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The Case for a New North Korean Nuclear Deal

he Case for a New North Korean Nuclear Deal
Mutual distrust has doomed past efforts to settle a deal between the U.S. and North Korea
., The Diplomat 
By Iordanka Alexandrova, August 11, 2021
  President Joe Biden is planning a full review of U.S. policy toward North Korea. However, unless his team abandons bilateralism and the insistence on “inspections first, negotiations later,” his new approach is unlikely to break the nuclear stalemate with Pyongyang.

The diplomatic impasse continues because the two sides cannot find a way to trust each other. 

Negotiating a nuclear deal between North Korea and the United States is challenging since both sides face strong incentives to cheat. When negotiating, Washington hopes to see Pyongyang cooperate by disarming, at which point it will be tempted to make new demands. Pyongyang prefers to reap the benefits of cooperation with Washington, while making sure its deterrent stays in place as insurance. As a result, neither can credibly commit to uphold the terms of any agreement………………

The only hope to restrain North Korea’s nuclear development is through a reversal of American policy. Biden would have to revive multilateral talks, ease sanctions, and commit to concessions to negotiate a mutually acceptable deal…………

There are two main reasons why the timing is perfect for crafting a new functional deal.

First, Pyongyang appears more willing to cooperate. The country is in deep economic trouble. Kim’s unprecedented recognition that North Korea has failed to fulfill its latest economic plan speaks of the gravity of the current situation. The coronavirus pandemic has also taken its toll on the country. Kim desperately needs a moment of stability, making him more likely to agree to meaningful concessions as long as they do not threaten the security of his regime.

Second, this time it may be possible to help North Korea trust U.S. security guarantees. Regional powers today are better equipped to assume more active roles in underwriting the deal between Washington and Pyongyang. China and possibly Russia have grown both their interest and capabilities to act as guarantors of an arms control agreement. There is a role for South Korea, albeit different from the course of direct inter-Korean cooperation pursued by the current administration. Seoul can offer its own guarantee, such as a promise to advocate on behalf of Pyongyang before Washington to increase mutual trust and understanding. Japan would be an important part of this effort as well.

Ultimately, the success of a deal will depend on the ability of North Korea and the United States to overcome their mutual distrust. If they use the present opportune moment to set in motion a virtuous circle of trust-building, a solution of the nuclear issue might soon come in sight.

August 12, 2021 - Posted by | North Korea, politics international

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