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Next Steps on North Korea: Recommendations from the Arms Control Association

For Immediate Release: October 13, 2006

Press Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107; Paul Kerr, (202) 463-8270 x102

(Washington, D.C.): In a detailed address on North Korea's declared nuclear test, the executive director of the nonpartisan Arms Control Association said that North Korea's apparent nuclear test explosion "constitutes one of the greatest nonproliferation policy failures in the history of the nuclear age because it was a preventable outcome. It is past time to adjust course in order to minimize the damage."

In his October 11 address to a symposium organized by the Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS), Kimball said, "U.S., Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and South Korean leaders need to come to grips with the fact that a 'business as usual' reiteration of previous calls for North Korea to return to the six-party talks and tighter sanctions on the already isolated regime will not work."

"The UN Security Council needs to act in a manner that makes clear that Pyongyang's nuclear test is out of bounds," Kimball argued. "To do so, Security Council member states should authorize appropriate punitive sanctions to go into effect only if North Korea formally refuses to rejoin the six-party talks by a certain date or makes further statements threatening nuclear tests or ballistic missile launches," he suggested.

"But it is naive to think that punitive international or national sanctions alone will reverse North Korea's course or force the collapse of the regime," Kimball noted. "In fact, it is more likely that additional sanctions will harden North Korea's position, especially if China and South Korea do not support and implement the proscribed actions and if the United States does not, in some way or another, appear to try to meet North Korea's stated concerns," Kimball said.

"To break the current action-reaction cycle, President Bush needs to adjust his failed strategy and announce that senior U.S. officials are prepared to meet anywhere, anytime in a bilateral setting with North Korean officials to resolve issues of concern so long as North Korea also agrees to return to the six-party talks and refrains from further nuclear or missile tests. At the same time, negotiations cannot succeed if North Korea maintains its threat to conduct additional tests," Kimball stressed.

"President Bush has been misled into believing that direct negotiations with an enemy is reward for bad behavior and that previous efforts during the Clinton years did not work. The Agreed Framework was the result of bilateral negotiations supported by U.S. allies and the effort clearly succeeded in preventing North Korea from producing plutonium for eight-plus years. The right package can still lead North Korea to denuclearize over time. The September 19, 2005 six-party Joint Statement provides the blueprint," Kimball said.

Policymakers cannot afford to overlook the importance of resolving the U.S.-North Korean dispute about the September 2005 Treasury Department action to freeze North Korean financial assets linked to North Korean government agencies and front companies engaged in illicit activities, Kimball noted. "Meetings with North Korean officials to resolve the matter in a business-like manner would increase the possibility that more urgent talks on nuclear weapons issues can resume," Kimball recommended.

"North Korean money laundering activities deserve to be shut down, but U.S. officials have mistakenly thought the financial sanctions would increase bargaining leverage on nuclear issues with North Korea. Instead, they have helped derail the diplomatic process," Kimball said.

Kimball also said that it is not only important to clarify the costs of defiance for North Korea, but also to clarify the benefits of cooperation and compliance. Kimball recommended that "the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea should quickly develop a coordinated and detailed proposal outlining which actions they would be prepared to take with respect to implementation of the September 2005 Joint Statement if North Korea agrees to verifiably freeze plutonium production."

"A halt to plutonium production is the first step toward containing the North's program and capping the supply of its arsenal and the possible sale of bomb material to other states or to terrorist organizations," he said.

"The North Korean nuclear crisis is just one of several developments that make it clear that the nonproliferation system needs to be strengthened and updated, not abandoned or ignored," Kimball noted. "Leading states must not only work together to develop a more effective diplomatic approach on North Korea, but they must also implement tougher international safeguards on all nuclear programs, establish better controls on the spread of uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, secure a global halt to the production of fissile material for weapons purposes, achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and take new steps to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons," Kimball said.

The full text of Kimball's remarks on North Korea are available online. For more information on the Arms Control Association’s plan to strengthen the nonproliferation system, please see www.NPT2005.org

Additional ACA resources on North Korea, including a chronology and series of Arms Control Today news reports detailing the long-running crisis, are available on ACA's North Korea country resource page.

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The Arms Control Association (ACA) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting effective arms control policies.

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