-level officials work toward a possible capstone summit by hashing out the details first. The younger Kim has taken the political risk upon himself and made it more difficult to blame subordinates for possible diplomatic failure. Leaders are always important in high-stakes diplomacy, but the summit approach makes their personality and predilections even more central to the outcome. The United States is only at the head of a long trail of diplomacy, and it is not at all clear that previous journeys foreshadow the current one. On the American side, there is also a new sheriff in town. The United States negotiated the Agreed Framework and the joint statement of the six-party talks under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively. Their administrations had different views on diplomacy with North Korea. Senior members of the Bush administration criticized the Agreed Framework negotiated under Clinton, which suffered a number of implementation challenges, including — but not limited to — the revelation of North Korea’s nascent uranium enrichment program.[30] The differences between the two U.S. administrations were stark enough that some insiders dubbed the Bush administration’s approach “ABC — Anything But Clinton.”[31] The Bush administration, however, quickly shifted to its own diplomatic effort with the North Koreans after the final collapse of the Agreed Framework. This time around, there were more seats at the table, different areas of emphasis, and intra-government intrigue,[32] but two things remained constant: the basic parameters of seeking a complete and permanent denuclearization of North Korea, and recognition that this would require some reciprocal and unpopular concessions. With a few notable exceptions, the two U.S. administrations operated — at the most general level — alike. [quote id="3"] Donald Trump fashions himself a new kind of political leader. His engagement in tit-for-tat rhetorical barbs in 2017 — such as when he threatened to bring down “fire and fury”[33] on North Korea, or when he called Kim Jong Un “little rocket man”[34] — marked an outlier for American presidential behavior. Trump’s public comments about military options — including limited military strikes that could not denuclearize North Korea by force but, it was hoped, would push Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table — prompted substantial criticism about the wisdom of such an approach.[35] Trump quickly shifted gears in 2018, however, by accepting Kim Jong Un’s summit invitation, conveyed through the South Korean president. He has sent Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang twice — first as director of the CIA and secretary of state-designate and then as secretary of state — to advance the summit and secure the release of three unjustly imprisoned Americans.[36] Trump’s policy tools, including carrots, such as peace regime negotiations and sanctions relief, and sticks, including renewed sanctions and military moves, remain roughly the same as those available to his predecessors. But his willingness to meet Kim Jong Un early, to call off the summit, and to recommit to it within days demonstrates the greater element of uncertainty as to how the United States will begin and sustain a diplomatic process with the North Koreans. The men entering the river are different.

Optimism: Allies, Peace Regime, and Learning

Achieving complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a tall order. Getting it on the cheap or for free is taller still. If success is framed in these terms alone, there is little room for optimism. If, however, progress is defined as concretely minimizing the North Korean nuclear threat and moving toward an ultimate goal of denuclearization in such a way that the benefits to national interests outweigh the costs of concessions, then there is room to be optimistic. In short, optimists can argue that a successful agreement is one that leaves the United States and its allies better off than they are in the current situation and on the current trajectory. The U.S.-South Korean combined approach, serious consideration of creating a peace regime, and the real possibility of learning from past agreements together provide reason to be cautiously optimistic about the way forward in U.S.-North Korean diplomacy. The U.S.-South Korean Combined Approach North Korea gains tactical advantage when it can split the United States from its Northeast Asian allies, specifically South Korea. The United States, South Korea, and Japan have many more shared interests and values than differences, but North Korea knows where to find natural cleavages and has traditionally sought to exploit them. North Korea has long favored bilateral diplomacy with the United States in hopes of sidelining South Korea and Japan. Tensions in the U.S.-South Korean alliance have also challenged previous efforts to maintain a united front against North Korea. Han Sung-joo, who served as South Korea’s foreign minister during the Agreed Framework negotiations, noted that then-South Korean President Kim Young-sam wanted to ensure the Americans were not “too soft” on the North Koreans. At the same time, the South Korean president did not want to raise the risk of military conflict that threatened to destroy his capital. The conservative South Korean president, worried about his domestic political support, also needed to assure his people that the United States was closely consulting him at every turn.[37] He wanted to make sure the American approach was neither too hot nor too cold at each stage of negotiations and sought to communicate this to South Koreans. The United States and South Korea were not in lockstep during the Agreed Framework, and Seoul worried about not having direct access to the North Koreans on a matter central to its national security. Kim Young-sam’s successor, Kim Dae-jung, came from the opposite end of the South Korean political spectrum and wholeheartedly endorsed engaging North Korea. Kim Dae-jung made history with the first inter-Korean summit in 2000 — just five months before the election of George W. Bush. Kim Dae-jung’s “Sunshine Policy” sought to change North Korean behavior through unconditional engagement, while Bush settled on a more confrontational approach to North Korea’s objectionable actions. Alliance managers sought to keep the two sides linked, but it remained an ongoing challenge.[38] Differences among allies are inevitable, but the combined approach provides reasons for optimism that this time may be different. Never before has an inter-Korean summit, let alone two, been explicitly set up ahead of a U.S.-North Korea summit. The South Korean presidential office recognizes that it cannot push North Korean denuclearization alone and has sought to influence U.S. engagement with the North Koreans as well as its own. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has met early success with balancing his policy of engaging North Korea while keeping the United States firmly invested in the process. The road is long, and it will become even more difficult. The two sides will face tough choices and trade-offs as the North Koreans begin to articulate their core demands. Nevertheless, Washington and Seoul have gotten off to a solid start. Peace Regime In contrast to previous diplomatic rounds, North Korea’s long-held demand to negotiate a peace treaty to replace the armistice and formally end the Korean War seems to be on the table. The Agreed Framework did not mention a peace regime or peace-treaty negotiations, but it opened the door to four-party talks —among the United States, North Korea, South Korea, and China — on these topics.[39] The Agreed Framework contained U.S. security guarantees to Pyongyang but lacked a specific and concrete quid pro quo on denuclearization and a peace regime. The 2005 joint statement promised to “negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum.”[40] The Russians convened the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism Working Group in Moscow three times. It was one of the five working groups of the six-party talks, but it did not produce concrete outcomes. The United States favored discussing a peace regime after North Korea denuclearized, and Pyongyang did not want to wait.[41] The six-party talks, in practice, produced an agreement for denuclearization in exchange for sanctions relief and aid. Demanding that North Korea denuclearize amounts to asking it to voluntarily relinquish the world’s most powerful weapons. And reminders that its nuclear development violates international law do not move Pyongyang. Likewise, sanctions relief and aid can contribute to North Korea’s economy but would not supplant the security that it believes nuclear weapons provide. Declassified documents from Pyongyang’s socialist-bloc allies demonstrate that, in the 1970s, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung saw peace-treaty negotiations as a means to try to reduce and ultimately end the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula. One of his senior party officials told a friendly foreign delegation in 1972,
The international public sees as just and honest our proposal to conclude a peace treaty between the two Koreas, to withdraw American forces and to reduce the militaries. If we conclude a peace treaty, the Americans would have no reason to stay there.[42]
The intervening four decades have produced varying assessments of North Korea’s intentions and objectives regarding peace regime negotiations. The United States will have to wait for Kim Jong Un’s articulation of his specific demands to adjudicate between competing assessments. One thing, however, is fairly certain: North Korea will seek to supplant its perceived security losses from denuclearization with phased and reciprocal adjustments to the U.S. military presence on and around the Korean Peninsula. How is this good news? Most analysts say that North Korean denuclearization is simply impossible.[43] Kim Jong Un does not want to go the way of Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, who, lacking a nuclear deterrent, met their violent deaths after U.S.-led or -supported military operations. The peace regime issue brings to the fore difficult trade-offs and options for the highest-level decisions by elected U.S. leaders and American allies. After hearing the North Korean demands, seeking to negotiate them down, and considering the verifiable implementation measures, the United States and its allies will face a basic decision: Is the trade-off worth it at any stage? Elected leaders may have to consider difficult adjustments to the U.S. military presence on the peninsula, such as the size and scope of military exercises, strategic asset deployment, and the nature of the permanent presence in exchange for verified, late-stage steps toward denuclearization. They may decide that whatever deal is on the table with North Korea is not worth the cost, but an acceptable deal might be laid out as well. Having North Korea’s demands communicated directly from its leader to America’s is superior to wading through the many contrasting assessments of what North Korea really wants. Learning The Trump administration has the benefit of being able to learn from the past. Secretary of State Pompeo has noted repeatedly that he has read the CIA’s history of negotiations with North Korea and vowed not to repeat past mistakes. Unlike the Agreed Framework negotiators, Pompeo has historical points of reference on negotiating with North Korea about its nuclear program. One lesson is the importance of blocking North Korea from pocketing concessions. If Pyongyang can reverse its concessions, the United States and its allies must be able to do the same. This simple lesson has not been followed in earlier negotiations. In 2007, the six parties agreed to “Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement,” which laid out in specific terms the first round of reciprocal steps to implement the 2005 agreement. North Korea pledged to disable its Yongbyon reactor, allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to monitor the disablement, and issue a “list of all of its nuclear programs as described in the Joint Statement.” The “parallel” action from the United States included removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, lifting sanctions imposed through the Trading with the Enemy Act, and providing an initial tranche of heavy fuel oil as energy assistance.[44] North Korea’s disablement procedures were temporary, reversible, and intended to elicit further implementation protocols that did indeed come. When the six-party talks failed in 2008 over verification issues, North Korea was in a position to expel IAEA inspectors and move to restart the Yongbyon reactor immediately, though it delayed the restart for several years. After North Korea expelled the inspectors, the United States quickly reimposed by executive order the same authorities found in the Trading with the Enemy Act,[45] and North Korea lost out on deliveries of heavy fuel oil. The United States could not, however, reinstate North Korea on the terrorism list immediately. Once removed, relisting legally required North Korea to commit another terrorist act, and the United States did not reimpose this designation until 2017.[46] While some have argued that the United States could have relisted North Korea earlier under certain legal interpretations, the sort of “snapback” sanctions like those embedded in the Iran nuclear agreement did not exist to discourage North Korea from trying to pocket concessions in the first place. In the absence of an external enforcement mechanism or a broader relationship that keeps other international agreements on track, carefully crafted quid pro quos that have equal degrees of reversibility and importance can help sustain lasting agreements by maintaining the same incentive structure for both sides to continue abiding by the terms. [quote id="4"] Learning from history also requires a balanced understanding of past events. Since writing history is the practice of selecting which past events are significant enough to merit recording, there is always room for author bias. A one-sentence history of North Korea-related nuclear negotiations could simply note that no effort has achieved North Korea’s complete denuclearization. At this most basic level, American and allied negotiators failed to meet their core objective. If one delves more deeply, however, the history quickly becomes more complex. Both nuclear agreements delayed and degraded North Korea’s nuclear program — and a reciprocal price was paid for these concessions. The Agreed Framework verifiably froze for eight years North Korea’s plutonium program, which was its only fissile material production facility at the time of the negotiations. North Korea had three plutonium reactors under construction ahead of the Agreed Framework — one five megawatts, one 50 megawatts, and one 200 megawatts. The smallest of the three was the most developed, but the Agreed Framework effectively put the nail in the coffin of the other two.[47] Some point to a counterfactual to highlight the value of this nuclear agreement: “Experts estimate that without the Agreed Framework, North Korea could have hundreds of nuclear weapons at this point.”[48] But the Agreed Framework was a nuclear agreement, not a plutonium agreement, and North Korea cheated by initiating a uranium enrichment path to the bomb during the framework’s shaky years of implementation. The United States provided North Korea with more than $400 million in energy assistance. South Korea and Japan contributed additional significant sums through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO).[49] Concurrently, the United States and its international partners provided humanitarian assistance to North Korea during its late 1990s famine, which was never explicitly linked to the nuclear agreement. Critics charged that the aid propped up the regime amid its greatest existential crisis since the Korean War.[50] Likewise, the six-party talks verifiably shut down North Korea’s plutonium reactor for six years. It did not concretely address, however, the nascent but growing uranium enrichment threat. North Korea also received sanctions relief, some of which was not reversed until last year. Pyongyang was returned its unfrozen assets from a Macau bank and, more significantly, changed its banking practices to limit America’s ability to impose the same type of financial pain using the same tool.[51] Proponents and opponents of engagement argue about what would have happened without these agreements. But counterfactuals are a dangerous analytical tool. It is impossible to know what would have happened if one historical variable had shifted. Would North Korea have more than 100 nuclear weapons today with three functioning plutonium reactors had there been no Agreed Framework? Or would the regime have collapsed under its own weight without the Western aid? It is impossible to say. Everyone has preconceived ideas and biases, but critical readers of this history who seek to genuinely learn from the past should be equally wary of counterfactuals that support or oppose preconceived ideas.

Conclusion

History is messy. Neither proponents nor opponents of the Trump-Kim summit should feel confident that history is on their side. History reveals reasons for pessimism, optimism, and caution. Attempting to critically engage the history of these nuclear negotiations can help the United States narrow uncertainty, prepare for a long diplomatic process should one transpire, and perhaps learn some tactical lessons. Given the paucity of concrete data on Kim Jong Un and his decision-making, humility in analysis is warranted. Confident statements about what the North Korean leader seeks before he tells us are misplaced. North Korea’s nuclear program has advanced significantly since the last nuclear deals, but the two sides seem to be getting closer to a formula for a possible deal. Any deal — if one is indeed possible — is likely to involve difficult trade-offs for both sides. Experts can help illuminate public debate on the merits of these trade-offs, but elected leaders will ultimately need wisdom for the hard decisions ahead. Patrick McEachern is an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations and a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He is co-author of North Korea, Iran, and the Challenge to International Order (Routledge: 2018). The views expressed in this essay do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State or the U.S. government. ISSN (Print): 2576-1021 ISSN(Online): 2576-1153 Image: Roman Harak [post_title] => Marching Toward a U.S.-North Korea Summit: The Historical Case for Optimism, Pessimism, and Caution [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => marching-toward-a-u-s-north-korea-summit-the-historical-case-for-optimism-pessimism-and-caution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-07-06 11:37:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-06 15:37:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://tnsr.org/?p=606 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [lead] => The history of denuclearization efforts on the Korean peninsula gives reason for pessimism, caution, and optimism. Attempting to critically engage that history can help the United States narrow uncertainty, prepare for a long diplomatic process should one transpire, and perhaps learn some tactical lessons. [pubinfo] => [issue] => Vol 1, Iss 3 [quotes] => Array ( [0] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => His is not a start-up business seeking proof of concept but, rather, an established enterprise with a demonstrated ability to detonate increasingly powerful nuclear weapons. ) [1] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => It is not clear how many uranium enrichment sites North Korea has because they are easier to hide than their plutonium counterparts. ) [2] => Array ( [author] => [style] => left [text] => It is natural and appropriate to look to the history of U.S.-North Korean and multilateral denuclearization efforts for insights into the upcoming talks. First, however, one must consider whether Kim Jong Un is following his father’s playbook. ) [3] => Array ( [author] => [style] => right [text] => The United States, South Korea, and Japan have many more shared interests and values than differences, but North Korea knows where to find natural cleavages and has traditionally sought to exploit them. ) ) [style] => strategist [type] => Strategist [style_label] => The Strategist [download] => Array ( [title] => PDF Download [file] => 639 ) [authors] => Array ( [0] => 180 ) [endnotes] => Array ( [title] => Endnotes [endnotes] => [1] The effort toward complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization is known as CVID. [2] The South Korean government has been at the forefront of the optimists, arguing that this round of summits could portend a different outcome than past attempts. See its website dedicated to the series of summits — called Peace, A New Start — and articles such as that by Xu Aiying and Sohn JiAe, “Inter-Korean Summit Makes Headlines Around the World,” Peace, A New Start: 2018 Inter-Korean Summit, May 1, 2018, http://www.korea.net/Government/Current-Affairs/National-Affairs/view?affairId=656&subId=640&articleId=158382. For a critique arguing that history suggests greater pessimism around the summits, see Bruce Klingner, “Nice Try, North Korea and South Korea, But Your Pledges Are Airy, Empty Confections,” Los Angeles Times, May 1, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-klingner-north-korea-declaration-is-mostly-empty-promises-20180501-story.html. [3] “Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” is standard language that has been used throughout post-Cold War diplomacy with North Korea on its nuclear program. It is in the 1992 “Joint Declaration of South And North Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the 1994 Agreed Framework, the 2005 “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” and the 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, among other agreements. As operationalized in these agreements and pursued in practice, the phrase refers to the elimination of North Korean facilities that can produce fissile materials for nuclear weapons and verified removal of any nuclear weapons on the peninsula. [4] For a more thorough overview of the 1994 Agreed Framework, see Kelsey Davenport, “The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, August 2017, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/agreedframework. [5] For an overview of the six-party talks, see Kelsey Davenport, “The Six-Party Talks at a Glance,” Arms Control Association, July 2017, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/6partytalks. [6] Department of State, “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” Sept. 19, 2005, https://www.state.gov/p/eap/regional/c15455.htm. [7] “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks.” [8] For more on North Korea’s first nuclear test, see Emma Chanlett-Avery and Sharon Squassoni, North Korea’s Nuclear Test: Motivations, Implications, and U.S. Options (Washington: Congressional Research Service, Oct. 24, 2006), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL33709.pdf. [9] Thermonuclear weapons, also known as hydrogen bombs, utilize fusion and can produce a more powerful blast, while atomic weapons utilize fission. For a short and readable article on the difference and its application to North Korea, see Stephanie Pappas, “Hydrogen Bomb vs. Atomic Bomb: What’s the Difference?” Live Science, Sept. 22, 2017, https://www.livescience.com/53280-hydrogen-bomb-vs-atomic-bomb.html. [10] “North Korea Nuclear Tests: What Did They Achieve?” BBC, Sept. 3, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-17823706. [11] Patrick McEachern, “North Korea’s Nuclear Doctrine Under Kim Jong Un,” APLN Policy Brief, Dec. 21, 2017, http://www.a-pln.org/_mobile/briefings/briefings_view.html?seq=1030. [12] “No Dong 1,” Center for Strategic and International Studies Missile Defense Project, accessed June 1, 2018, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/no-dong/. [13] Alex Wagner, “Albright Visits North Korea; Progress Made on Missile Front,” Arms Control Association, November 2000, https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_11/albrighttalks. “North Korea Test-Fires Several Missiles,” New York Times, July 4, 2006, https://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/04/world/asia/04cnd-korea.html. [14] The U.N. Security Council has criticized North Korea’s ballistic missile development and demanded the suspension of “all ballistic missile related activity” in a series of resolutions since North Korea’s 2006 Taepo Dong-2 launch. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1695, adopted in 2006, demands that North Korea suspend “all ballistic missile related activity.” The Security Council’s demand is not limited to missiles of a certain range given the ability to test components of long-range missiles using short-range launches. Likewise, the resolutions’ wording effectively demands the cessation of rocket launches configured as a space launch for satellites as these launches also can be used to test and refine technologies for long-range ballistic missiles. [15] Korean Central News Agency, “Kim Jong Un Guides Test Fire of ICBM Hwasong 15,” Nov. 29, 2017. [16] Kim’s claim is probably premature given some additional technical hurdles and unfinished business on some systems such as the GORAE-class ballistic missile submarine. [17] Korean Central News Agency, “Kim Jong Un Guides Test Fire of ICBM Hwasong 15,” Nov. 29, 2017. [18] CIA, Untitled Unclassified Estimate, Nov. 19, 2002, GALE Document Number KQUSOP990053924. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf later noted that Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan delivered centrifuges to North Korea in 2000, as recounted by Sigfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Siegfried S. Hecker, “What I Found in North Korea: Pyongyang’s Plutonium Is No Longer the Only Problem,” Foreign Affairs, Dec. 9, 2010, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/northeast-asia/2010-12-09/what-i-found-north-korea?page=show. [19] A prominent North Korean defector claimed that a decision to enrich may have been made as early as 1996, and the South Korean foreign minister asserted the same. North Korean imports of the critical components followed in subsequent years. Kim Yong Hun, “North Korea Obtained HEU from Pakistan,” DailyNK, Aug. 11, 2010, http://english.dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk02200&num=6680. Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Started Uranium Program in 1990s, South Says,” New York Times, Jan. 6, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/07/world/asia/07korea.html. [20] For an excellent technical discussion, see David Albright, “North Korea’s Nuclear Capabilities: A Fresh Look,” Aug. 9, 2017, http://isis-online.org/isis-reports/detail/north-koreas-nuclear-capabilities-a-fresh-look-power-point-slides/10. Albright cautions that these estimates are “rough” and require a variety of informed assumptions about North Korea’s nuclear operations, bomb design, and other variables. Numbers cited here are rounded to the nearest whole nuclear weapon and reflect median estimates for “weapons equivalents.” [21] Siegfried S. Hecker, “Nuclear Developments in North Korea,” (Stanford University: Center for International Security and Cooperation, Mar. 20, 2012), https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/HeckerPBNCfinal.pdf. [22] Condoleezza Rice, No Higher Honor (New York: Crown Publishers, 2011). [23] Department of State, “Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement,” Oct. 3, 2007, https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2007/oct/93217.htm. [24] Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Limits Tests of Nuclear Site,” New York Times, Nov. 12, 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/13/world/asia/13korea.html. [25] Kim Hakjoon, Dynasty: The Hereditary Succession Politics of North Korea (Stanford, CA: Walter Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, 2015), 101. [26] Patrick McEachern, Inside the Red Box: North Korea’s Post-Totalitarian Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), 43–44. [27] Andrei Lankov, “NK’s Founding Father, Kim Il-Sung,” Korea Times, Apr. 17, 2016, http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2016/04/638_202760.html. [28] Barbara Demick, “Secret Tape Recordings of Kim Jong Il Provide Rare Insight into the Psyche of his North Korean Regime,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 27, 2016, http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-kimtapes-snap-20161026-story.html. [29] For a more in-depth discussion of differences in ruling style and approach between Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un, see Patrick McEachern, “Centralizing North Korean Policymaking Under Kim Jong Un,” Asian Perspective (forthcoming). [30] Charles Kartman, Robert Carlin, and Joel Wit, “Policy in Context: A History of KEDO, 1994–2006” (Stanford, CA: Center for International Security Cooperation and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, June 2012), https://cisac.fsi.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/A_History_of_KEDO-1.pdf. [31] James B. Steinberg, “The Bush Foreign Policy Revolution,” Brookings Institution, June 1, 2003, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-bush-foreign-policy-revolution/. [32] Mike Chinoy, Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008). [33] Noah Bierman, “Trump Warns North Korea of ‘Fire and Fury,’” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 8, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/washington/la-na-essential-washington-updates-trump-warns-north-korea-of-fire-and-1502220642-htmlstory.html. [34] “Trump Calls Kim Jong Un ‘Little Rocket Man’ on Twitter,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 30, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-updates-everything-president-trump-calls-kim-jong-un-little-rocket-1512093131-htmlstory.html. [35] For the most comprehensive and succinct criticism of the idea of limited military strikes, see Abraham M. Denmark, “The Myth of the Limited Strike on North Korea,” Foreign Affairs, Jan. 9, 2018, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/north-korea/2018-01-09/myth-limited-strike-north-korea. [36] Carol Morello, Anna Fifield, and David Nakamura, “North Korea Frees 3 American Prisoners Ahead of a Planned Trump-Kim Summit,” Washington Post, May 9, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/pompeo-north-korea-can-haverichly-deserved-opportunities-in-return-for-peace/2018/05/09/b51febfa-51a4-11e8-b00a-17f9fda3859b_story.html. [37] “Living History with Former ROK Foreign Minister Han Sung-joo,” Beyond Parallel, Dec. 5, 2016, https://beyondparallel.csis.org/living-history-han-sung-joo/. Choe Sang-hun, “Korean Crisis Is Different This Time,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/04/world/asia/04iht-letter.html. [38] Charles L. Pritchard, Failed Diplomacy: The Tragic Story of How North Korea Got the Bomb (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2007). [39] James L. Schoff and Yaron Eisenberg, Peace Regime Building on the Korean Peninsula: What’s Next? (Cambridge, MA: Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, May 2009), 3, http://www.ifpa.org/pdf/PeaceRegimeInterimMay09.pdf. [40] “Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks,” https://www.state.gov/p/eap/regional/c15455.htm. [41] R. Michael Schiffer, “Envisioning a Northeast Asian Peace and Security Mechanism,” in Understanding New Political Realities in Seoul, ed. L. Gordon Flake and Park Ro-byug (Washington: Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, 2008), 59–78. [42] P. Urjinlhundev, “Protocols of the Talks between Mongolian and North Korean Government Delegations,” Mar. 17, 1972. [43] For a sophisticated statement of this position and its implications for policy, see Sung Chull Kim and Michael D. Cohen, eds., North Korea and Nuclear Weapons: Entering the New Era of Deterrence (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2017). [44] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, “Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement,” Feb. 13, 2007, http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/n_korea/6party/action0702.html. [45] The White House, “Letter – Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea,” Jan. 2, 2015, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/01/02/letter-imposing-additional-sanctions-respect-north-korea. [46] Michael D. Shear and David E. Sanger, “Trump Returns North Korea to List of State Sponsors of Terrorism,” New York Times, Nov. 20, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/20/us/politics/north-korea-trump-terror.html. [47] Federation of American Scientists, “Yongbyon,” Mar. 4, 2000, https://fas.org/nuke/guide/dprk/facility/yongbyon.htm. [48] Davenport, “The U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework at a Glance.” [49] Mark E. Manyin and Mary Beth D. Nikitin, Foreign Assistance to North Korea (Washington: Congressional Research Service, April 2014), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R40095.pdf. [50] For a succinct and contemporary review of competing arguments for and against aid, among other considerations, see Robert A. Manning and James Przystup, “Starve North Korea — Or Save It? Right Now We’re Doing Both,” Washington Post, June 23, 1996, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/opinions/1996/06/23/starve-north-korea-or-save-it-right-now-were-doing-both/97ea3f5d-511b-4286-b743-be7e6ef1efa9/. [51] John Park and Jim Walsh, Stopping North Korea, Inc.: Sanctions Effectiveness and Unintended Consequences (Cambridge, MA: MIT Security Studies Program, August 2016), 16, https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/Stopping%20North%20Korea%20Inc%20Park%20and%20Walsh%20.pdf. ) [contents] => Array ( [title] => [contents] => ) ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 2 [max_num_pages] => 1 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => 1 [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 764035ccb6d23ca0bff7c1ac363c85c8 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )