Security Building Measures for the North Korea’s Nuclear Crisis

Commentaries and Op-eds May 6, 2016, Istituto Per Gli Studi Di Politica Internazionale (ISPI)

North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January this year followed by several missile tests between February and April, together with the possibility of another nuclear test soon, is clear evidence of Pyongyang’s intentions to disregard international censure of its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, the Six-Party Talks – the main option to negotiate North Korea’s denuclearization – are de facto defunct since December 2008. In recent years, resuming negotiations has been discredited with a collapse of trust amidst North Korea’s failure to abandon its nuclear program. All sides have since then imposed a number of preconditions as the basis for the resumption of negotiations – preconditions, which have turned out to be unacceptable to the parties involved.  The U.S. and South Korea meanwhile have focused on toughening sanctions against Pyongyang as punishment for its fourth nuclear test and as a demonstration of strengthening military deterrence against the North. However, these measures have arguably contributed to further exacerbating the North Korean nuclear crisis and military tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Approaches by the international community to try and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue have over recent years rested primarily on two pillars: the ‘stick’ of sanctions combined with maintaining a strong military deterrence on the one hand, and the ‘carrot’ of negotiated incentives including energy and economic assistance on the other. However, neither sanctions against Pyongyang nor the multilateral negotiation framework of the Six-Party Talks have succeeded in thwarting North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. This presents a two-fold dilemma: the immediate one is how to manage increased military tensions on the Korean Peninsula amidst the growing gravity of North Korea’s nuclear threat and its repercussions. The second and longer-term challenge is how to tackle resolving the North Korean nuclear issue in a situation where previous efforts have failed.