【Apr. 9, 2019】Reducing Nuclear Dangers on the Korean Peninsula: Bilateral versus Multilateral Approaches (PSNA-WP-6)

Category : PSNA Activities

Reducing Nuclear Dangers on the Korean Peninsula:
Bilateral versus Multilateral Approaches

Thomas Graham, former US Ambassador,
Executive Chairman, Lightbridge Corporation

PSNA Working Paper Series (PSNA-WP-6)1

April 9, 2019

[PDF version]


This paper addresses the important issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. It reviews alternate solutions: an essentially bilateral solution with the United States as an associated party and a multilateral regime establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in a designated part of Northeast Asia which would include the militarily significant states in the region along with the NPT nuclear weapon states as associated parties. The effectiveness of a non-binding pledge versus a legally binding agreement and the possible availability of a nuclear assurance commitment itself a non-binding declaration or a legally binding obligation is analyzed. The verification requirements of a legally binding arrangement are outlined and associated issues such as transit through the zone established by an agreed arrangement are considered. The political salience of the two types of solutions, bilateral and multilateral is commented upon: for example what has the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] indicated it would accept and the likelihood that the DPRK is now prepared to be, or can be, persuaded to make the hard decision to eliminate weapons and accede to the vast verification requirements of a legally binding regime; and whether the United States would be willing to provide a negative nuclear assurance of any sort in a bilateral non-binding agreement situation as well as the level of verification it might demand in a legally binding agreement.

1 This working paper is published under a 4.0 International Creative Commons License the terms of which are found here ( It is published also by the Nautilus Institute as a NAPSNet Special Report ( and Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (here), and by the Research Center for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, Nagasaki University (RECNA), as a Working Paper ( of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA). PSNA acknowledges its kind contribution from the Nautilus Institute on publication of this paper. The views expressed here is of author’s own and do not necessarily reflect views of PSNA or RECNA.



The Korean Denuclearization Declaration (signed January 20, 1992, into force February 19, 1992) committed the two Koreas to agree not to test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy, or use nuclear weapons; to use nuclear energy solely for peaceful purposes; and not to possess facilities for nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment. The two Koreas also committed to conducting inspections of locations in the other Korea and established the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission (JNCC) to implement the inspections. However, since 1993, the JNCC has been unable to reach agreement on reciprocal inspections and none have taken place under its purview. Article 4 commits the two Koreas to verify the nuclear-free status of the Korean Peninsula within about two months from 19 March with inspections to begin in less than a month.[1]

However, the two sides were unable to agree on the frequency of inspections, and their demands on what would be inspected were also a-symmetric, with the ROK demanding inspections of any suspect locations in the DPRK; and the DPRK demanding that it also be able to inspect any US military facilities in the ROK. In June, the issue came to a head over the DPRK’s demands and the ROK’s rejection of North Korean inspections of US military facilities in the ROK, and by October 1992, multiple disagreements surfaced in the JNCC talks, and the implementation of the inspection regime ground to a halt in December 1992 as suspicions increased about North Korean reprocessing, and the US and the ROK began to prepare for the next Team Spirit exercises.

Not only was the agreement not legally binding (because it was struck between the two Koreas on the basis of their special interim relationship stemming from the process towards unification as stated in the preamble of the South-North Basic Agreement and in the recently legislated ‘Act for development of the south-north relationship’),[2] but it also lacked a number of the key attributes of a meaningful NWFZ as defined by UN Disarmament Commission in its 1999 report, including:

1. Total absence of nuclear weapons: any states should not develop, test, manufacture, produce, acquire, possess, store, transport and deploy nuclear weapons within a nuclear weapons-free zone;
2. Effective verification of compliance;
3. Clearly defined boundaries;
4. Negative Security Assurance: legally binding commitments to the zone by the nuclear weapon states not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the zone parties

Ironically, the 1992 Joint Declaration went beyond a standard NWFZ in that it not only banned nuclear weapons in Korea (although it did not define the boundaries of the zone) by banning the possession of “nuclear reprocessing and uranium enrichment facilities,” it failed to establish an effective mechanism for verification of compliance (Article IV, V). Also, the Joint Declaration did not address the transit or transportation of nuclear weapons in or over its territorial waters, straits and international water, or airspace by a nuclear armed state (although the DPRK raised this issue at several JNCC meetings, it is a generic issue that relates equally to Chinese and Russian nuclear weapons in or around the Korean peninsula).[3]

Of great importance, the Joint Declaration imposed no obligation on the nuclear weapon states not to use or threat to use nuclear weapons against the two Koreas, and lacked any protocols that would have bound the nuclear weapon states to the Joint Declaration in this regard. Political statements by Russia and the United States welcoming the Joint Declaration and calling for the full implementation were no substitute for negative security assurances in a standard NWFZ treaty.

As noted above, the Joint Declaration foundered on the inspection mechanism, and is now moribund. However, moribund is not dead, in spite of the DPRK’s nuclear testing and declared armament, and the Denuclearization Declaration is an important common reference point referred to in the 1994 US-DPRK Agreed Framework, and in the September 19, 2005 Six Party Talks Principles and Joint Statement.

It also contains no provision for termination and therefore is arguably still in force with respect to the two Korea’s initial commitments, no matter how much (or little) each of them is in breach of the Joint Declaration.

As the two Koreas and the great powers, especially the United States, consider their options of the best political and legal framework in which to realize a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, it is prudent to note the strengths and weaknesses of the 1992 Joint Declaration, and to ascertain if a new but more comprehensive bilateral agreement might be used today, or whether an alternative, more robust multilateral framework exists such as a nuclear weapons-free zone that might subsume the 1992 Joint Denuclearization commitments, and overcome its evident shortfalls.

Need for Robust Legal Framework Today

As noted above, the bilateral framework has inherent limitations. It is conceivable that a new bilateral declaration might address some of the deficits of the 1992 Joint Declaration. For example, it is possible that the United States might consider issuing a nonbinding executive statement containing a security assurance directly to the DPRK. More than this, however, in the non-binding area does not appear possible. In general, on this and other critically important dimensions, it is necessary to search for a more robust legal framework in which to realize denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Following the Singapore Summit another attempt is being made to create such a framework. The DPRK and the ROK may prefer a solution that in its eyes would represent a broader commitment than a bi-lateral treaty. A multilateral treaty is not stronger than a bi-lateral treaty in a technical legal sense. But by creating legal obligations to more than one other state, violating such a treaty breaches treaty relations with more than one state thereby creating a somewhat greater penalty for the violating state. In this sense a multi-lateral treaty perhaps can create somewhat broader legal obligations and potentially greater penalties than a bi-lateral treaty. The best-known form to address nuclear disarmament in a broader regional setting is the nuclear weapon free zone treaty. Both sides say that the agreed objective is a denuclearization Agreement which covers the Korean Peninsula. However even though the objective of the two negotiating parties is the same in writing, substantively they are far different. For the United States the term means North Korea relinquishing all of its nuclear weapons. But to the DPRK the term means reducing nuclear weapons in a “balanced and synchronous way” as Kim Jong-un said to China President XI prior to the Singapore Summit. This means to North Korea that weapons are reduced only if certain conditions are met. These likely include ending the United States nuclear umbrella in East Asia and terminating the American presence in South Korea. The DPRK may want commitment to reductions by the U.S. as well. So, the two negotiating parties at this point are not even on the same page as to the desired end result. The DPRK appears unlikely to even consider Washington’s demand for “complete, verifiable, and universal” denuclearization—it would challenge the fundamental structure of North Korea’s political system.

What North Korea appears to mean by a security guarantee as a prerequisite for a commitment to denuclearization is a regime guarantee—an undertaking to keep the Kim hereditary political system intact and the absolute authority of the leader in place. However, it should be noted that in the 1994 Agreed Framework between the U.S. and the DPRK the North settled for the following in the text. “The U.S. will provide formal assurances to the DPRK, against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.” This Agreement was not a Treaty but it was an international agreement with legal force.

Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) Treaty

The nuclear weapon free zone treaty form is quite familiar to the world community. There exist five functioning treaty-based nuclear weapon free zones: Latin America (the Treaty of Tlatelolco—1967); South Pacific (the Treaty of Rarotonga—1985); Africa (the Treaty of Pelindaba—1996); South-east Asia (the Treaty of Bangkok—1997); and Central Asia (the Treaty of Semipalatinsk—2006); when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was negotiated in the late 1960s it explicitly codified—in Article VII—the right of the parties to the NPT to establish nuclear weapons free zones in their regions.

Responding to a proposal submitted by Finland, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) commissioned a comprehensive expert study (which was carried out at the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva) of NWFZs in 1974. It was completed in 1975. And it established multiple criteria for such a treaty:

“1 – Obligations related to the establishment of a nuclear weapon-free zone may be assumed not only by groups of states, including entire continents or large geographical regions, but also for smaller groups of states and even individual countries.

2 – Zonal arrangements must ensure the complete absence for the present and future nuclear weapons in the region covered by the treaty.

3 – The initiative for the zonal treaty must come from within the region concerned.

4 – If the zone is intended to embrace a region, the participation of all militarily significant states, and preferably all states, would be important.

5 – The zonal treaty must have an effective system of verification (the experts were of the view that the viability of the nuclear weapon free zone will largely depend on this).

6 – The treaty established must be of indefinite duration.”

In 1975 at the 30th session of the UNGA the United Nations on the initiative of Mexico defined the concept of a nuclear weapon free zone.

“A nuclear-weapon-free zone shall, as a general rule, be deemed to be any zone recognized as such by the United Nations General Assembly, which any group of states in the free exercise of their sovereignty, has established by virtue of a treaty or convention, whereby: (a) The statute of the total absence of nuclear weapons to which the zone shall be subject, including for the procedure of the delineation of the zone, is defined; (b) An international system of verification and control is established to guarantee compliance with the obligations deriving from that statute.”[4]

At the same time the General Assembly also provided that in every case of a nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty recognized by the UNGA the NPT nuclear weapon states should conclude an internationally legally binding instrument in which they undertake the following obligations:

“(a) To respect in all its parts the statute of total absence of nuclear weapons defined in the treaty or convention, which serves as the constitutive instrument of the zone;

(b) To refrain from contributing in any way to the performance in the territories forming part of the zone of acts which involve a violation of the aforesaid treaty or convention;

(c) To refrain from using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against a state included in the zone.”[5]

All nuclear weapon free zone arrangements are different and the negotiations upon occasion have had to develop novel solutions to different problems. In Latin America while the Treaty of Tlatelolco was being negotiated there were two potential nuclear weapon programs within the zonal limits. The lead negotiator, Ambassador Garcia Robles of Mexico, developed a flexible structure whereby a state would become subject to the obligations of the zonal treaty only when that state had deposited with the nation serving as the depository—Mexico in this case—a certificate of waiver of the Treaty’s Article 28 entry into force requirements as well as the instrument of ratification of the Treaty. Thus, Brazil could and did ratify the Treaty in 1968 but was not subject to its obligations until 1994 when it had shut down its program entirely and formally delivered a waiver of the Article 28 requirements. Argentina signed the Treaty in 1968 but deposited its instrument of ratification and as well as the waiver document when it joined the Treaty in 1994.

Some important issues for other NWFZ treaties were:

(a) The dumping of radioactive substances in the high seas by the French (banned by the Rarotonga Treaty, approximately 10 years before France became a protocol party and could make its own commitment to this). Of course, the Rarotonga parties (the Pelindaba Treaty also has this provision) do not have jurisdiction over the high seas, no state does, but the 1975 United Nations London Dumping Convention parties decided in 1993 at the consultative meeting of contracting parties that the disposal of radioactive waste into the high seas was prohibited.[6] Thus the unrestricted dumping of radioactive substances into the high seas is internationally prohibited.

(b) The status, under the Treaty establishing the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone, of islands off shore of Africa claimed by the Organization of African Unity to be part of Africa as well as states outside the Treaty zone placing territories they possess within the zone under the Treaty obligations (the Latin American and South Pacific free zone treaties had variants of this issue as well), for example, Réunion Island possessed by France. The most difficult such problem was the Chagos Archipelago, which includes the Island of Diego Garcia, a major U.S. naval base leased from Britain. The Archipelago comprises the British Indian Ocean Territory, located approximately 1,000 miles south of India, and 2,000 miles east of the African mainland. It is also claimed by Mauritius, an island state near Réunion Island. This claim is supported by the Organization of African Unity;

(c) The continuing security relationship with Russia, a nuclear weapon state, by four of the five parties to the Treaty of Semipalatinsk;

(d) The insistence by the parties to the Treaty of Bangkok that the non-nuclear weapon statute of the Treaty apply to the high seas out to the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) limit of each party. This has the effect of blocking China from basing nuclear weapons on islands and other partially submerged reefs claimed by China to be islands in the Southeast Asian high seas area.

The Korean Peninsula likely will present comparable problems for negotiations to establish a NWFZ in Northeast Asia.

Treaty of Tlatelolco Phased Implementation

The Treaty of Tlatelolco was negotiated over the period 1964-67 in Mexico City. The impetus for the Treaty was the then recent Cuban Missile Crisis. Latin America had had enough of nuclear crises. Garcia Robles and his fellow negotiators spent much time and effort developing the provision for the entry into force of the Treaty. As said, at the time of the negotiation there were two potential nuclear weapon programs in Latin America, in Argentina and Brazil. Garcia Robles wanted all Latin American states to have the opportunity to be involved with the Treaty at the beginning, regardless of their situation. There were two groups of states among the negotiating parties. The first group proposed that the Treaty would come into force among those states that had ratified it once eleven Latin American states-representing a majority of the participants in the Preparatory Commission which managed the negotiations—had ratified the Treaty. The second group took the position that the Treaty would only come into force after the following four things had happened.

1 – The signature and ratification of the Treaty by all states to which it was opened.

2 – The signature and ratification of Protocol I (for outside states—the United States, Britain, France, and the Netherlands—which had jurisdiction over territory in Latin America) by all states to which it was opened.

3 – The signature and ratification of Protocol II (for the five NPT recognized nuclear weapon states) by all states to which it was opened; and

4 – The conclusion of safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by all contracting parties of the Treaty and of its Protocols.

Article 28 of the Treaty provides that the Treaty will come into full force and effect only when the four requirements are met. Article 28 of the Treaty however permits a ratifying state to submit a formal waiver along with its instrument of ratification and the treaty will apply to that party’s land area, including its internal waters and territorial seas—but not the adjacent expanded sea areas. This then bridges the views of the two groups.

In practice each party to the Treaty of Tlatelolco has brought the Treaty into force for itself by depositing its instrument of ratification and the formal waiver document with the government of Mexico, the Depository. The fourth condition may never be met—and the broad adjacent sea areas brought under the Treaty which only happens upon full force and effect—as expensive IAEA safeguard arrangements likely will never be in the economic interest of small states, like the Bahamas. Such states probably will never have nuclear facilities for which safeguards would be applied.

For many years after the conclusion of the negotiations in 1967, Argentina while a signatory had not ratified, while Brazil and Chile had signed and ratified but had not waived. Cuba did nothing for a long time. Argentina and Brazil had active national programs, while Chile just followed Brazil and Cuba alone, marched to its own drummer.

By 1994 both Argentina and Brazil no longer wished to keep the nuclear weapon option open. Argentina ratified the Treaty of Tlatelolco and waved the four requirements in 1994. Brazil and Chile deposited their declarations of waiver with the government of Mexico the same year. Argentina and Chile became parties to the NPT in 1995, Brazil in 1998. With the full accession to the Treaty by Cuba in 2002, all Latin American states had signed, ratified and submitted their waiver documents pursuant to Article 28 and thus the Treaty applied to the land area of all Latin American states. Only three of the four requirements have been met. But for all practical terms the Treaty is in full force. The Treaty’s de facto zone of application is the land area territory of the parties. If the fourth requirement is ever met, the area of the application of the Treaty will expand to large ocean regions surrounding Central and South America, in the west touching the border of the South Pacific sea area which surrounds the states of the Treaty of Rarotonga.[7] Should this ever happen it could negatively affect the navigational rights of nuclear ships including warships.

Inclusion of Japan?

In addressing the specific possibility of a nuclear weapon free zone for the Korean peninsula some variation of the Garcia Robles formula might be workable. But first the following should be noted. United Nations rules provide that in order for a NWFZ treaty to be recognized by the UN, it must include, as mentioned before, “all military significant states in the region”—that may make it desirable to include Japan if the object is a treaty with a broad non-nuclear weapon commitment—and the Protocol must include all five NPT recognized nuclear weapon states as Protocol parties which among other things binds them to a negative security assurance (NSA) for treaty parties. A more detailed treatment is provided in Attachment 1.

The NPT Conundrum

The DPRK cannot rejoin the NPT until the IAEA pronounces it nuclear weapon free, a process likely to require a great many years to complete. Probably it will prove to be the case that a verification system is required that would be more stringent than that of the so-called Iran Agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—IAEA anytime, anywhere inspection rights (some facilities could be exempted by specific agreed provision) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to last many, many years, then perhaps the U.S. would be comfortable bringing the Treaty into force. And as with South Africa, after the special verification system comes to an end, the DPRK would be subject to ongoing IAEA inspections to verify that it remains in a non-nuclear weapon status. The principal obligation that the DPRK would defer, since the DPRK would not be bound by the Treaty during verification and the U.S. would not ratify the Protocol during this period either would be the requirement to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons. That would only come when verification is complete and the Treaty is brought into force. And the U.S. would defer its Protocol obligations of no U.S. nuclear weapon facilities in South Korea and a legally binding nuclear negative security assurance (NSA) for the DPRK.

However, during the years that the DPRK was being verified, the international law rule (Article 18 of The Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties) that a signatory to a Treaty prior to ratification (which in this case would happen after verification) would not take acts that would “defeat the object and purposes of the Treaty” would apply. This presumably would mean no testing, transfer, or fabrication of new weapons or components for the DPRK while entry into force is pending. These constraints would impose serious limitations on the DPRK and it might want reciprocity from the U.S.

Once the DPRK is declared nuclear weapon free and it submits its instrument of ratification it would be bound by the Treaty and no longer by the international law rule. The U.S. would then ratify the Protocol where as indicated the principal obligations the U.S. would implement would be not to have nuclear weapons or related facilities in the Treaty Zone and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any Treaty party in good standing. There could be additional U.S. obligations in its Protocol. There could be important obligations applicable to the DPRK that the U.S. will want to see included in the Treaty and to happen promptly—likely non-transfer, no weapon testing and no fabrication of weapons or components. As stated above the International law rule could be sufficient but this also could be explicitly agreed in a separate agreement to reinforce the international law rule referred to above.

Again, the DPRK cannot rejoin the NPT until the IAEA formally declares the country to be nuclear weapon free and also that any sensitive nuclear technology or material it possesses are under full scope IAEA safeguards. The DPRK has no relationship to the NPT regime until it returns to the Treaty as a party.

Interim Measures

As indicated specific provisions additional to those in the NPT and the NWFZ Treaty for the interim period while verification is ongoing—arguably covered by the International Law rule—could for additional confidence be established by a separate agreement. For example, a separate protocol designed to come into force immediately signed by the DPRK and the U.S. could provide such interim arrangements. Or it could be signed by all parties—including protocol parties and provide for an interim or anticipatory regime, while the Treaty itself was proceeding towards entry into force. This has been done before—or something somewhat similar—in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty. It was called the Provisional Application Protocol, designed to prepare for the treaty regime, pending entry into force. It could mirror the rule of international law mentioned above or it could provide specific interim obligations to preserve the treaty regime until entry into force. As said, to make such a concept palatable to the DPRK there might be a need to have a United States commitment as well, perhaps some easily reversible undertaking such as suspension of military maneuvers in South Korea, or at least those involving nuclear weapon delivery platforms.

Then there is the question of reciprocity. One might assume that, among other things, part of the final settlement would be that all U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear weapon related facilities and components on the land territory of any of the parties within the Zone, presumably including the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan (as explained above Japan’s inclusion as a party may be a requirement for this Treaty to be supported by the United Nations) would be prohibited. This obligation would be also verified by the IAEA. There also would be the NSA in the Protocol.

Inspections of any U.S. facilities located in the Treaty Zone (presumably the Korean Peninsula and Japan, but not parts of Russia and China—should they be Protocol parties) would also have to be with the consent of the host party for the facilities, the ROK or Japan. For the United Nations facilities along with the western islands to be inspected it would seem sufficient to include a provision calling for this in the Treaty with an acceptance letter by the Commander of UN Peacekeeping Forces. If the Depository is to be the Secretary General as with many such treaties like this one today the Commander again could make a declaration accepting the inspections. At first glance there does not appear to be any reason for this Treaty to in any way affect the work of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission with respect to the Armistice. If part of the agreed package is a Peace Treaty the Commission likely would go away in any case.

The NWFZ Treaty being discussed herein-pursuant to existing U.N. rules would have a permanent duration like the other NWFZ Treaties. It would be a legally binding international agreement forever barring nuclear weapons from the area of applicability of the Treaty. The reintroduction of nuclear weapons would be prohibited by the Treaty absent a material breach.


Transit has been an important issue in the NWFZ process. It was not addressed in the Tlatelolco treaty but the United States as part of its ratification of Protocol I to the Treaty submitted several understandings, which are formal communications to other parties as to the Treaty’s interpretation. If an understanding is not challenged by another party it is included in the legal structure of the Treaty regime. If it is challenged renegotiation would be necessary. None of the U.S. understandings were challenged so they became parts to the Tlatelolco Treaty regime. One of them explicitly stated that the transit of nuclear weapons through the zone by ship or airplane is not affected by the Treaty. This provision was made explicit in all subsequent NWFZ treaties. The Rarotonga Treaty set the form this provision would take. This provision was drafted to be acceptable to Australia which permitted port visit by warships carrying nuclear weapons and New Zealand which did not. The relevant provision states that in the exercise of its national sovereignty “each party is free to decide for itself” whether to permit port visits and transit through its territorial waters by ships and visits and overflights by aircraft “in a manner not covered by the right of innocent passage”. Territorial waters are under the sovereign control of the littoral state. Innocent passage through such waters is guaranteed to all states but subject to certain rules. Therefore, whether nuclear powered or nuclear weapon capable ships or nuclear capable aircraft can make port calls or traverse the territorial sea and make visits as well as overflights in the case of aircraft depends on the policy of the states whose waters or airspace it is. If that state chooses to prohibit transit by such ships and aircraft then traversing the territorial waters or airspace would not be “innocent”.[8]

The Treaty of Pelindaba utilizes the same language as Rarotonga to the same effect that each party in the exercise of its sovereignty can decide whether to allow port visits and transit of territorial waters by ships and overflights by aircraft in a manner not subject to innocent passage. All aircraft in order to overfly or utilize the airport of a state must only do so pursuant to permission of that state which for normal commercial aircraft is part of the world-wide commercial air traffic control system regulated by international agreement. This is of course different from innocent passage through territorial waters but considered under NWFZ treaties in a similar way for certain aircraft. Port visits, transit of territorial waters by nuclear powered and nuclear capable ships and nuclear capable aircraft overflights and landing at airfields are treated together. And the program applies in the NWFZ treaties to ships and planes that are nuclear weapon capable as well as to nuclear powered in the case of ships. Overflights by aircraft of the territorial sea designed to be threatening if carried out without the permission of littoral state—as they wouldn’t be—are a breach of sovereignty and not permitted under international law.[9] Such overflights along the land border—such as along the DMZ might not be contrary to international law but they certainly would be contrary to the spirit of the Treaty regime.


Now turning to verification provisions, it seems likely that these provisions have to be at least as severe—and probably more so than the JCPOA regime, applicable to Iran. The following is an outline of what this regime possibly might look like in general.

A preambular paragraph could contain a similar no nuclear weapons ever pledge that Iran undertakes in the JCPOA making the DPRK the second country in the world to make this pledge: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea affirms that in the future under no circumstances will the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea again seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.” (It is good to have this general principle stated.).

Second, the plutonium production reactor at Yongbyon should be verifiably destroyed according to agreed procedures. (The only purpose that this reactor has is to make plutonium for nuclear weapons therefore it should be destroyed.)

Third, the enrichment plant, likely built with the design and components supplied to the DPRK by A.Q. Khan should be dismantled according to agreed procedures. This facility was built with designs and components illegally acquired and there is no reason to permit the DPRK to enrich uranium on the large scale that this plant permits. Almost certainly other enrichment plants exist. Enrichment is permitted to NPT parties in good standing under the Treaty. But under the most positive scenario the DPRK is many years away from such a status. Indeed, it may be that a decision will be taken years from now to readmit the DPRK to the NPT with less than complete certainty that the country is in fact free of nuclear weapons because complete certainty is impossible to achieve. The DPRK may contain too many caves, tunnels, etc., to enable certainty to be achieved no matter how many highly intrusive inspections are carried out. Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry, a veteran of years of negotiations with the DPRK, believes this and has said so in print. As a result, enrichment is simply too dangerous a technology for the Nuclear Supplier’s Group to permit to be exported to the DPRK or for it to continue to possess or to develop such technology for the foreseeable future.

Fourth, there must be 24 hours a day, 365 days a year highly intrusive inspections on-site by the IAEA—and, for political reasons, the inspection teams must include some American experts—looking for nuclear weapons and related technology. This process will continue for many years, likely years after the DPRK has returned to the NPT and this Treaty has entered into force. At least ten years beyond the entry into force of this Treaty should be the duration of the enhanced inspection regime. After some agreed point in time perhaps a more normal verification regime could be agreed upon—such as other NPT parties have agreed to work with the IAEA—but this would be many, many years in the future. Verification that the DPRK is nuclear weapon free will be excruciatingly different.

Fifth, DPRK borders should be placed under tight control 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with respect to any nuclear weapon related technology. The duration of these controls should be the same as for the IAEA inspections.

Sixth, likewise for the same duration, the uranium mines and any thorium production should be closely monitored under an identical regime.

Seventh, research and development with respect to any nuclear weapon related technologies should be closely monitored continuously and for the same duration.

Eighth, as specific identifiable progress is confirmed by the IAEA sanctions could slowly be lifted over a number of years. Specific goals should be set and periodic reports by the DPRK to the IAEA Board of Directors required.

Ninth, any violations of the inspection process reported by the IAEA will result in the return of all sanctions that have been lifted and new ones added.

A nuclear weapon free zone treaty for Northeast Asia certainly should be the longer-range objective for the region. It was Garcia Robles’ vision that “We should attempt to achieve a gradual broadening of the zones of the world from which nuclear weapons are prohibited to the point where the Territories of Powers, which possess these terrible tools of mass destruction, will become ‘something like contaminated islets subjected to quarantine.’”[10] This is the philosophy we all should follow. But in Northeast Asia we are far away from this now. The DPRK currently has said that all it will accept in terms of a denuclearization agreement is a non-binding Resolution akin to the 1992 Resolution. This could be seen by the world community as worthless but that isn’t necessarily so. It depends on what it’s linked to and accompanied by. The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and The Stockholm Document on Confidence Building Measures in Europe, 1986 are examples of non-legally binding agreements which proved very valuable. They led to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty in a few years, and other developments in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War in 1991.

It would seem that the primary objective should be a Peace Treaty ending the Korean War. Hostilities associated with a state of war on the Korean Peninsula ended 65 years ago. That would appear to be long enough to wait. A Peace Treaty—actually probably two peace treaties one between the two Koreas—but that would involve recognition—so perhaps the inter-Korean Peace Treaty could be with the United States as an intermediary third party—and there could be a separate Peace Treaty between the DPRK and the U.S. Much would follow from this: U.S. diplomatic recognition of the DPRK, an exchange of Ambassadors and the end of threatening overflights and close border flights. Such flights except arguably flights along the DMZ border, would be breaches of sovereignty, and inconsistent with peaceful relations. And the land border flights would certainly be questionable. There could also be a protocol to the U.S.-DPRK Peace Treaty or it could be an associated standalone agreement. This agreement could put in legally binding obligations the DPRK decision to do no more nuclear weapon or missile tests and no exports of such technology. The U.S. would have to give something for this, as suggested above, an ending of U.S. military exercises in the South, at least those involving strategic platforms.

These would be very positive steps which would add considerably to stability. But into this will be thrust by the media the non-legally binding and unverifiable denuclearization declaration. There would be little confidence anywhere that the DPRK would actually eliminate any of its nuclear weapons. The U.S. would not be able to give the DPRK a legally binding NSA. Almost certainly the U.S. Senate would never consider abandoning the U.S. nuclear deterrent absent complete confidence that the DPRK stockpile had been or was about to be eliminated. A two-thirds vote in the Senate would be required to approve a legally binding NSA and such a vote is tough to get. The U.S. of course could give to the DPRK a non-binding NSA in the form of a national statement, which all of the P-5 gave to all NPT parties in 1995. The DPRK also was the recipient of such assurances while it was an NPT party. It is essential that the denuclearization declaration not be presented as an end in itself but as the key to the Peace Treaty and all of its benefits.

The issue of NSAs for non-nuclear weapon states from the NPT nuclear weapon states goes back to the beginning of the NPT.

In the 1960s, as the number of states possessing nuclear weapons rose to five, there were projections that 20-30 additional states would acquire nuclear weapons over the next two decades, and if such a scenario had occurred, there would have likely been many more in the following decades. As part of an effort to stem the trend toward the widespread proliferation of nuclear weapons, 62 states signed the NPT on July 1, 1968, the first day the Treaty was open for signature. During the NPT negotiations, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) states sought negative security assurances from the nuclear-weapon states, arguing that after all, if the non-nuclear-weapon states were to foreswear nuclear weapons, the least the nuclear weapon states could agree to was not to threaten or use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states.[11] In 1965, the United Arab Republic (UAR) rejected the idea of bilateral security guarantees, claiming that it would result in “a situation where vast areas were divided under a nuclear trusteeship of this or that Power.”[12] Several non-nuclear-weapon states requested that assurances or guarantees from the nuclear-weapon states accompany or be included in the emerging non-proliferation treaty. Soviet Premier Kosygin proposed (on February 1, 1966 in the Soviet draft of the Non-Proliferation Treaty) “a clause on the prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear States parties to the treaty which have no nuclear weapons on their territory.”[13] The UAR, Mexico, Nigeria, and India (ultimately not a signatory of the NPT) supported this initiative. UAR Ambassador Khallaf submitted treaty language that incorporated Kosygin’s proposal, specifying that “each nuclear-weapon state undertakes not to use, or threaten to use, nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear-weapon state Party to this Treaty which has no nuclear weapons on its territory.”[14] Romania and Switzerland made similar proposals.

US President Lyndon Johnson had assured nations that did not seek nuclear weapons that they would, if the need arose, enjoy strong US support “against nuclear blackmail threat,”[15] but the United States refused to accept the Soviet proposal. Canada also refused such a proposal arguing that reaching a consensus to include it in the Treaty would prove difficult, and attempting to do so would unacceptably prolong negotiations. Canadian representative Burns suggested instead that the nuclear-weapon states make parallel declarations that could include negative security assurances. More specifically he proposed that the nuclear-weapon states pledge in these declarations “not to use nuclear weapons against non-aligned non-nuclear parties.”[16]

In the beginning of 1968, the revised draft treaty still did not include any security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states.[17] At the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Commission (ENDC), certain non-nuclear-weapon states voiced their regret regarding the absence of any such assurances and the Federal Republic of Germany stated that the treaty should ban nuclear blackmail against the non-nuclear weapon states. Romanian Ambassador Ecobesco again requested that the nuclear-weapon states include an undertaking not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.[18] In March 1968, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom agreed to offer some positive security assurances.[19] Such assurances generally refer to action that would be taken by the Security Council or by its permanent members to assist an NPT non-nuclear-weapon state if it was attacked or threatened with nuclear weapons. However, US Ambassador de Palma stated that the draft treaty did not include security assurances because the issue proved “too difficult and complicated to be reduced to a treaty provision.”[20] Thus, NATO concerns about the conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact and the credibility of the Western Alliance’s “flexible response” policy, as well as the Soviet Union’s reluctance to give negative security assurances to non-nuclear-weapon states members of NATO, precluded any agreement among the nuclear-weapon states on negative security guarantees at that time.[21] Only China (not a NPT party until 1992) unilaterally pledged a no first use policy.

During the Cold War, mutual fear on both sides of the Iron Curtain prevented further progress in this area as the nuclear-weapon states denied repeated requests by non-nuclear-weapon states for the NSAs to be made legally-binding. The primary reason lay in distrust across the East-West divide. It was contended that non-nuclear-weapon states in the Warsaw Pact countries, as an alliance, possessed conventional superiority over NATO, and were closely allied to the Soviet Union. For its part, the Soviet Union argued that NATO stationed nuclear weapons on the national territories of its non-nuclear-weapon state members.

In 1995 at the NPT Review and Extension Conference, the five nuclear-weapon states reaffirmed, and to a degree harmonized, their political commitments not to threaten NPT non-nuclear-weapon states parties with nuclear weapons in the context of the NPT extension in 1995. The NPT nuclear weapon states agreed to legally binding NSAs when signing the relevant protocols to the African, South Pacific, Central Asian, and Latin American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) Treaties. The Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty remains unresolved on this point because of the extension of the treaty limits to the high sea areas in Southeast Asia by extension to the EEZ limits. The protocols to these NWFZ Treaties strengthen the NSAs as they require the nuclear weapon states (they have all signed the relevant protocols) not only to refrain from the use of nuclear weapons against the states parties to the NWFZ Treaties, but also from the threat of use of nuclear weapons. The Latin American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone signed in 1967, a year before the NPT was the first to require a legally binding NSA for the nuclear weapon states—which non-nuclear weapon states not in a NWFZ treaty ask for to this day. All of the other Zonal treaties have followed the Latin American lead on this.

One other comment, the P-5 countries have only given legally binding NSAs to parties to NWFZ treaties. This is recommended by the UN rules and the P-5 members have judged that in general NWFZ treaties arguably one exception to this practice, the NSA given to the DPRK by the United States in the 1994 Agreed Framework is part of a legally binding international Agreement—not a treaty but an international agreement—as a result of being one of the provisions of the Agreement. This NSA could have been considered legally binding as well.[22] However, the language used in the text is not such as to indicate legal obligation: “The U.S. will provide formal assurances to the DPRK, against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the U.S.”[23] Thus, the impact of the provision is not clear. The same issue exists with respect to the relevant provision of the 2005 joint statement of principles developed in the Six Party Talks involving the DPRK, the ROK, the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan. The relevant provision there reads, “The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons.”[24] Unlike the provision in the Agreed Framework this language almost implies that it is only present intention that is referred to. However, the joint statement does contain a general provision of assurance in which the two parties agree to respect each other’s sovereignty, co-exist peacefully and take steps to normalize their relations. This did not appear to satisfy the DPRK.

Two treaties signed with the Soviet Union in 1961 provided the basic security assurance for the DPRK for many years, however with the collapse of the Soviet Union the DPRK realized that it would have to look for its security assurances elsewhere. The DPRK therefore undertook a series of negotiations with the United States. In general, the DPRK seemed satisfied or at least found acceptable to the NSA in the 1994 Agreed Framework. With respect to the Six Party Talks neither the security assurance nor the general reassurance clause in the Joint Framework appeared to be sufficient. The only regime assurance undertaking with the United States which has been valued by the DPRK is the 2000 Clinton-Myong-Rok “No Hostile Intent” communiqué signed by the two parties in October, 2000. More precisely it said that neither government would have “hostile intent” against the other and both sides were intent on building a “new relationship free from past enmity.”[25] This document was of great importance to the DPRK, it was regarded by North Korea in much the same way that the Chinese regarded the Shanghai communiqué of 1978, as the foundation of a new relationship.

But in all this the DPRK was seeking a better relationship with the United States and the survival of the regime. The 1994 Agreed Framework and the 2000 “no hostile intent” communiqué appeared to be important steps on the road to achieving that, the Joint Statement of Principles of 2005 did not. In the Singapore process the DPRK is seeking an NSA, perhaps a non-legally binding assurance will suffice when associated with a Peace Treaty.


An arrangement between the DPRK and the United States and other countries on the elimination of the DPRK nuclear weapon stockpile and related equipment and technologies could of course take many forms and can be shaped to the desires and requirements of the parties. But if it ever becomes possible there is merit in the NWFZ form. It is well understood around the world. If done according to United Nation rules it would virtually guarantee the full support of the United Nations which could be very valuable. It would also help the DPRK to become a full-fledged member of the world community. The UN played a central role in the negotiation of the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty and the Central Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty providing staff, expert and logistical support. This of course would not be lacking in any negotiation involving the United States and the DPRK but the UN would bring a special perspective. The CTBT Verification Center in Vienna with its unrivaled capability in seismic and other technologies of monitoring would be part of the package. There is no reason that such an agreement would have to precisely mirror the five NWFZ treaties that have gone before. They all differ among themselves. But their provisions provide past solutions which can be guides and precedents for this most important project. Let us hope one day this can be done.

So as a final note what to make of the two approaches.

The bilateral approach:


It appears to be negotiable, the DPRK has so indicated.

It can unlock the door to the Peace Treaty which can bring a number of good things.

• diplomatic recognition
• exchange of Ambassadors
• commerce and trade
• a possible side agreement halting the weapon and missile testing and export of nuclear weapon related technology permanent on a legally binding basis.
• an end to threatening overflights
• an agreed policy promulgated to eventually eliminate nuclear weapons and stop threatening their use.


The Denuclearization Declaration will be seen by countries around the world and the political class in the U.S. as worthless, non-binding, unverifiable and unreliable. This may poison the Peace Treaty process and the good things that can come from it.

Only a non-binding NSA for the DPRK will be possible, likely nothing for the ROK. The ROK already has a non-binding NSA through the NPT.

This agreement will not significantly bring the DPRK into the world community.

The multilateral approach:


It would solve the problem of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. It would have the full support of the world community and all six powers. The six power talks participants all would be centrally involved. DPRK security would be protected.

The DPRK would receive legally binding NSAs from the P-5 as would the ROK and Japan.

It would bring the DPRK into the world community as a full-fledged member. This would be very positive for the DPRK economy. It could even bring a close relationship with the U.S.

The verification process would significantly change DPRK society (likely seen as a con in some quarters).


This is not negotiable at this time.

The verification process would be exceedingly long.

In conclusion, the multilateral approach is where we should eventually be. Garcia Robles should remain our guide. In the short term we should make the best of the bilateral approach and keep our focus on the Peace Treaty.



This attachment expands on the suggestion on page 7 of this essay that: “In addressing the specific possibility of a nuclear weapon free zone for the Korean Peninsula some variation of the Garcia Robles formula might be workable.” It provides more specific explanation of how a variation of the Garcia Robles formula might be applied to the Korean Peninsula.

In developing his concept of a nuclear weapon free zone, Garcia Robles was undoubtedly influenced by the thinking about the subject that existed already at the time of the negotiation of the Treaty of Tlatelolco that established a nuclear weapon free zone for Latin America.[26]

The central thought was that any such negotiated zonal treaty should be based on four basic principles, viz:

1. Participating countries must undertake a legally binding international commitment not to produce or deploy nuclear weapons anywhere in their territories and not to permit other countries to do so. This obligation remains valid in times of war and times of peace.
2. Nuclear weapon states recognized under the NPT must agree to respect such a zone and not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons on participating states.
3. An international verification system must be established.
4. A zone must be established in such a way that it enhances international peace and security, which suggests that all states in the region affected directly by the zonal treaty should concur with it.

To these four fundamental principles, Garcia Robles made three important innovations.

First, he held that all significant states in the region to which the zonal treaty applies should be parties; second, that the motivation for the zonal treaty should come from countries within the zone; and third, that the right of the parties to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes must be preserved.

Garcia Robles also established an implementing body for the treaty, OPANAL, with an implementing staff and periodic high-level meetings of the parties to provide oversight. Verification would be by the International Atomic Energy Agency with parties signing Safeguards Agreements with the Agency. Also pursuant to an Understanding submitted by the United States but accepted by all parties, the transit of nuclear weapons through the treaty zone by sea and air is not covered by the constraints of the zonal treaty.

Garcia Robles produced two Protocols for relevant outside states to attach themselves to the Treaty: One Protocol invites outside states responsible for administrating territory in the zone, such as the United States with Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to place these areas under the zonal treaty’s constraints. Another Protocol is open only to the five recognized nuclear weapon states and invites them to assume the obligations never to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against treaty parties.

All subsequent nuclear weapon free zones are based on the above principles: South Pacific, Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. All of the regional treaty regimes work closely with the United Nations through their implementing bodies. Each of these zones was also custom-tailored to regional circumstances. Northeast Asia is no different.

Applying these principles to the Korean Peninsula would involve the following:

First, it would require that the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Japan all become parties to the Treaty and undertake the fully meet all the non-nuclear weapon constraints referred to in the first pillar above.

Second, a verification system would have to be established. Given the diplomatic situation that exists today, it would have to be at least as intrusive as the system established for the Iran Agreement with the Security Council, the JCPOA, which also is administered by the IAEA.

Third, an implementing body should be established by the three parties with a Secretary General and international staff.

Fourth, the recognized nuclear weapon states, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russian and China, would sign a Protocol in which they would undertake never to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the parties to the “North-East Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty (NEANWFZ).” Pursuant to the diplomatic situation of today, the United States might wish to delay its ratification of this Protocol until the nuclear weapon stockpile of the DPRK has been fully verified by the IAEA and process of reductions has at least begun.

In the course of actually negotiating the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Garcia Robles wove a set of linkages to enable the different parties to commit to the treaty from the outset, thereby keeping all the relevant states “inside the tent” (or in this case, the zone) while coming into compliance and/or ratifying the treaty. In Article 4, he set up four requirements for entry into force, viz:

1-signature and entry into force of the Treaty by all eligible parties (all Latin American states).
2-signature and ratification of Protocol I by all eligible states( United States, United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands).
3-signature and ratification of Protocol II by all eligible states (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China).
4-Completion of IAEA Safeguards Agreements with the IAEA by all eligible states (all Latin American states).

Conditions 1-3 are fully met and have been since 2002 (Cuba was the last to join). As noted above, condition 4 will probably never be met as small Latin American states don’t want to spend money on Safeguards when they are never going to have safe-guardable nuclear facilities. Thus, it is likely the Treaty will never fully come into force, yet it provides effective constraints on all the parties to the treaty.

Article 28, paragraph 2 permits each individual Latin American state to sign, ratify and then formally waive the requirements and thereby apply the obligations to its national territory and territorial sea (twelve-mile zone). A party therefore could sign, ratify and waive and apply the treaty to its national territory only and join the treaty individually (no broad ocean areas).

By exploiting this clause, Garcia Robles permitted the two states in the region with potential nuclear weapons programs in 1967 to associate themselves with the Treaty but not have the Treaty obligations apply until they were ready: by signing and ratifying but not waiving. Garcia Robles wanted to involve all Latin American states with the Treaty from the outset if he could. Brazil chose to take advantage of this option (as did Chile which followed Brazil in this area) but Argentina did not.

This is a different situation from the Korean Peninsula but a variant of Garcia Robles’ formulae could be pursued in Northeast Asia.

To describe this approach in Northeast Asia in Garcia Robles terms: There would be only three requirements for full Treaty entry into force, the first three of Garcia Robles Tlatelolco requirements cast in Korean Peninsula terms, that is:

1-signature and ratification of the Treaty establishing a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.

2-signature and ratification of the Protocol placing territory in the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone controlled by an outside state (probably not required in the case of a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty).

3-signature and ratification of the Protocol adhered to by the NPT recognized nuclear weapon states (the P-5).

In the Korean case probably only requirements 1 and 3 apply, so in practice there would be only two requirements.

These requirements are only met when the Treaty and the necessary Protocol or Protocols are signed and ratified by all parties to which the Treaty or Protocol or Protocols are opened for signature-or in other words by all relevant parties.

The relevant states for the NWFZ for NE Asia Treaty would be the ROK, the DPRK and Japan. The relevant states for the Protocol would be the P-5.

Thus, at the outset, in a Robles approach, Japan would sign, ratify and waive; four of the P-5 might do the same with the Protocol; but probably the United States for the Protocol and South Korea and North Korea for the Treaty would sign, ratify but not waive (like Brazil) or do nothing (like Argentina) until the complete DPRK nuclear weapons production program has been satisfactorily verified by the IAEA and DPRK nuclear weapon reduction is at least well underway and perhaps completed.

An additional possibility, suggested by Morton Halperin, is that ROK and Japanese commitment may be contingent upon specified denuclearization of the DPRK over timelines and that if sufficient progress in this regard is not achieved, for example, within three or five years, these states reserve the right to withdraw from the treaty.[27]

A further important precedent was set in the Treaty of Tlatelolco. This was the inclusion of the US territory of Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in the territories covered by Protocol 1 of the zone. Originally, the United States opposed this inclusion, as was noted in the UN 1976 Comprehensive Report.[28] Ultimately, however, Protocol I of the Treaty of Tlatelolco was signed by President Carter in 1977, it was approved by the Senate in 1980 pursuant to three Understandings making clear that transit is unaffected-not objected to by other nations- and it was ratified for the US in 1981 by President Reagan. President Nixon dealt with Protocol II.

US adherence to Protocol I provided that all US possessions in the Treaty Zone are placed under the nuclear weapon free zone provisions of the Treaty of Tlatelolco. Thus, nuclear weapons may not ever be stationed, deployed, manufactured or tested in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.

This precedent has obvious application to the possible inclusion of Guam in a regional nuclear weapons free-zone, given the fixation of the DPRK’s leadership on this territory as a site from which nuclear attack might be launched against it; which in turn raises the issue of symmetry, and whether areas of Northeast China and the Russian Far East might also be included—noting that every addition introduces complicated asymmetries of interest and negotiation costs.



[1] Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Joint Declaration of South and North Korea on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” Last Updated: October 26, 2011, at:

[2] Ji Hyun Lee, “Assessing the idea of South Korea being a virtual NWFZ since the 1992 Joint Declaration for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” paper presented to the “Strong connections: Australia-Korea strategic relations – past, present and future” workshop, Nautilus Institute, Seoul, June 15, 2010, pp. 3-4, at:

[3] Ji Hyun Lee, op cit, page 5.

[4] Shaker, Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, p. 920.

[5] Ibid., pp. 923-924.

[6] Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter (1975); Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties (1993). It should be noted that the 1975 Convention is still a treaty, therefore, as in the Rarotonga Treaty, the states parties cannot create obligations for non-parties in areas beyond their national jurisdiction.

[7] Garcia Robles, Latin American Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, pp. 18-19.

[8] Article 5, Treaty of Rarotonga.

[9] Article 4, Treaty of Pelindaba.

[10] Alfonso Garcia Robles, quoted in UN General Assembly, First Committee Provisional Verbatim Record, 13 and 32; Michael Hamel-Green, “Peeling the Orange: Regional Paths to a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World,” accessed February 16, 2015,

[11] On March 9, 1967, the Nigerian representative argued before the ENDC that it would be unfair to ask any responsible government to adhere to an NPT without guarantees. The Brazilian delegate added that non-nuclear-weapon states signatories to the NPT would be surrendering “the most important means they might otherwise have at their disposal to counter possible aggression.” See International Negotiations of the NPT, ACDA (US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency), p73.

[12] Statement by the UAR representative in the UN First Committee, see International Negotiations of the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, The Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, publication 48, January 1969, p26.

[13] International Negotiations on the NPT, ACDA, p42.

[14] Ibid., p89.

[15] Ibid., p73.

[16] Ibid., pp89-90.

[17] Ibid., p112.

[18] Ibid., p112.

[19] For more detail, see Tripartite Proposal on Security Assurances, March 7, 1968, ibid., p112.

[20] Ibid., p112.

[21] George Bunn, “Security Assurances to Non-Nuclear-weapon states,” The Non-proliferation Review, The Monterey Institute of International Studies, Fall 1994, Volume 2, Number 1.

[22] Agreed Framework between the United States of America and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six Party Talks, September 19, 2005.

[25] US-DPRK Joint Communiqué, Washington, D.C., October 12, 2000.

[26] Garcia Robles, The Latin American Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (1979) is available for download here:

[27] “The treaty could be structured so that it goes into effect when the three nuclear weapons states (the US, Russia and China) and the two non-nuclear states (Japan and South Korea) ratify it. However, South Korea and Japan would have the right to withdraw from the treaty after three or five years if the provisions were not being enforced effectively throughout the Korean Peninsula. Effective enforcement would occur if either North Korea ratified and implemented the treaty, or if it collapsed and the Peninsula were unified under South Korea.” Morton H. Halperin, “A Proposal for a Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in Northeast Asia”, NAPSNet Special Reports, January 03, 2012,

[28] “In 1965, the United States declared that neither the United States Virgin Islands nor Puerto Rico could be included in the nuclear-weapon-free zone because the Virgin Islands were part of the territory of the United States and Puerto Rico had a special relationship with the United States. The Canal Zone, the United States added, could be included, provided that the rights of transit through the Panama Canal were not affected, as well as the Guantanamo base, if Cuba joined the Treaty. In 1974, the representative of the United States declared at the twenty-ninth session of the General Assembly that the position of his Government with respect to Additional Protocol I remained unchanged (A/C.l/PV.2023, p. 12).” In COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF THE QUESTION OF NUCLEAR-WEAPON-FREE ZONES IN ALL ITS ASPECTS, SPECIAL REPORT OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE COMMITTEE ON DISARMAMENT, A/10027/Add.1, New York, 1976, page 14.


Citizen’s Watch on the Implementation of Korean Denuclearization Agreements

Category : PSNA Activities

Peace Depot launched a new project “Toward a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone: Citizen’s Watch for a Fair Implementation of Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Agreements” (in short: “Citizen’s Watch on the Implementation of Korean Denuclearization Agreements”) on Nov. 14, 2018. The project is meant to help successful implementation of the historic agreements regarding the peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

This project publishes the “Watch Report” roughly once every three weeks, first in Japanese, then later in Korean and English. The “Watch Report” is published on the following free-access blog website.

Watch Report [English] [Korean] [Japanese]

They welcome your comments and advices, so please write to “office■”(Please change ■ to @).

*PSNA is an advisor of this project.
*Dr. Hiromichi UMEBAYASHI, Director of this Project, is Member of PSNA, Former Director of RECNA and Visiting Professor of Nagasaki University, Japan.

【Mar. 8, 2019】Special Essay on US-DPRK Summit in Hanoi (PSNA-WP-5)

Category : PSNA Activities

Applying diplomacy for the common good

Shen Dingli, Professor and Director, Program on Arms Control and Regional Security, Institute of International Studies, Fudan University

PSNA Working Paper Series (PSNA-WP-5)1

March 6, 2019

[Japanese version: PDF]

  The much expected second summit between President Donald Trump of the US and Chairman Kim Jung Un of the DPRK has just ended with no deal. Despite the fact that both advance teams had reached Hanoi for days-long pre-summit negotiation without reaching an agreement, Washington and Pyongyang still expected to deliver a deal at the summit level.

  However, on the surface it seems that both parties have had significant misunderstandings before and during their talks, which made it impossible to hammer out a deal with proper mutual compromise.

  Accord to President Trump in his solo post-summit press conference, Chairman Kim demanded that the US lift “all” economic sanctions in exchange for the DPRK’s verified closure of its Yongbyon nuclear complex, without addressing any further denuclearizing details including declaration, inspection and dismantling all DPRK’s nuclear weapons and missiles program, hopefully completely and irreversibly.

  Nevertheless, the DRPK Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said at a late press conference of his own that Pyongyang only asked for “partial” lifting of sanctions, contradicting what Trump said. DPRK has indicated that in principle it agrees with denuclearization for complete lifting of sanctions. But at present the DPRK only asked for partial lifting of sanctions, and offered to close its Yongbyon nuclear site.

  If both sides had expressed their positions unambiguously, they should not have such vastly different understandings, and their differences could be narrowed. The US side was opposed to entire lifting of sanctions for non-complete implementation of DPRK’s denuclearization. This is quite understandable. Actually the US current stance of possible partial lifting of sanctions for denuclearizing a significant part of the DPRK nuclear program has already been much more flexible than its previous position at the earlier summit in Singapore.

Though it is still hard to decipher why the two teams could not communicate and understand each other properly, one should keep in mind that they are willing to use diplomacy to settle their difference. In response to a journalist’s question, Kim Jung Un said he would not have come all the way to Hanoi without a genuine intention to denuclearize.

  It is possible that both sides have attempted high-pressure diplomacy. In this initial tangible high-stake give-and-take game, Pyongyang wanted to retain as much as nuclear flexibility by restricting the US freedom in verification scope, and meantime to maximize its potential gain through attempting a total lifting of sanctions, though signaling also a possible partial lifting as well. The US side, after offering a liaison office as its carrot, resolutely denied a “non-equal” deal. Given their similar character and temperament, their best intent of opting for diplomacy could end with applying pressure. As both feel “no rush” at this time, their talk quickly collapsed.

  If the above conceived scenario makes any sense, the lesson is clear. Each side has not applied sustained diplomacy. Instead, they could well end up with using diplomacy as a one-shot pressure. In light of this, their failure to strike out a deal this time is not surprising.

  Given the vast distrust between the two countries, any pursuant of a quick solution through denuclearization is unrealistic. The reason is pretty simple: the DPRK doesn’t feel secure and is keen to preserve certain nuclear capability in its early stage of “denuclearization”, even if Pyongyang would do it eventually. The US, for its part, has to address the DPRK nuclear and missile arsenal in its entirety despite its own softening of position from a “time-bound total denuclearization” to a “no rush” incremental process.

  Understanding the DPRK’s feel of geostrategic insecurity would help make explicable the collapse of this talk. Given the demise of the Soviet Union, the DPRK has lost one key ally. The other, China, still has a legally-binding alliance agreement with the DPRK on paper. However, Pyongyang has doubts that China would ever have honor its commitment. At a time China is branding itself as a “responsible power”, Beijing might accord its regional and global responsibility to stem nuclear proliferation a higher priority over its bilateral commitment to come to the DPRK’s defense, if the two objectives conflict with each other.

  In addition, Pyongyang would not fail to see that the US still has a hegemonic foreign policy. Without any hard evidence or UN Security Council endorsement, the Bush administration launched an illegal preemptive attack on Iraq, and described Pyongyang along with Teheran and Baghdad as a member of “an axis of evil”. President Obama, while receiving his Nobel Peace award, partly for his leadership of “global zero”, exercised his “strategic patience” to be distant with the DPRK. In addition, President Trump has ordered the building of miniaturized nuclear warheads, so as to deter those leaders of “rogue states” more effectively.

  Remembering President Trump’s “fury and fire” in 2017, his sudden shift of stance toward the DPRK could well be his display of “art of deal”. Once the DPRK would imprudently follow the US demand of a CVID approach to comprehensively, verifiably and irreversibly denuking itself while the US would do nothing during this process, Pyongyang could well commit political and strategic suicide without any parallel economic benefits. No sensible DPRK leader would ever embrace such a one-sided highly risky formula.

  Seven months after the first summit in Singapore in June last year, the White House has become more pragmatic, as it now seems to understand that virtually it is impossible to achieve a “US-wins-all, the DPRK-loses-all” denuclearization game. Lately, President Trump has sent a number of messages to show that based on his wonderful personal relations with Chairman Kim, he would not expect the second round of summit to conclude a total and immediate denuclearization. Instead, he would enlighten his DPRK counterpart with the success of Vietnam, the host country, that Pyongyang holds a tremendous opportunity of economic prosperity, if it is prepared to surrender the core of its nuclear and missile arsenals, while the US would offer some enticing olives including setting up an American liaison office in Pyongyang.

  While the US has softened its position to some extent, the rest of the world would expect the DPRK to reciprocate in return. Pyongyang may not only agree to extend its existing virtual nuclear and missile testing moratorium, but also offer a certain version of roadmap toward eliminating its fissile material and missile arsenal, though in a limited and incremental manner.

  A reasonable conclusion from Trump’s walkout from this summit is that high-pressure diplomacy has led to an impasse on relative cost-benefits on the table. This may indicate either their lack of skill in using diplomacy, or lack of intent to make deal so soon. From the DPRK side, indeed it is in no rush to yield.

  Militarily, after six rounds of nuclear weapons tests and tens of missile flight tests, Pyongyang’s nuclear deterrent should not be underestimated. With nuclear armaments, Pyongyang trusts that it is more secure rather than without. And, with its acquired data from previous tests, the DPRK may be confident in building up its nuclear tipped missiles without immediate further tests, and hence without annoying its neighbors. Economically, it may be hungry but not dying. With its testing moratorium, Pyongyang has already much improved its relationship with Beijing, Seoul and Moscow. It is likely to believe that the beleagued Trump may be thirstier to get a deal, given his presidential reelection need, at a time of America’s challenging relationship with China, Russia, and allies, as well as his many legal battles in the Congress.

  The world should not allow the US and the DPRK to squander time this way. Without making even an imperfect deal of denuclearization, Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile arsenal could keep expanding, adding its weight in any future talks with the US. If the two sides intend to meet again, they should be better prepared than this time, communicating well and accommodating each other’s legitimate concerns. They should trust and apply diplomacy for common goods, rather than use it merely as a platform. Based on improved diplomacy, the US and the DPRK shall present to the world that they are able to achieve both denuclearization and the opening of a new peace era with official ending of the Korean War.


1 This paper was commissioned by RECNA on behalf of Co-chairs of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PSNA.

【Mar. 8, 2019】Special Essay on US-DPRK Summit in Hanoi (PSNA-WP-4)

Category : PSNA Activities

After the 2nd US-DPRK Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam: Sustain the Inter-Korean Momentum

Mark Byung-Moon Suh, Council Member, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Member of the German Council on Foreign Relations and
Elisabeth Imi Suh, Research Assistant, German Institute for International and Security Affairs

PSNA Working Paper Series (PSNA-WP-4)1

March 6, 2019

[Japanese version: PDF]

  The much expected and awaited second meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un abruptly ended without any agreement and will go down in history as the 2019 no deal-summit. Surely, the lack of an agreement is disappointing; it does not equate, however, to the end of diplomacy with North Korea. What went wrong and what needs to be done to keep the momentum of peace process in Korea?

Two Track Diplomacy vis-à-vis North Korea

  After the tension-loaded year of 2017, diplomacy on the Korean peninsula quick-started after Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s speech at the beginning of 2018. The progressive administration in Seoul had iterated offers for inter-Korean dialogue since the inauguration of Moon Jae-in in May 2017. Moon was very keen on bringing North Korea and the US to negotiating tables, and careful to set the right tone as he did in his Berlin speech July 2017. His genuine interest in dialogue with the North – important not for the sake of accelerated reunification, but in the name of joint Korean ownership of peace and stability on the peninsula – has translated into the re-establishment of crisis communication channels, the institutionalization of working-level dialogue through e.g. the liaison office in Kaesong as well as leader-to-leader meetings that resulted in the Panmunjom Declaration of April 2018, the Pyongyang Declaration and Military Agreement of September 2018. Seoul’s continuous endeavor to constructively engage Pyongyang and to find mutually acceptable steps towards political reconciliation, military confidence-building and economic cooperation has spilled into a relatively stable track of inter-Korean dialogue(s).

  US-North Korean diplomacy, however, stands in stark contrast to this: Donald Trump’s initial willingness to meet directly with Kim quickly fell into oblivion with his 2017 maximum pressure campaign and “fire and fury” rhetoric. While first inter-Korean talks and Pyongyang’s high-level attendance of the Pyongchang Winter Olympics in February 2018 were met with US discontent, nevertheless, Trump gratefully accepted Kim Jong Un’s invitation that was extended by Seoul’s special envoys in March 2018. Diplomacy between Washington and Pyongyang since then, however, appears rather as “off-again on-again” momentum of dialogue and summitry: First high-level talks between the Trump administration and Kim regime were followed by the cancellation and then resumption of preparations for their first summit meeting, finally resulting in the Singapore Summit and its consequent declaration of intentions in June 2018. Besides frictions in July, August and November, high-level meetings between Washington and Pyongyang took place in July and October. High-level meetings in the run-up to the Hanoi Summit, and especially working-level talks in January and February, were cause of high hopes for the second encounter of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. The ups and downs in US-North Korean interactions as well as the no deal-summit reveal the shortcomings of the US administration’s approach to Pyongyang.

The Singapore Summit in June 2018: Start of a new relationship?

  The first-ever leadership interaction between the US and North Korea supposedly marked the beginning of a fundamentally new bilateral relationship and the start of an innovative top-down approach to diplomacy. The Trump administration explicitly distances itself from previous administrations’ North Korea policies – which is correct in terms of its willingness to directly and personally engage Pyongyang’s leader(ship) without explicit preconditions. In terms of content, however, US positions remain the same and rather increasingly emphasize the threats posed to its national security by North Korea’s ICBM and uranium enrichment capabilities.

  On a rhetorical level, Donald Trump has played with ideas of withdrawing all US troops from South Korea, of opening liaison offices and declaring the end of the Korean War. The no deal-summit of Hanoi, however, bluntly revealed the actual stakes being discussed and the narrow room for maneuver: While Pyongyang insists on the partial lifting of sanctions and suggests the focus on confidence- and relationship-building measures, Washington shows no flexibility nor creativity in allowing for compromise in terms of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Although details of the failure to reach agreement in Hanoi remain to be seen, the Trump administration has passed up the opportunity to put Pyongyang’s nuclear testing and missile moratorium into writing, to sign a narrow deal consisting primarily of allowing inspectors into Yongbyon and to declare the end of the Korean War. These three milestones would have put negotiations on track towards building actual confidence, and towards achieving peace and disarmament realistically step-by-step.

The right lessons to be learnt from interactions with Pyongyang

  Moon’s administration is not only building on the fundaments of the Sunshine Policy (1998-2008), but rather developing it. Moon has apparently drawn the right lessons to prioritize political and military confidence-building measures in dialogue with Pyongyang. The prospect of economic cooperation remains an important element in inter-Korean relations, but is understood to not automatically spill into the desired change of North Korea’s foreign policy behavior.
The current administration in Washington, however, has not drawn any lessons from past successful and failed negotiations with Pyongyang. International and unilateral sanctions remain the preferred (and only) tool; a tool that is merely being utilized as ‘sticks’ instead of ‘carrots and sticks’. Besides insisting on the implementation of the complete sanctions regime against North Korea, the Trump administration overestimates the effectiveness of its maximum pressure campaign. Sanctions do have an effect on North Korea’s economy and population; the abrupt changes in its foreign policy behavior and willingness to engage in talks, however, derive from Pyongyang’s own strategic developments and Moon Jae-in’s genuine interest in resuming inter-Korean dialogue as well as facilitating US-North Korean diplomatic interactions.

  As a general lesson to be drawn from past negotiations, willingness to compromise and creative persuasion are more likely to result in constructive dialogue and agreements, than mere coercion. Moreover, a declared end of the Korean War would not only represent the ultimate security guarantee of respecting mutual state sovereignty and the beginning of actual non-adversarial relations, but also alleviate the entire peninsula’s population from the seven decades-long state (and threat) of war, and put a dent in the military’s power within North Korea.

Outlook and Recommendations

  North Korea and the US remain (at least rhetorically) interested in dialogue; both of their leaders insist on having and wanting to extend their positive personal relationship. It is imperative for Seoul to double its efforts and resume its role of facilitator and mediator, continuing the positive momentum of inter-Korean relations and helping to bridge the gaps between Washington and Pyongyang. After having practically agreed to terminate the Korean War in September 2018, the two Koreas must commerce economic cooperation and expand exchanges in all areas to grow together. Extensive inter-Korean relations can encourage US-North Korean relations and help to reduce political and military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

  Independent from the no-deal of Hanoi, there is an urgent need to follow-through on the de facto inter-Korean end of war and declare the end of the Korean War multilaterally. Instead of coercing North Korea into unilateral disarmament, a more realistic step-by-step approach needs to be adopted; a comprehensive approach that conceptualizes steps of a freeze, capacity reductions and then dismantlement, steps reciprocated through selective sanctions lifting. Additionally, military confidence-building measures and institutionalizing bilateral interactions serve to mitigate present and future tensions.

  Most importantly, it is imperative to understand the roots of North Korea’s conviction regarding its possession of an indigenous nuclear deterrent. While the US consideration of nuclear weapons during the Korean War sparked this conviction, Washington’s handling of Iraq and Libya as well as its nuclear-capable strategic assets stationed in Guam, bomber overflights as demonstrations of force and decapitation plans have intensified it. Without substantial changes in the security environment on the Korean Peninsula therefore, there will be little substantial changes in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons or ballistic missile programs. It is therefore laudable to continue the indefinite suspension of US-South Korean joint military exercises, which was mostly expected after the Singapore Summit in June 2018. The absence of large-scale military drills serves to build the fundament of normalizing state interactions and constructive dialogue towards a negotiated solution to the deep-rooted security dilemma on the Korean Peninsula.


1 This paper was commissioned by RECNA on behalf of Co-chairs of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PSNA.

【Mar. 8, 2019】Special Essay on US-DPRK Summit in Hanoi (PSNA-WP-3)

Category : PSNA Activities

Kim–Trump summitry: Neither breakthrough nor breakdown

Ramesh Thakur, Emeritus Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University and Co-Convenor, Asia-Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament

PSNA Working Paper Series (PSNA-WP-3)1

March 6, 2019

[Japanese version: PDF]

  CANBERRA— The first summit in Singapore last June gave Kim Jong-un legitimacy as the head of a de facto nuclear-armed state engaging with U.S. President Donald Trump as an equal. The second summit in Hanoi on February 27–28 has normalized that status but accomplished little else.

  Trump had successfully managed expectations downwards since last year. Gone were the boasts about the nuclear threat from Pyongyang having ended. Instead Trump shifted the “transformational goal” of total denuclearization to the “transactional goal” of limiting Kim’s nuclear capability. The U.S. walked back from the insistence on total, verified denuclearization as a precondition for improved ties and normalization. Instead it has embraced the principle of simultaneous and parallel steps toward denuclearization and peaceful relations.

  The Hanoi summit offered neither a breakthrough nor a breakdown. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that although “No agreement was reached at this time,” the two leaders had “very good and constructive meetings” and “discussed various ways to advance denuclearization.” Trump said the impasse arose over Kim’s demand for a lifting of sanctions in their entirety in return for a promise to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear complex. North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho disputes this account, saying it only asked for limited sanctions relief.

  The Kashmir crisis that flared up dangerously with exquisite timing during the Hanoi summit underlines the logic of Trump’s moves on Korea. Abandoning a demonstrably failed policy over a quarter century, of insistence on a total and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea, is no big sacrifice. Engaging with Kim personally to establish a working relationship that can dispel misperceptions, build confidence and trust, deepen inter-Korean relations and in other ways greatly reduce the risks of a war with catastrophic consequences: now that is a big deal.

  For all his strategic illiteracy, Trump may have a surer intuitive grasp of this underlying big-picture reality than most of the devotees of the Washington playbook of increasingly militarized responses to foreign crises. Communications channels are now active between North and South Korea, and between North Korea and the U.S., at summit, high and working levels. This is no bad thing.

  That said, Trump was right to walk away from the demand to lift all sanctions now in return for dismantling just one key nuclear facility. Perhaps Kim misjudged Trump’s eagerness to make a deal, any deal, in order to claim a victory to offset the worsening domestic situation for the president, particularly with his former lawyer’s testimony to Congress. Trump has not reached that point of desperation yet.


1 This paper was commissioned by RECNA on behalf of Co-chairs of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PSNA.

【Feb. 26, 2019】Special Essay on upcoming US-DPRK Summit in Hanoi (PSNA-WP-2)

Category : PSNA Activities


Leon V. Sigal, Director of Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project, Social Science Research Council (USA)

PSNA Working Paper Series (PSNA-WP-2)1

February 26, 2019

[Japanese version: PDF]

      Concrete commitments, not the hyperbole of President Trump’s defenders or detractors, will determine how successful the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi should be judged by objective observers.

      From the U.S. vantage point, four commitments matter. First, will North Korea completely halt the production of plutonium and enriched uranium and commit to the dismantlement of all its fissile-material production sites, not just those at Yongbyon? Second, will it stop making intermediate- and intercontinental-range ballistic missiles? Third, will it permit inspections at its reactor and reprocessing plant at Yongbyon and all its enrichment sites, as well as its nuclear test sites, uranium mines and sites where the uranium ore is refined and turned into a gas for enriching in order to bound uncertainty over how much fissile material it may have produced and used in the past? And fourth, has it committed in writing to its moratorium on nuclear and missile testing?

      From the DPRK vantage point, will the United States move away from enmity by declaring an end to the Korean War, opening the way to a peace process that can culminate in a peace treaty? Second, will the United States relax some sanctions by exempting the delivery of humanitarian aid, use of the Mount Kumgang resort and reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea, as well as lifting U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act sanctions? Third, will the two sides be willing to open liaison offices in each other’s capitals?

      Critics will claim that the Yongbyon facilities are old, as if shutting them down is not worth much. That is nonsense. Those “old” facilities, some of which have been operating for less than a decade, can produce three or four bombs’ worth of plutonium and highly enriched uranium a year, as well as the tritium without which the North’s thermonuclear weapons will no longer function after some dozen years or so.

      Critics will also object that the North still retains an unknown quantity of fissile material and nuclear weapons and the summit did not yield a complete declaration of the North’s nuclear inventory including how much it has made. But the Trump administration is right to phase in that inventory declaration, starting with the location of its plutonium reactors, reprocessing and enrichment sites. Before seeking an accounting of fissile material and number of weapons, it is prudent to seek access to these locations as well as the North’s nuclear-weapons test sites, its uranium mines, its ore refining plants, and its uranium hexafluoride plant to take various measurements. This nuclear archeology will reduce uncertainty and better enable it to assess how much fissile material the North could have produced. U.S. intelligence estimates vary widely so any number the North would turn over is certain to be controversial, as it was in the initial declaration to the IAEA in 1992, which is now nearly forgotten but for years complicated efforts to contain the growing security threat posed by North Korea’s continued fissile material and missile production.

      It is essential to understand that verification is a political judgment in technical guise. Verification is sometimes confused with playing “gotcha,” seizing on a suspected breach— however minor—as evidence of cheating and using it to discredit a deal. While no agreement can be absolutely verifiable and any breach takes on political significance because of what it implies about a violator’s intention to some, to say that an agreement is adequately verifiable is to assert that residual uncertainties are less consequential than the benefits of keeping the agreement. Absolutism in verification may pose as great a risk to U.S. and allied security as some North Korean violations.

      Getting most, if not all, of the above commitments would be a remarkable achievement. Implementing them will take the two sides further down the road to denuclearization than they have ever gone before. Critics will no doubt carp that such an outcome stops short of complete denuclearization and question whether Kim Jong Il will ever give up his nuclear weapons, but the only way to find out is to continue the negotiations while keeping U.S. commitments, and see how far they can get.


1 This paper was commissioned by RECNA on behalf of Co-chairs of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PSNA.

【Feb. 26, 2019】Special Essay on upcoming US-DPRK Summit in Hanoi (PSNA-WP-1)

Category : PSNA Activities

The North Korea–United States summit and possibilities for new security-oriented thinking

Kyoji Yanagisawa, Former Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary, Japan

PSNA Working Paper Series (PSNA-WP-1)1

February 26, 2019

[Japanese version: PDF]


      Since the North Korea–United States summit took place in June 2018, the United States and China have been in discussions regarding North Korean denuclearization. To break through the current stalemate in these discussions, a second summit meeting is anticipated in late February. Whatever results these talks may produce, the fact that nuclear disarmament is a topic signifies a new age in the history of nuclear weapons.

      We have been accepting the existence of nuclear arms as “a necessary reality” to prevent wars, while maintaining policies on how to avoid using them. Despite taking a long time to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea, if we find that it is possible to eliminate a nuclear program through negotiation, it would demonstrate that an approach other than deterrence could be successful. As a real-life case study, the North Korea–United States talks offer an opportunity to consider new possibilities and create experimental models for these.

      Speaking as a former defense establishment insider during the age of mutual nuclear deterrence, I find this degree of change rather shocking, and this has prompted me to try to contribute to a better understanding of this new era by identifying some of the tools to do so. No one can be certain where the North Korea–United States negotiations are heading, but what is certain is that change is coming. We are at the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

Why is the Japanese Prime Minister unable to respond to the current situation of the atomic bomb victims?

      On August 9, 2018, 73 years after an atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, visited Nagasaki City and met with the victims. A representative of the victims asked why the Prime Minister did not mention the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in his speech. In response, the Prime Minister didn’t answer the question but reiterated the Government’s position that countries have diverging views on nuclear weapons, and it is important [for Japan] to act as a bridge between these.

      The Japanese government’s position is that as long as nuclear weapons exist and pose a threat to national security, Japan needs the nuclear umbrella of the United States. If Japan supports a treaty that considers nuclear weapons unlawful, Japan’s security policy could no longer be based on the nuclear deterrence capacity of the United States.

      The government believes that the U.S. nuclear weapons that once nearly destroyed our nation are “a necessary evil.” Indeed, there exists no weapon greater than a nuclear bomb. Therefore, there is a good reason to believe that the existence of a nuclear program is necessary to prevent the threat posed to us all. However, this line of thinking does not stop at a passive acceptance of nuclear programs as an unavoidable reality, but actively justifies their existence as part of our national security policy.

      During the Obama presidency, the Japanese government opposed the No First Use declaration by his administration. They believe that the ability to retaliate against nuclear weapons is not sufficient in and of itself; rather, there must be room to use nuclear weapons when attacked otherwise war cannot be prevented. However, if the use of nuclear weapons is not limited to retaliation against a nuclear attack, no threshold restricting the use of nuclear weapons remains.

      That is, indeed, the logic of nuclear deterrence theory. In response to an attack, one retaliates with the ultimate weapon, one that has the potential to cause annihilation. If there is always a risk that attacking Japan could provoke such a response, who would attack Japan? This is a convenient logic if we are only concerned about our own well-being. However, the problem with this logic is when it is applied to other countries as well. For the United States, using nuclear weapons to prevent an attack on its ally, Japan, is a difficult decision because the US itself could in turn suffer major damage. This is because the only countries with the ability to attack Japan on a scale that would require a nuclear response would be major military powers such as China and Russia, not North Korea.

      If Japan is under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, it follows that when Japan is attacked, the United States will use nuclear weapons in response. There is great irony in the only nation that suffered atomic bombings, Japan, maintaining national security assumptions of the use of nuclear weapons by its major ally. The oath “this mistake shall not be repeated” on the Memorial Monument in Hiroshima, the City of Peace, forces us to wonder if “mistake” does not include the use of nuclear weapons against enemies of Japan.

      The North Korea–United States summit held last June had no impact on the attitude of the Japanese government. The “Outline of the National Defense Program” that was adopted by the government last December states, “the extended deterrence of the United States, including nuclear deterrent force, is essential against potential nuclear threats.” Regarding North Korea, “Although it declared its intention to denuclearize, its nuclear and missile programs have not changed,” and as such, North Korea “remains a serious and imminent threat to Japan.”

      In any case, a path toward the total abolition of nuclear weapons will never be found under assumptions that nuclear weapons are necessary. It is easy to criticize the government’s attitude, but what the government really needs is clear logic that will prevent war, and if no other assurances than nuclear weapons are found, the government can hardly be expected to change its thinking.

      If we are to “act as a bridge between countries with diverging views” as the Prime Minister suggested, we must repeatedly examine the meaning of changes in North Korea, the extent to which the idea that nuclear weapons will prevent war holds water, and the potential of any other prospective approaches. Here if anywhere is a rift in viewpoints that requires bridging.

The historical significance of the North Korea–United States summit
From pressure to conversation

      In 2017, North Korea pursued a policy announced by Kim Jong-un at the beginning of that year that allowed for repeated nuclear tests and firing of missiles. In response, the United States stepped up economic sanctions and applied military pressure on the country by deploying multiple aircraft carriers and bombers in South Korea and around Japan. However, North Korea did not implement any changes in its nuclear program, leading to a stalemate. As more pressure was exerted, the risk of accidental war increased, and the concerns of nearby countries, including Japan, were heightened.

      In 2018, North Korea declared that its nuclear arms development was complete and changed the focus of its policies to economic development. North Korea explored the idea of discussions with South Korea in conjunction with the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. Moreover, during the April 2018 Inter-Korean summit, the two countries jointly declared denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and an end to the state of war. Kim Jong-un requested a meeting with the United States through South Korea, and President Trump met with him at the North Korea–United States summit on June 12 in Singapore. They agreed on security guarantees by the United States in exchange for the denuclearization of North Korea.

      Subsequently, North Korea and the United States have been bargaining intermittently in an effort to implement the agreement reached in principle at the summit, but it remains unclear how the USA, which wants to verify the status of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and facilities, and North Korea, which seeks to alleviate economic sanctions, can find a middle ground. Clear steps toward officially ending the Korean War are yet to be made, which would represent an important form of progress toward security guarantees.

      The USA and Japan suspect that North Korea has no intention to abolish its nuclear program but is simply attempting to get sanctions lifted by compromising with the Trump administration. However, the logic behind international negotiations is not that simple. The parties came to an agreement because benefits were to be gained from doing so, and to protect such benefits, they are obliged to comply with the agreement.

      If getting the sanctions lifted is North Korea’s primary aim, and their driving concern is therefore economic in nature, this implies that more diverse and flexible negotiations could be more successful than relying strictly on military means.

      The outlook for negotiations is not necessarily grim as long as there is a will to compromise.

Leading with force and benefits to achieve goals

      War is the use of violence by a nation to exert its will. The root of the problem with North Korea is the conflict between North Korea’s desire to retain its nuclear program and the USA’s unwillingness to accept it. To change North Korea’s position, the USA has made threats in the form of sanctions and military power.

      The intent behind sanctions was to cause enough economic loss that the North Korean economy would collapse and the regime would lose its power. These changes would be brought to North Korea by inciting fear that the regime itself would be overthrown through war. However, North Korea never changed its stance.

      The benefit for North Korea of retaining its nuclear program is enhanced security against a U.S. attack. Therefore, as the conflict intensified, the benefits related to having nuclear weapons also increased. On the other hand, the main benefits for the USA are to remove the threat to its own safety posed by North Korea’s offensive capability and to increase its legitimacy as the nation that maintains order by achieving the abolition of other countries’ nuclear weapon programs and preventing further complication of power relationships in the region. For these reasons, increased North Korean nuclear capacity is disadvantageous to the USA.

      The USA defined Iran, Iraq, and North Korea in 2002 as “the axis of evil” and declared a policy aimed at altering the situation, potentially through a preemptive attack. The axis of evil referred to “countries with weapons of mass destruction, or that wish to acquire weapons of mass destruction in defiance of the USA.” The USA accomplished regime change in Iraq but failed to build a stable postwar order there. In North Korea, the USA has attempted denuclearization by force and made threats that hinted at direct regime change, such as through the murder of Kim Jong-un. However, when ultimately the DPRK refused to change its position, the USA did not feel that openly declaring war was viable.

      The U.S. military probably has enough power to destroy the Kim Jong-un regime. However, a war to overthrow a regime because it is developing a nuclear program, when that country has not declared war against another nation, cannot be justified under international law. Should a war ensue, South Korea (which is within range of North Korean long-range artillery) and Japan (within range of intermediate-range missiles from North Korea) would almost certainly sustain damage. Furthermore, North Korea would fall into a state of anarchy if its current regime were overthrown. To establish a new order out of such confusion, North Korea would have to be occupied for a long period by about a million soldiers. In view of the high costs and limited benefits, war was simply not an option for the USA. In the event that the North Korea–United States negotiations collapsed while these conditions remained unchanged, war would still not be a viable option.

      If war is not an option, the threat of military force is ineffective as a means of forcing North Korea to bend. If anything, it unites North Koreans and strengthens their will to keep their nuclear program. This situation led to the 2017 stalemate.

      The ultimate goal for the USA is to change North Korea’s desire to keep its nuclear program. There are two ways to change someone’s will: forcibly or by offering incentives. If the threat of war is ineffective in changing North Korea’s position, the only option left is to entice the regime with benefits. What North Korea wants more than anything is a guarantee that the USA will permit its regime to exist, in exchange for which it would not attempt to destroy the USA. Similarly, what the USA wants is for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, in exchange for which the USA would not seek to overthrow the North Korean regime.

      The agreement reached at the North Korea–United States summit constitutes a promise to offer these concessions to each other. Having both countries grant what the other side desires without the use of force is the surest and most effective method of avoiding a war. If countries can obtain what they want without a war, they would never choose war, which has very high costs and no assurance of a favorable result.

Both cannot return to the past

      Of course, the best scenario would be for North Korea and the USA to achieve their mutual goals through negotiation. As long as they perceive an opportunity to negotiate, there is no reason for either country to take a course of action that would jeopardize such an opportunity. With the June 12 North Korea–United States agreement as a good point of departure, it is imperative that these nations move toward resolution of the issue.

      For North Korea, nuclear abandonment equals military disarmament. This is because North Korea does not have the ability to threaten USA’s safety with conventional military power alone. This situation has made North Korea cautious. North Korea cannot ignore the risks related to the potential identification by the USA of the locations of its nuclear weapons; that is, the U.S. military would immediately intervene to destroy them. Thus, the next challenge for the USA is how it can gain its counterpart’s trust in its assurances that it would not seek to overthrow the regime.

      The origin of the North Korea–United States conflict dates back to the 1950 Korean War. Despite a cease-fire being declared under the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, the countries are still technically still at war. It is a natural course of action for countries at war to pursue military superiority. To build trust between North Korea and the USA, the Korean War must be officially ended. Once the conflict that persists due to the ongoing state of war is eliminated, the fear of an attack by the USA should also be eliminated, and there would no longer be any reason to maintain nuclear weapons.

      The achievement of these ends, however, requires the involvement of the major parties to the Korean War and the establishment of the postwar order on the Korean peninsula. This includes not only the USA but also China. Such a multilateral agreement is vital for ending the war, and it would mark the start of a postwar framework for new talks in northeast Asia including South Korea, North Korea, the USA, China, Japan, and Russia. Here again, formally ending the Korean War is a prerequisite for achieving denuclearization. Only after a multinational framework is established to handle regional security issues in northeast Asia can the denuclearization of North Korea be finalized.

      Meanwhile the North Korean regime is negotiating for guarantees. It is deeply committed to improving its economy through increased access to investment opportunities brought by the lifting of sanctions. Since North Korea has no bargaining chips other than its nuclear weapons in its negotiations with the USA, the road to the country abandoning its nuclear weapons is a long one. Its two motivations, achieving a guarantee of stability of its regime and economic improvement, are closely interrelated.

      This does not mean that the situation will necessarily progress at the pace set by North Korea. The more pressing its economic needs become, the more flexible with its incentives the USA can be. For this reason, North Korea is attempting to push the USA toward compromise by involving China.

      By the time this paper is published, the second North Korea–United States summit, scheduled for late February, will already have taken place. Though steps for North Korea to take toward denuclearization and for the USA to lift its nuclear weapons-related sanctions are to be discussed, things might not turn out as expected. At this point, even forecasting the results of the negotiations is not feasible; the most we can do is discuss the logical path toward resolution of the issues, nothing more, and nothing less.

      In any case, what is important to recognize is that it is possible to solve the North Korean nuclear weapons issue through incentives rather than force. There is a path to solving problems without war. The question is how we can generalize, customize, and systematize this potential.

From deterrence to incentives: the possibility of a new mind-set

      The core incentive for Kim Jong-un is to ensure the stability of his regime. He has no prospect of winning a military resistance against the USA. Being sanctioned for opposing the USA will weaken his regime, and if the conflict leads to war, his regime will collapse. Beyond the military situation, the second key to a stable North Korea is a sounder economy.

      To rebuild the North Korean economy, economic sanctions must be lifted. North Korea appears to be attempting to outsmart the sanctions, but in a nation of 20 million people, smuggling and backroom deals cannot provide economic growth. To grow the economy, economic participation in the international market is essential; this means that North Korea must abandon its nuclear program, which is the cause of the sanctions. Kim Jong-un must be aware of this. At the same time, for it to start to feel confident about the discontinuance of its nuclear program, North Korea must first remove the risk of military conflict with the USA.

      If Kim Jong-un axes his strategy based on incentives such as these, the increased availability of incentives presents an opportunity. Of course, this is only a hypothesis that will be put to the test in the actual negotiation process.

      What makes this process important is that both North Korea and the USA have transitioned from conflict and deterrence, backed by their ability to attack each other, to negotiations based on offering each other incentives. In other words, instead of seeking to force each other to bend through threats or actual war, they are opting for persuading each other through incentives. Herein lies potential to drastically change both parties’ perceptions and approaches to attaining assurances of security.

      The main framework for security assurance has changed over time. In the 19th century, the primary approach was to solve international conflicts through war. In the 20th century, the mainstream approach was to use force as a deterrent to prevent war. What we are experiencing today could be the first step toward a new approach of solving problems through mutual compromise based on incentives.

      To effectively transition from deterrence to incentives, I would like to examine the future of the North Korea–United States agreement, which I believe contains the greatest potential significance for North Korea–United States reconciliation efforts.

Can we prevent missiles with deterrence?

      In his address to the National Diet on February 14, 2018, Prime Minister Abe stated, “When North Korea launches a missile, the only nation protecting Japan is the United States. If they miss intercepting the missiles, the only country that can retaliate is the United States. Unless [North Korea] takes this to heart, it may take reckless action going forward.” Abe’s statement is a summary of the concept of deterrence, in which the intention to attack is countered by threat of even more powerful retaliation.

      For this logic to be borne out in facts, three prerequisites must be met. The first is that the United States would indeed retaliate, ignoring considerations of its own benefits and risks; the second is that North Korea would hold back from launching missiles due to fear of retaliation by the United States. Since the “if they miss” scenario implies missiles potentially landing in Japan, a third unstated possibility is that Japan could withstand such a missile attack and request retaliation by the United States, including the use of nuclear weapons.

      None of these assumptions is certain. If North Korea were to begin a war that involved the use of missiles, it would be under a definite state of confrontation with the USA and would be willing to target the USA (or perhaps its ally Japan) with nuclear weapons and ICBMs. The following questions arise: Would the USA be prepared to sacrifice itself to retaliate against North Korea to avenge Japan? War sometimes begins out of fear, and North Korea might consider that preemption is the only way for them to survive, just as Japan Imperialists did in 1941.

      Furthermore, would Japan be able to withstand missile attacks on Tokyo or its nuclear plants? The logic of deterrence with force may appear solid, but it presumes the power to prevail in an armed conflict and, in war, one must be ready to withstand damage.

      In the end, PM Abe’s “deterrence through the USA’s retaliation” on Japan’s behalf is a weak proposition. Personally, I would give each of the three assumptions a 50 percent rating for reliability. When the three probabilities are multiplied, we get 0.5 × 0.5 × 0.5 = 12.5%. Can a security assurance policy with a 12.5 percent likelihood of success survive? This is why an alternative to the idea of deterrence is necessary.

      The most certain way to stay safe from missiles is not to “strike down a missile and retaliate,” but to eliminate the willingness to use missiles. Making military threats ends up increasing the ability and willingness of the counterpart to strike. If a nation cannot strike back in response to a missile attack, the most realistic defense is to eliminate the willingness to use missiles.

      The North Korea–United States negotiations seek to ensure North Korea would not launch its missiles under any circumstances before the actual abolishment of its nuclear weapons program takes place. What is necessary going forward are continued efforts in this direction and monitoring to ensure it is final and verifiably irreversible.

Is deterrence with an unusable weapon logical?
Why are nuclear weapons unusable?

      War is an act of confronting another country with violence to achieve one’s political goals. Deterrence involves discouraging violence by demonstrating the ability and resolve to use even more violence to suppress other actors’ willingness to go to war. To achieve realistic deterrence, one party requires a means of violence and must convince the other party that they are determined to actually use such violence.

      In other words, nuclear weapons’ function as a deterrent is based on the thought process by which the other nation recognizes the possibility of actual use of nuclear weapons, which prevents it from attacking. However, a nation that fears nuclear weapons must plan for the possibility of an attack. Nuclear weapons have the power to destroy not only opposing military forces but also whole cities. If troops who are seeking to force another country to bend to their will are destroyed, the enemy might retaliate by destroying cities, thereby seeking to destroy the core of its opponent’s resolve, the nation itself.

      If a war goes beyond its initial purpose of forcing another country to bend to its will in this way and ends up seeking the annihilation of the nation itself, the war becomes suicidal and loses its significance as a means to achieve a political goal. During the Cold War, the common understanding of “mutually assured destruction,” which signified recognition that the USA and USSR could both be destroyed by nuclear weapons if they engaged in a blind pursuit of victory, kept them from actual war.

      The reason the Japanese government believed that extended deterrence under the US nuclear umbrella, considered the foundation of its security assurance policy, was effective is because if one of the two nuclear superpowers during the cold war—the USA or the Soviet Union—attacked the other, allies would retaliate, creating a potential risk of nuclear retaliation. This assumption resulted in the deterrence of military aggression even against allies.

      In other words, nations were prevented from going to war because their prospective combatants owned nuclear weapons. Since they could not go to war, the USA and USSR had to coexist, leading to a strategic stability that was called détente. Nuclear weapons were acknowledged to have an ability to deter war simply by their existence, and their existence was justified because they had not yet been used.

      However, this relationship is based on the assumption that both countries are still willing to use nuclear weapons if deemed necessary.

      The East-West conflict during the Cold War did not involve mutual economic interdependence, and there was no room to budge due to the opposing ideologies characterizing the two sides. In this conflict structure, in which each side firmly rejected the other’s ideology, the perceived superiority of one side would cause fear in the other. The three causes of war as defined by Thucydides—wealth, honor, and fear—coexisted in this conflict. War could happen at any time, and once a war was launched, there would be nothing to stop it from spreading. If it did not stop spreading, it could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons. A country under attack may have retaliated with nuclear weapons, resulting in the risk of its own annihilation. In this manner, nuclear weapons became unusable because both countries’ willingness to use them was recognized. This is the essential concept of nuclear deterrence through mutually assured destruction, as well as of extended deterrence under the nuclear umbrella.

Differences in motivations for nuclear weapon use between the Cold War and the present

      The conflict between liberalism and communism or totalitarianism during the Cold War was a conflict between modes of existence. Both sides had strong beliefs—“I would rather die than lose my freedom under totalitarianism” and “we cannot allow ourselves to be exploited by capitalism”—that justified each side’s regime. This was a conflict with no compromise, and it was considered worth pursuing even at the risk of being destroyed by nuclear weapons. In other words, political motivations that created the willingness to use nuclear weapons existed on both sides.

      Today, no such absolute ideological conflict exists between any two nations. The world has become one market controlled by economic competition. Enormous amounts of capital move across national borders, and each country’s economy is dependent on that of other countries. Destroying another nation through war is now the equivalent of destroying part of one’s own economic foundation.

      Dictatorial political systems and their domestic restrictions on human rights may sometimes become a political issue, but this is a problem within a single nation, not a challenge to global governance as the communist world revolution was. Presently, no threat exists that must be prevented to avert a nation’s downfall. There is no “life-or-death” conflict that could lead to irrational decisions.

      Today, there is concern over a possible war between the USA and China over supremacy according to the “Thucydides trap.” Competition over trade and advanced technology continues to intensify. However, the true nature of this conflict is over economic and technological supremacy, and the fear that the USA experiences as it contemplates the possible loss of its economic supremacy is the exacerbating factor. This problem cannot be solved by either forcing the other side to surrender by war or by destroying the other in war.

      The current concern, therefore, is not the physical destruction of the world due to nuclear retaliation by the USA or China, but rather “mutually assured economic destruction” in which the global economy becomes dysfunctional.

      The logic of mutually assured destruction appears to persist between major nuclear powers. However, the big differences between the Cold War and today’s situation is the lack of motive to resolve conflicts through war and the unwillingness to destroy one’s opponent with nuclear weapons at the risk of one’s own destruction, even if one has to put up with some antagonism or harassment as a result.

      Without a motive, there is no will to use nuclear weapons. If this is the case, does the argument that nuclear weapons without the willingness to use them effectively represent a situation of deterrence still hold water? Even if there is no longer any motive for war between major states with nuclear weapons, some wars between a major nuclear state on one side and a medium-size or small state without nuclear weapons on the other—e.g., the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the capturing of islands in the South China Sea by China, and the Iraq war waged by the USA—were not prevented.

      Could these wars have been prevented if these small nations had nuclear weapons? Perhaps. This is exactly the motivation underlying North Korea’s drive to keep its nuclear weapons program. However, even if these lesser nations had armed themselves with nuclear weapons, they would not have reached parity with major states that have larger nuclear arsenals, and they would have had no hope of winning a war. Acquiring nuclear weapons may even increase the risk of being attacked by major states with nuclear weapons. The actual problem was that these nations were not under the nuclear umbrella of major states with nuclear weapons, and thus the attackers had no concern about provoking a war with another major state that possessed nuclear weapons. In other words, there was no motive for major states to use their nuclear weapons, and thus the existence of nuclear weapons did not prevent war in these cases.

      What about the allies? If medium-sized and small nations are under the nuclear umbrella of major states with nuclear weapons, could they avoid being attacked by other major states that have nuclear weapons? This logic seems to be moderately persuasive. However, today, as the logic of mutually assured destruction between major states with nuclear weapons is wavering—in other words, now that it is unclear whether major nuclear states are willing to go to war with another state that possesses nuclear weapons even at the risk of their own demise—the root question of whether the nuclear umbrella is secure cannot be answered.

      Crimea, the South China Sea, and the Iraq war were all major incidents that affected the international order, yet major states with nuclear weapons showed no will to go to war in these cases. If a nation is closely allied with a major power, an attack on that nation might have a greater chance of leading to war, but whether it should be protected with nuclear weapons is a different question.

      At present, the main factor that deters war between major nuclear states is not the existence of nuclear weapons, but the lack of perception that going to war would resolve any problem, compounded by the realization that the use of nuclear weapons would lead to the loss of an opportunity to become involved in negotiating incentives between major states. In our contemporary situation, no clear strategies exist for offering or negotiating incentives as power continually shifts between major states. Therefore, problems cannot be solved through the short-term destruction of the balance of power that we call war; that is the nature of the times we are living in.

      In any case, the logic that the existence of nuclear weapons prevents a war between states is useless in solving the problems of this day and age.

      On the other hand, armed groups called terrorists are supported by ideologies that deny other people’s very right to existence, and they are willing to pursue their ideologies even if it means their own deaths. Their objective is murder, not rule. That is why they are called terrorists. Since they do not have a state, land, or people to rule, they have no state or culture to worry about losing through nuclear attacks. Therefore, it is difficult to stop terrorism with military force.

      Today, the great global risk is the possibility of nuclear weapons, which are no longer used as a tool of war between states, falling into the hands of terrorists, who might then use them as a means of murder, not deterrence.

      This is why the management of nuclear weapons by states, as well as of nuclear technology and of the transport and disposal of related materials, has come under criticism. Terrorist groups, which are not states, would never ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Hypothetically, even if a world without nuclear weapons were achieved in the future, the threat of terrorists developing and using nuclear weapons would remain an issue for international society. Conflict among human beings, not just among states, must be resolved if we wish to eliminate all forms of violence and destruction. To that end, nuclear weapons and military power are not the solution.

      A new approach that moves away from deterrence by nuclear weapons is thus needed.

The U.S. nuclear strategy in confusion and the security of Japan
The U.S. objective of enhanced nuclear capacity

      The Trump administration did not rule out the preemptive use of nuclear weapons during its Nuclear Posture Review of February 2018, which stated that the United States aims to develop “usable nuclear weapons” with limited objectives, such as low-yield nuclear weapons and cruise missiles. In October, the USA declared its intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF treaty), and China, which has not signed the treaty, announced its intention to develop new intermediate-range nuclear weapons to counter intermediate-range missiles, as a means of countering U.S. military actions in Asia. In January 2019, in its Missile Defense Review, the USA announced plans to develop new technology that could shoot down all missiles aimed at it, fully utilizing sensors in space and all means of interception.

      This represents an attempt to devise nuclear options applicable to all war-related purposes, from the destruction of limited military targets to the annihilation of an enemy nation, and to gain absolute superiority to win all wars involving nuclear weapons by making all other countries powerless to mount effective attacks. Considering that the true nature of deterrence is the power to win a war, such steps would enhance the deterrence capacity of the USA.

      Of course, there remains the dilemma of security assurance. Actors who do not want to see the USA gain unquestioned superiority may act to further strengthen their own nuclear military power, resulting in the start of a new cycle of the nuclear arms race.

      During the Cold War, mutual deterrence based on nuclear weapons was grounded on the assumption of mutual vulnerability, that is, the belief that neither combatant could survive a nuclear attack. If either party is assured of its ability to avoid damage and achieve victory, mutual deterrence falls apart. This would no longer be deterrence but a unidirectional coercion based on the threat of violence, and if it were ever actually put into practice, it would constitute massacre without justification.

      USA’s opinion is that if the only nuclear weapon that the USA owned was large long-range missiles launched from its mainland, while the enemy possessed smaller nuclear heads along with intermediate-range missiles with the capability of forward deployment against the USA, the U.S. nuclear weapon would be too large to retaliate against limited nuclear attacks by their enemy, thereby making it unusable. In this case, the USA would lack any way of retaliating against limited nuclear attacks.

      From Japan’s standpoint, if the USA has diverse military options including intermediate-range nuclear weapons, its deterrence capacity would increase. However, there is a serious problem with this line of thinking.

Negative impact on Japan’s safety

      First, the USA’s aim is to have usable nuclear weapons. Low-yield nuclear weapons with limited power would be deployed against conventional military weapons of the enemy. If nuclear weapons are used against conventional weapons, the generally accepted threshold for the use of nuclear weapons would disappear.

      Second, low-yield nuclear weapons must be available at the front lines in a usable form. Equipping the front lines with powerful military force is effective as a deterrent in a crisis, but it could also strike fear in enemies’ hearts since it implies an ongoing state of crisis, possibly leading to a preemptive attack.

      Third, if low-yield nuclear weapons are used in the battlefield, retaliation with intermediate-range nuclear weapons from behind the front lines can be expected. Japan, where the U.S. military’s command and supply functions for northeast Asia are centered, would be an ideal target for intermediate-range nuclear weapons.

      Fourth, intermediate-range nuclear weapons with a range of 5,000 km could reach Beijing if launched by U.S. military forces stationed in the western Pacific Ocean. On the other hand, intermediate-range nuclear weapons owned by China could reach Tokyo but not the USA. What this means is that the USA could enter a nuclear war with intermediate-range missiles without fearing an attack on its own soil. Therefore, there is a major difference between Japan and the USA in the degree of threat from intermediate-range nuclear weapons, and this is leading to a new age of “decoupling.”

      The 1987 INF treaty was concluded because NATO nations were concerned about such decoupling. In that instance, Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles could not reach the USA but did threaten Europe, rendering the USA retaliation strategy dysfunctional. Accordingly, the USA purposely equipped Europe with intermediate-range nuclear weapons, which was followed by the USA and USSR abolishing these weapons simultaneously.

      Along the same line of thinking, Japan could actively house U.S. intermediate-range nuclear weapons on its own soil while simultaneously demanding that China eliminate its intermediate-range nuclear weapons. However, present-day China is not like USSR of the late 1980s, which was at risk of imminent collapse, and it could withstand an arms race. From the perspective of nuclear balance, China will demand a balance in ICBMs between Beijing and Washington, and it will want submarine-launched missiles in the western Pacific Ocean as a second force to counter the USA. The USA cannot do much about this complex equation, and Japan is not likely to gamble on its own security.

What Japan should consider

      What Japan needs to consider now is whether nuclear weapons or conventional weapons are to be used, as the battlefield for the USA will be on Japanese territory. Despite the tight military connections between Japan and the USA, the two countries would not suffer commensurate damage in such a war.

      After North Korea conducted a missile experiment in February 2017, in the joint US-Japanese press release, President Trump stated, “we stand behind Japan.” The response of Prime Minister Abe to the Diet also stated, “if they miss, the USA will retaliate.” He did not rule out that if the USA entered a war, Japan would suffer the damage.

      The foundations of security assurance policy are now being questioned. Should we accept this situation as necessary for deterrence? Should our priority be to prevent missiles from hitting Japan? Should Japan continue to depend on nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent? Alternatively, should we aim to create a world where nuclear weapons are not used and do not need to exist?


1 This paper was commissioned by RECNA on behalf of Co-chairs of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia. The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of PSNA.

【Jun. 1, 2018】Statement and Recommendations of the Co-Chairs of the 3rd Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA) Workshop

Category : PSNA Activities

Moscow, May 31 – June 1st, 2018
Sponsored by the Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition,
Nagasaki University (RECNA)

[PDF version]

New Prospects for Dialogue and Denuclearization

We were heartened by a return to dialogue on Korean denuclearization following the 27th April Panmunjom meeting and Declaration between the South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North Korean Chairman, Kim Jong-un. Following the alarming exchange of nuclear threats between US and North Korean leaders earlier this year, we welcome the Panmunjom Declaration’s commitment to reducing tensions, establishing permanent peace on the Peninsula, and achieving the “common goal of realising, through complete denuclearisation, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula”. We also note that both Koreas have taken several unilateral confidence building steps towards these ends, including North Korean undertakings to halt nuclear and missile testing and dismantle their nuclear weapon test site, South Korean/US willingness to temporarily postpone joint military exercises till after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and the steps to reduce confrontation across the demilitarized zone.

Equally, however, we would be dismayed if the Trump-Kim June summit meeting were not to go ahead as planned, and by any further exchange of threats and counter threats. A nuclear conflict in this densely populated region would be an unthinkable humanitarian catastrophe for the Koreas, Japan and across the whole Asia Pacific region. With the presence of neighbouring nuclear powers, China and Russia, such a conflict could escalate into a wider nuclear war engulfing the whole world. Dialogue and diplomacy, rather than resort to war, have never been more urgent if we are to achieve peace on the Peninsula.

We remain deeply concerned that the risks of devastating nuclear conflict in this region are so grave that any initial dialogue will need to be rapidly solidified into substantive internationally-recognized verified agreements on comprehensive measures to create regional Northeast Asian peace, security and denuclearization. The proposed Trump-Kim summit will be vital to achieving the necessary political will for a step-by-step peace settlement process with its own verification requirements.

Studies conducted by PSNA experts have identified a number of steps that would be necessary in this process, including, most recently a Roadmap for Nuclear Diplomacy in North Korea prepared by Morton Halperin, Peter Hayes, Thomas Pickering and Leon Segal. As the experts detail, key elements of this Roadmap (modelled on the previous 2005 Six-Party Talks Joint Statement) are to:

The first phase of this Roadmap would involve initial commitments by North Korea to suspend all nuclear and missile tests, and fissile material production (including enrichment) in return for the US and ROK scaling back joint exercises (especially those using nuclear capable systems); and to provide energy and humanitarian assistance to DPRK.

A second phase would involve a resumption of Six Party talks without preconditions, confidence building measures, verification of dismantlement of relevant test sites, and negotiations commencing on a new peace and regional security arrangement.

The final phase would include: the declaration and implementation of a legally binding and internationally verified nuclear-weapon-free zone treaty (as in the case of five other regions in the world together with the single state Mongolian NWFZ); a final peace treaty agreed for the ending of the Korean War; and negative security guarantees provided by the recognised nuclear-armed-states to all parties to a regional NWFZ.

Vital to successful implementation of such a Roadmap to Northeast Asian Peace and Security will not only be the position of the two Koreas and the United States, but also other regional states, particularly Japan and Mongolia, and neighbouring nuclear powers, China and Russia, as well as the UN and wider international community.

In its role as a key regional state, we urge that Japan offer strong and substantive support to the new peace diplomacy inaugurated in the recent Moon/Kim Panmunjom Declaration. In particular, we call on its leadership to pursue patient and considered diplomacy in joining six-party declarations on the principles and goals of a Northeast Asian peace process; support a comprehensive Korean peace settlement; resolve outstanding issues in normalizing relations with North Korea; and offer the same kind of practical diplomatic support for a Northeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone as it did for the successful establishment of the 2006 Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.

Continued nuclear risks and dangers in Northeast Asia

We continue to hold grave fears about nuclear risks and threats in this region. These risks include: the arms race consequences of missile defence systems in the region, particularly the THAADS system and planned Aegis Ashore systems; increased deployment of potentially nuclear capable vessels in Northeast Asian waters; tensions in neighbouring regions, such as the South China Sea and the Taiwan Straits; and the long term threats posed by increasing regional stockpiles of fissile materials. Some of these risks are analysed, and solutions proposed, in specialist research presentations at this PSNA Moscow Workshop.

In the case of THAADS missile-defence (MD) interceptor-rocket launchers already positioned in South Korea and Aegis Ashore systems planned in Japan, we continue to be deeply concerned that, while at first sight these might seem purely defensive, such systems also have a dual role in accelerating regional arms races because of a perceived need by targeted adversaries to overwhelm any missile defence system by deploying increased number of missiles and adding multiple warheads to each missile. In addition, such systems may well prove destabilizing given their long-range radar surveillance capabilities extending into Chinese and Russian territories, and potentially posing a pre-emptive strike risk serving to undermine China’s and Russia’s second-strike nuclear capability.

We also continue to be highly concerned about the potential for miscalculated or accidental nuclear war as a consequence of previously expressed (excluding China which maintains a no-first-use policy) preparedness to engage in pre-emptive strikes by some nuclear-armed states. There is also the risk of nuclear war resulting from early warning system computer errors, and from cyber attacks on nuclear weapon systems. We are equally concerned about the development of new types of nuclear-armed intermediate range and cruise missiles, which, even if conventionally armed, might appear to be, and mistaken for, nuclear armed missiles.

Further, given the existing presence of nuclear weapons in North Korea, and potentially nuclear-weapon-related facilities in other parts of the region, an effective verification scheme and arrangements will need to be developed and implemented to ensure all sides have confidence of compliance with agreements reached. Such a verification scheme would not only draw upon appropriate safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but also warrant establishment of a regional verification agency with a more extended mandate to investigate compliance within the region.

The new UN Nuclear Weapon Prohibition Treaty (NWPT)

The recent July 2017 adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (NWPT), supported by 122 non-nuclear UN Member States, will serve to outlaw nuclear weapons in a similar way to how chemical and biological weapons have been stigmatized and prohibited under international law. The new treaty seeks to mobilize the world community in applying normative pressure on states still possessing or relying on nuclear purported deterrents. It appeals to these states to rethink the global humanitarian, economic and environmental consequences of even a limited nuclear war. Such globally catastrophic impacts would extend far beyond the borders of those states who justify their continued nuclear reliance on the basis of national rather than global security interests. The nine current nuclear-armed states have largely sought to ignore the wider humanitarian and global threats posed by nuclear weapons, whether launched deliberately, accidentally or by miscalculation. We call upon all states, including nuclear “umbrella” states, to move towards reducing reliance on nuclear weapons as part of their defence or military postures, and to sign the NWPT treaty at the earliest opportunity.

Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Initiatives and NPT Action Plan

While the 1968 Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty does not include all nuclear-armed states (Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea stand outside it), the NPT does oblige the five NPT-recognised nuclear-weapon states to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, and to move towards total nuclear disarmament, particularly under Article VI which requires states to pursue negotiations in good faith on “cessation of the nuclear arms race and nuclear disarmament”, and under the agreed Action 5 of the 2010 NPT Review Conference committing nuclear-weapon states to “promptly engage with a view to…diminishing the role and significance of nuclear weapons in all military and security concepts, doctrines and policies”. The five nuclear-weapon states, China, France, Russia, UK and US, are all embarked on programs to modernize their nuclear armaments and delivery systems, while at the same time arguing that the NPT is the proper forum for disarmament negotiations. As we approach the 2020 NPT Review Conference, we call upon the nuclear powers to take seriously their agreed obligations towards reducing the role of nuclear weapons and move more decisively towards nuclear elimination.



Co-Chairs of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA)

Michael Hammel-Green
Emeritus Professor, College of Arts and Education
Vitoria University

Chung-in Moon
Asia Pacific Leadership Network for
Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (APLN)
Republic of Korea

Hiromichi Umebayashi
Visiting Professor, Former Director of RECNA

【Jun. 25, 2017】Statement and Recommendations by the Co-Chairs of the Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA)

Category : PSNA Activities

June 25, 2017 | Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia [PDF version]

Current Developments in Northeast Asia

We view with grave concern recent developments in Northeast Asia involving further missile testing on the part of North Korea and the deployment of two US carrier groups and two submarines to the region. In addition, there are continuing joint US-ROK military exercises close to the DMZ border (including B1-B Lancer bomb flights), the installation of a THAADS missile defence system in South Korea, and enhanced military engagement by the Japan Self-Defense Forces involving joint JSDF air exercises with US B1-B bombers close to the Korean Peninsula, and the first-ever armed JSDF escort for a US ammunition cargo ship to supply the US carrier groups.

These developments follow North Korea’s two underground nuclear tests last year, and its failure to respond to UN Security Council resolutions seeking an end to North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile tests. In the absence of either a resumption of the Six-Party Talks convened by China or direct bilateral negotiations between the affected parties, the recent developments pose major immediate risks of pre-emptive or miscalculated military strikes by either side with catastrophic consequences, and longer-term risks of further nuclear proliferation in the region.

These recent developments highlight the urgent need to pursue diplomatic initiatives to ease tensions and find a negotiated solution to the issues posed by North Korean missile and nuclear testing and the heightened military confrontation of North Korea on the part of the US and other regional states. We note that despite the current military moves, a number of key actors have recently stated a preparedness to engage in dialogue and negotiations. Joseph Yun, the US senior State Department official responsible for North Korean matters, sought to assure South Korean parliamentarians on May 25th that the US is open to “resolving the problem with dialogue”, although seeing a need to “impose every possible sanction and pressure” on North Korea to cease its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile program. South Korea’s new president, Moon Jai-in has indicated his willingness to visit North Korea “under the right conditions” for direct talks. The Chinese and Russian Foreign Ministers, meeting on May 26th, have called for “resolving the issue through peaceful means including dialogue and negotiations”. North Korea, for its part, on July 6 2016, set out five conditions for temporary suspension of its nuclear tests (four of which were previously agreed to by former US administrations), and one of its senior diplomats said in late May that “We’ll have dialogue if the conditions are there”.

We urge all parties to find ways, formally or informally, of bringing about the necessary dialogue and negotiations, either by way of resumption of the Six Party Talks, either through direct bilateral negotiations, or a combination of approaches. To fail to engage in substantial dialogue and continue with military escalation and nuclear weapon proliferation in the region risks major destabilization and potential regional catastrophe involving not only a nuclear-armed North Korea, but nuclear-armed allies of regional states, including the US and China.

PSNA Regional Experts’ Workshop, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, June 24-25 2017

Drawing upon experts across the region, and from Russia, China, the US, Europe and Australia, the second PSNA Workshop is analysing in depth: recent developments in US nuclear policy and its implications for Northeast Asia; the current UN negotiation of a Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and how it will impact on the Non-Proliferation Treaty review process; issues associated with a future Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, including its scope, and Japanese, Korean and Chinese perspectives on the contribution of such a treaty to regional security and steps towards initiating it; and key policy issues associated with civilian nuclear programs in Northeast Asia.

The work of the Panel, in association with the Nagasaki Process Track 2 initiative launched last year by Nagasaki University’s Research Centre for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, and the Ulaanbaatar Process, initiated in 2015 by the Northeast Asian branch of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (and including North Korean representatives), has already generated a number of key proposals, including a proposal for a more comprehensive approach in negotiations with North Korea. Such a comprehensive approach would involve seeking to pursue a wider framework agreement on peace and security in Northeast Asia. This would involve not only negotiation of nuclear weapon-free zone arrangements but also: a peace treaty to end the Korea War; security assurances to a non-nuclear DPRK, ROK and Japan; and establishment of a Northeast Asia regional security forum and Northeast Asia Energy Cooperation Committee.

UN Negotiations on a Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

We are heartened by the major progress in current UN negotiations on a Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The negotiations were initiated by the 2016 UN General Assembly and the first session held in New York in late March. The second session is currently in progress. The President of the UN Conference has already released a “Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” (A/CONF.229/2017/CRP.1). If adopted, it will, together with earlier bans on chemical and biological weapons, complete the prohibition of all major types of weapons of mass destruction. We note that the great majority of UN member states have supported such a convention. We call upon the current nine nuclear weapon states (and military allies who may be relying on extended nuclear deterrence  (‘nuclear umbrellas’) to participate in the current negotiations, even if they are not yet ready to forgo nuclear weapons. As often noted, nuclear war, even of a limited kind, has no winners, and would have catastrophic humanitarian, climatic and economic impacts that go well beyond national and regional borders to affect the whole world. As the new draft Convention notes, “the catastrophic consequences of nuclear weapons transcend national borders, pose grave implications for human survival, the environment, socioeconomic development, the global economy, food security, and for the health of future generations, and of the disproportionate impact of ionizing radiation on maternal health and on girls”.

Missile Defence Systems

We note with concern the recent US installation of a THAADS missile-defence system in South Korea in the last days of the Park Geun-hye Government, and the further installation of four THAADS interceptor-rocket launchers after the advent of the Moon Jae-in Government, without apparent knowledge and authorization of the new President. While such BMD systems may seem at first sight to be purely defensive, they have an inherent role of accelerating nuclear arms races between adversaries because of a perceived need to overwhelm any BMD system with increased numbers of missiles and/or the need to place multiple warheads on a single missile. In the Northeast Asian region, the THAADS system would have a destabilizing effect both within and beyond the region, since its long-range radar surveillance capability, extends into Chinese territory and is perceived as undermining China’s second strike nuclear capability (China is the only nuclear weapon state to remain committed to a non-first use policy). In the present context, the siting of THAADS in South Korea could well become a major diplomatic obstacle in seeking China’s cooperation on negotiations with North Korea.



Morton H. Halperin
Senior advisor, the Open Society Foundations, USA

Michael Hamel-Green
Emeritus Professor, Victoria University Melbourne, Australia

Chung-In Moon
Chair, Asia Pacific Leadership Network (APLN),
Professor, Yonsei University, ROK

Hiromichi Umebayashi
Special Advisor, Peace Depot, Inc.,
Former Director, Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition,
Nagasaki University (RECNA)

【Nov. 20, 2016】Statement and Recommendation by the Co-Chairs on behalf of Panel on Peace and Security of Northeast Asia (PSNA)

Category : PSNA Activities

November 20, 2016 | Nagasaki, Japan

A possible breakthrough in prohibiting nuclear weapons

On October 27, 2016, we witnessed the historic resolution (L.41) adopted by the First Committee of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, which “decides to convene in 2017 a UN conference to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their elimination.” We welcome the fact that 123 countries (non-nuclear weapon state members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) plus the DPRK) supported this historic resolution. On the other hand, it is truly regrettable that not only four nuclear weapon states (US, Russia, UK and France) but other most of the non-nuclear weapon states (except Netherlands which abstained) that fall under extended nuclear deterrence, such as NATO countries, South Korea and Japan, opposed this resolution (38 countries opposed and 16 abstained). We urge them to support the resolution and to join negotiation of a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.

Northeast Asia: Stalemate and Possible Hint for Negotiations

In the Northeast Asia region, defining and consolidating Mongolia’s nuclear-weapon-free status presents an example of successfully addressing a nuclear security issue by political and diplomatic means, bearing duly in mind the interests of the parties involved and setting a positive example.
Despite this example, there continues to be the stalemate, or even a regression, in the efforts for denuclearization of Northeast Asia. After three years of absence, the fourth and the fifth underground nuclear tests were conducted by the DPRK in 2016, and many tests were also conducted in relation to ballistic missiles that can be used as vehicles for such weapons. Those tests are clearly a violation of UN Security Council’s resolutions and we express our deep concern about the progress made by the DPRK nuclear weapon programs.

We also witnessed military reactions from both sides to show force, including regular reinforced US-ROK joint military exercises, flight operations by the US strategic bombers from the continental U.S. and Guam, and Korean People’s Army landing and anti-landing drills. The agreement between the U.S. and the ROK to deploy THAAD system on the soil of the ROK has raised tension in the area beyond the Peninsula.

The remarkable situation in NEA is also characterized by the fact that no official forum involving the DPRK, either bilateral, trilateral or multilateral, to overcome such stalemate or regression in nuclear issues has taken place since the 2012 leap day agreement between the DPRK and the US. It is clear that the so-called “strategic patience” policy by the US is not working, and so far no major initiatives have been taken by members of six party talks to break this stalemate.

On the other hand, we note that there were significant calls for a negotiation from the DPRK to the US. In January 2015, the DPRK proposed that, in exchange of the US temporary suspension of joint military exercises in ROK and its vicinity, the DPRK will be ready to take such responsive steps as temporarily suspending its nuclear test. This call was repeated in January this year, by saying all proposals were still valid “including the ones for ceasing our nuclear test and the conclusion of a peace treaty in return for U.S. halt to joint military exercises.”

Moreover, the DPRK presented five concrete points of conditions on July 6, 2016 . The US administration agreed four out of five points previously. The DPRK also said that, if such conditions were met, a decisive breakthrough would be made in realizing the denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. In our view, those conditions were worth considering. Inaction in engaging the DPRK in regional talks to develop a scheme for shared peace and security in the region will only give more time that will serve for the DPRK to strengthen its nuclear capabilities.

Need for a Comprehensive Approach

Now it is clear that engagement of the DPRK cannot be limited to just nuclear and missile issues, but should extend to a more comprehensive agenda including a peace treaty to end the Korean War and establishment of a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in Northeast Asia (NEA-NWFZ) which will provide security assurances to a non-nuclear DPRK, the ROK and Japan. We recommend establishment of a platform for discussions involving various Northeast Asian security issues. Lack of such a forum is one of the weaknesses of the existing security framework in Northeast Asia. We call on all the member countries of the six party talks to renew their efforts to break the current negative situation in NEA and to convene a new round of talks.

We are concerned about Nuclear Weapon States’ nuclear modernization programs and other activities, such as ballistic missile defense deployment, that escalate the arms race in the region, and call upon them to restrain these activities.

Especially, we urge new President-elect Donald Trump to become more aware of the real threats posed by nuclear weapons regionally and globally, and to carefully consider new nuclear weapon policy options through dialogues at both official and civil society levels instead of pursuing purely military solutions. If such careful consideration is given, the change of US Administrations could be an opportunity to gain new momentum for a possible diplomatic breakthrough.

Also we call for special roles to be played by the ROK and Japan. In recent discussions that led to the above UNGA resolution to legally prohibit nuclear weapons, such roles to be played by non-nuclear countries that are dependent on extended nuclear deterrence have been emphasized. The ROK and Japan should not demand strengthening extended nuclear deterrence from the US but rather should demonstrate that regional nuclear threats can best be solved by diplomatic processes such as a comprehensive approach to establish a NEA-NWFZ. This will also contribute to decreasing the role of nuclear weapons and moving towards global nuclear disarmament. Additionally, Japan’s plan to separate more plutonium on top of existing huge stockpile undermines the opposition to unnecessary and dangerous plutonium separation in China and S. Korea.

1 Korea Central News Agency, July 6, 2016. Five points are; 1) all nuclear weapons of the US in South Korea must be publicly disclosed; 2) all nuclear weapons in the South Korea should be dismantled and verified; 3) Washington must guarantee that it will not deploy offensive nuclear weapons in South Korea and its vicinity; 4) the US must commit not to use nuclear weapons against North Korea; and 5) Washington declare its willingness to withdraw from South Korea all troops holding the authority to use nuclear weapons.

Morton H. Halperin
Senior advisor, the Open Society Foundations

Michael Hamel-Green
Emeritus Professor, Victoria University Melbourne

Chung-In Moon
Chair, Asia Pacific Leadership Network (APLN)
Professor, Yonsei University

Hiromichi Umebayashi
Former Director, RECNA; Visiting Professor, Nagasaki University,