Although the DPRK’s plutonium-based nuclear weapons program originated several decades ago, it rose to special prominence with the first nuclear crisis in the early 1990s. This produced the 1994 U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework, which envisaged total North Korean denuclearization and normalization of DPRK relations with the international community. Implementation involved many participants, including the IAEA and the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), with key roles played by the ROK and Japan.
With confirmation by U.S. intelligence in 2002 of Pyongyang’s covert uranium enrichment program, a second crisis ensued, and this arrangement fell apart. Over time, this produced the Six-Party Talks convened by China with participation of North and South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. Although the parties agreed in the September 2005 Agreed Statement of Principles on a desirable “end state,” progress toward implementation has been halting since then, and Six-Party Talks have been in suspension since December 2008.
In addition to posing a proliferation threat, Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program is a challenge to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the region, and in the international community. Since 2006, the North has conducted two nuclear tests and two ICBM tests, and it has confirmed its uranium enrichment program, which it claims is now in robust operation. The international community has censured these actions, and the UN Security Council has adopted various resolutions and statements condemning the North’s nuclear and missile activities and calling for increasingly restrictive sanctions.
The Six-Party participants all share the goals of completely eliminating the North’s nuclear program, preventing proliferation, and maintaining peace and stability. Their situations are not identical, however, and so neither are their perspectives and priorities.
This panel will discuss the challenges presented by the North’s ongoing nuclear weapons program and the prospects for managing them and for achieving eventual denuclearization. Comprised of experts knowledgeable about the North Korean nuclear program and the policies of the ROK, China, Japan and the United States, the panel will address the policy goals and priorities of those countries, and the domestic and national security considerations underlying them.