North Korea represents one of the
United States’ most pressing national security challenges. The DPRK’s
provocative nuclear and missile tests in the spring of 2009 were among the
first crises of the Obama administration and the latest saga in a long-term
struggle with Pyongyang. For over two decades – spanning Democratic and
Republican presidencies – Washington has tried to compel Pyongyang to “come
clean” and denuclearize. But after 20 years of negotiations that have seen
diplomats frantically criss-crossing the globe, there is no end in sight to
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Following the 2009 North Korean nuclear test, the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) produced a report, No Illusions: Regaining the Strategic Initiative with North Korea, to guide North Korea policy in the United States and Asia. Drawing on previous research conducted by CNAS and consultations with Korea experts in Washington, the report recommended a policy of strategic management that includes: reinforcing America’s allies, reducing the threat of DPRK proliferation, more robust sanctions and interdiction efforts, a Five-Party Dialogue and diplomatic “on-ramps” to facilitate Pyongyang’s return to negotiations.
CNAS is continuing its research on lessons learned from previous nuclear negotiations with North Korea. If and when the United States does engage with Pyongyang on the nuclear question at some point in the future, it will need to carefully consider the successes and failures of past efforts. The proper participants, structure, sequencing and issues to be addressed are all integral components of a successful process. Over the course of this project, CNAS researchers have consulted numerous negotiators with the DPRK, both in the United States and South Korea. CNAS has published a working paper, U.S.-DPRK Nuclear Negotiations: A Survey of the Policy Literature, as well as a final report on the team’s findings: Hard Lessons: Navigating Negotiations with the DPRK.
The December 2011 death of Kim Jong-il and the leadership transition in the DPRK requires a re-examination of dynamics on the Korean Peninsula and U.S. policies. Vital Venture: Economic Engagement of North Korea and the Kaesong Industrial Complex, authored by Dr. Patrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at CNAS, examines economic realities and trends on the Korean Peninsula and argues for a systematic U.S. strategic review of North Korea policy.