Former U.S. Government Official on North Korea Details Strategy for Defusing Current Crisis

For Immediate Release: January 15, 2003

Press Contact: Peter Scoblic at (202) 463-8270 x108

(Washington, D.C.): Joel S. Wit, a former U.S. government official who served as coordinator for the 1994 U.S.-North Korean Agreed Framework that froze North Korea’s plutonium-based nuclear weapons program, writes in the latest issue of "Arms Control Today" that diplomacy, not isolation, will
prevent the ongoing standoff with North Korea from worsening and provide a solution to the crisis.

Noting that the Bush administration appears to be in “disarray” on how to deal with North Korea’s ejection of international arms inspectors and moves to restart its nuclear reactor, Wit argues that diplomacy is the “linchpin” to fastening a multifaceted approach to end North Korea’s dangerous moves
that imperil regional security.

Wit, now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes that the diplomatic effort should pursue three goals: stopping the ongoing slide toward confrontation; verifiably ending North
Korea’s recently revealed and illicit effort to build nuclear weapons through uranium enrichment; and creating a process through which North Korea will permanently end its bid to become a nuclear power, relax military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and improve U.S.-North Korean relations.

Wit recommends seven steps that the Bush administration should take to accomplish these goals.

  • Place a single American official in charge of U.S. policy toward North Korea.
  • Continue implementing the 1994 Agreed Framework. Construction of light-water reactors in North Korea should not stop and North Korea should permit limited inspections. North Korea should also refrain from reprocessing its stored spent-fuel rods and restarting its reactor.
  • Win international backing to make clear that a peaceful agreement must be reached to halt North Korea’s treaty-breaking activities or it will suffer economic and political consequences.
  • Reaffirm that the United States respects North Korean sovereignty and will not attack the country.
  • Initiate talks, ideally through the International Atomic Energy Agency, to verifiably end North Korea’s uranium enrichment program.
  • Pledge a resumption of heavy-fuel oil deliveries to North Korea once it is evident that the uranium enrichment program is being dismantled.
  • Engage in broad negotiations with North Korea to improve bilateral relations.

Joel Wit can be contacted directly at (202) 887-0200. The full text of Wit’s article, “A Strategy for Defusing the North Korean Crisis,” is available at Additional information on North Korea, including a recent article by Leon V. Sigal on North Korea’s strategy, a
comprehensive timeline, and background information on the Agreed Framework and North Korea’s ballistic missile program can be found at


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The Arms Control Association is an independent, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting public understanding of and support for effective arms control policies. Established in 1971,the Association publishes the monthly journal, Arms Control Today.