- - Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The North Korean nuclear and missile programs are growing threats to the global community. To date, the international community’s response to these programs has been weak and ineffective.

The imposition of additional sanctions on North Korea has not prevented North Korea from building more nuclear weapons and more missile delivery systems. It has not prevented North Korea from threatening South Korea, Japan and the U.S. with a nuclear attack. And sanctions have not persuaded North Korea to return to negotiations. Clearly, a new strategy is necessary.

Since 2008, after the Six Party Talks came to a halt when North Korea refused to sign a monitoring and verification regime it had orally agreed to, the North has had three successful nuclear tests (in 2009, 2012 and 2016) and numerous ballistic missile launches, putting two satellites into orbit. North Korea’s nuclear programs, plutonium and enriched uranium, continue to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, and their missile programs continue to move forward, with short-range Scuds, midrange No Dongs and long-range Taepodong ballistic missiles. North Korean media recently reported that the nation was working on miniaturization of its nuclear weapons and developing the capability to mate nuclear weapons with their ballistic missiles.

As the leaders of the international community come together for the fourth Nuclear Security Summit, in an effort to ensure that nuclear weapons and fissile material are never acquired by terrorists and rogue states, North Korea remains unhinged, building more nuclear weapons and producing more fissile material. Indeed, this is a North Korea that has sold missiles to Iran, Libya and Syria. It is a North Korea that has assisted Syria with the construction of a nuclear reactor in Al Kibar that, fortunately, was destroyed by Israel in September 2007.

I remember one of my first formal meetings in Beijing in 2003 with a North Korean negotiator, who informed me that if a nuclear agreement to Pyongyang’s liking was not possible, then North Korea could build more nuclear weapons, test these weapons and sell them. My response was clear: Selling nuclear weapons would cross a red line, with severe consequences.



Over the years, however, as North Korea conducted nuclear tests and declared its uranium enrichment program in 2010 — thus admitting to another path for nuclear weapons — the task of getting North Korea to agree to comprehensive and verifiable denuclearization, in return for security assurances and other deliverables, had become more difficult. It was during this period of nuclear and missile escalation that formal six-party and bilateral negotiations with North Korea ceased.

A nuclear North Korea can lead to a nuclear arms race in the region, as South Korea and Japan consider acquiring their own nuclear weapons despite the extended nuclear deterrence the U.S. provides to these two allies. A nuclear-armed North Korea, or faction within the government, eventually may decide to sell a nuclear weapon or fissile materials for a price because sanctions are biting and fewer customers are buying North Korean missiles and conventional weapons. Nuclear proliferation of this type could affect the security of all countries.

After 13 years of failed six-party nuclear negotiations, it’s time for a change.

The North Korea nuclear issue is international and requires an international solution. The P-5 plus 1 with the European Union was successful in its nuclear negotiations with Iran, culminating with the Joint Plan of Action. Similar senior attention should be applied to the North Korea nuclear issue, with the P-5 plus 2 (South Korea and Japan), at the secretary of state level, proposing meetings with counterparts in North Korea to discuss and negotiate a nuclear agreement that would provide North Korea with security assurances, a peace treaty, economic and energy developmental aid and the provision of light-water reactors in exchange for a comprehensive and verifiable denuclearization agreement.

Persuading North Korea to enter into these negotiations should not be difficult. This is where China can use its significant leverage with North Korea to get Pyongyang to agree to these talks. Previously, we relied on China to resolve the nuclear issue with North Korea. That didn’t happen, and China was clear in stating that its leverage with North Korea was limited, in that instability on the Korean Peninsula (if China pushed too hard) was something China could not accept.

However, getting North Korea to sit down with the P-5 plus 2 countries to discuss denuclearization and other issues should be achievable and desirable for all participating countries. Indeed, getting North Korea to immediately halt all nuclear tests and missile launches during these discussions should be the first order of business.

The participation of Britain and France, as part of the P-5, would broaden the scope of these discussions and help emphasize that the nuclear issue with North Korea is global, affecting all countries.

Ambassador Joseph R. DeTrani is president of the Daniel Morgan Academy, a new graduate school. He was the special envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea from 2003 to 2005. The views are the author’s and not the views of any government agency or department.

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