The diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea this week re-establishes a baseline for future negotiations, but it has done nothing to fundamentally alter underlying security and economic problems on the peninsula, argues Dr. Patrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). In Vital Venture: Economic Engagement of North Korea and the Kaesong Industrial Complex, released today by CNAS, Dr. Cronin contends that the diplomatic accord leaves in place an unsettling set of economic realities and trends on the peninsula and that "the United States must undertake a systematic strategic review of North Korea policy" for three primary reasons:
1. The short-term need for engagement, information and probing is more urgent than the longer-term goal of denuclearization and may ultimately better serve that outcome.
2. Engagement and probing are urgently needed to better understand North Korea's new leadership and to have even a chance of establishing a new chapter in U.S.-DPRK relations.
3. The U.S.-ROK agreement to prioritize denuclearization in North Korea policy may unravel following South Korea elections in 2012.
Dr. Cronin concludes that "Predicting the future of North Korea is a perilous task. Yet by mixing engagement with a serious review of national and alliance policy options for 2013 and beyond, the United States can minimize friction in its alliance with South Korea and retain leverage for shaping the future regional security environment."