For three years now, the North Korean regime has pursued parallel development of its economy and its nuclear program, refusing all diplomatic overtures to discuss denuclearization.
The result has been a disaster for the country, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel: “Kim Jong-un has nothing to show for all of his intransigence. He has made splashes in the ocean with missiles and detonated nuclear devices underground, but it has gotten him exactly nothing in terms of respect, security, economic support, or diplomatic recognition.”
The United States and the international community will continue to impede North Korea’s UN-proscribed programs through pressure with recently implemented sanctions. The goal of sanctions, said Assistant Secretary Russel, “is not to harm the North Korean people – although [the North Korean regime] has regrettably prioritized offensive weapons over their livelihood. The goal is to bring North Korea’s leaders to the realization that there is no viable alternative to negotiations.”
Mindful of the plight of the North Korean people, the U.S. has mobilized the international community to highlight the North’s human rights abuses through U.N. resolutions, the landmark Commission of Inquiry, and opening a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights field office in Seoul.
Even as the U.S. and its allies pursue diplomacy, deterrence must be maintained. After this year’s nuclear and missile tests, the U.S. and South Korea jointly decided to begin formal consultations on the potential deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile defense system to South Korea.
The way forward isn’t hard to imagine, said Assistant Secretary Russel. “It starts with North Korea freezing all its nuclear activities, like Iran did while it negotiated. And it starts with a credible declaration of the North’s past activities and IAEA inspection of its nuclear sites as a first step. Meeting basic international obligations is not a lot to ask.”