March 01, 2012

Emphasis on Denuclearization Undermines U.S. Policy toward North Korea, Says CNAS Expert

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
today by CNAS, Dr. Cronin contends that the diplomatic accord leaves in place an unsettling
set of economic realities and trends on the peninsula.

North Korean collapse
does not appear imminent, but hard choices are necessary to prevent North Korea
from becoming entirely dependent on China. Over the past decade, China's
tenfold increase in investment in North Korea has eclipsed inter-Korean
economic engagement. Only an eight-year-old industrial park near Kaesong,
just north of the demilitarized zone, keeps alive the symbol of North-South
peace and possible reunification.

Download Vital
Venture: Economic Engagement of North Korea and the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

In Vital Venture, Dr.
Cronin explores the unique role of the Kaesong Industrial Complex and argues
that "given recent developments on the Korean peninsula, 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 Korean 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."


Center for a New
American Security
(CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research
institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security
and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the
national security leaders of today and tomorrow.