February 28, 2022

Building a Flywheel: The Biden Administration’s Opportunity to Forge a New Path with North Korea

Washington, February 28, 2022—In 2022 North Korea has tested seven missiles in the month of January alone. The last test was Pyongyang’s most powerful test of a ballistic missile in nearly five years. In response, the United States has once again called upon the United Nations to impose more sanctions on North Korea. Amid these developments, the Biden administration has repeatedly attempted to initiate diplomatic talks without preconditions, to which the Kim regime has so far been unresponsive.

In a timely new CNAS report, "Building a Flywheel: The Biden Administration’s Opportunity to Forge a New Path with North Korea," CNAS Indo-Pacific Security Program Adjunct Senior Fellow Dr. John Park argues that several developments in recent years have called into question the efficacy of relying primarily on sanctions to change North Korean behavior. Instead, Dr. Park lays out U.S. actions that would enable the creation of a “flywheel effect,” “or a structured series of decision points and wins to build momentum toward risk reduction and denuclearization.”

The report also highlights the risks associated with pursuing this approach, including North Korea pocketing sanctions relief and halting additional denuclearization activities, and China decreasing the appeal of lifting sanctions by expanding its engagement policy with North Korea. These risks, however, can be mitigated by persistent U.S. messaging to North Korea that the above larger wins are contingent upon both sides’ sustained actions.

For more information or to schedule an interview with the report author, please contact Cameron Edinburgh cedinburgh@cnas.org.

Indo-Pacific Security

Building a Flywheel

Executive Summary As the United States seeks to maintain a level of stability in its increasingly competitive relationship with China, North Korea has the potential to complic...

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  • Dr. John Park

    Adjunct Senior Fellow, Indo-Pacific Security Program, Director, Korea Project, Harvard Kennedy School

    Dr. John Park is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security focusing on the political economy of the Korean Peninsula, nuclear proliferation, economic ...