Sources on North Korea: SAIS on Missile Negotiations



Any resumption of the Six Party Talks is going to have to address a host of new issues that have gained importance over the last couple of years, including renewed concerns about the North Korean missile threat. Joel S. Wit, Andrew Hood, Jeffrey Lewis, Scott Pace and Leon Sigal have published a new report for SAIS Korean studies program called Missile Negotiations with North Korea: A Strategy for the Future, that provides a thoughtful and detailed overview of the issues.

The report begins with a crisp summary of the DPRK’s missile inventory and possible manufacturing and testing infrastructure. They note the relatively primitive flight-test capacity, but also the new and apparently more sophisticated site nearing completion near Tongchang-dong on the west coast. The site has been under development for over a decade and is likely to spell more conflict over the issue going forward, particularly given its location on the west coast where substantial conflict has emerged around the Northern Limit Line.

The report reviews the lapsed negotiations from the late Clinton period, which sought to trade limits on the development and sale of medium- and long-range missiles for a basket of goodies. That basket included provision of satellite launch services, perhaps for three North Korean satellites per year, and payouts of sev1eral hundred million dollars worth of food or energy aid. These negotiations stumbled not only because of the clock—they were conducted as the Clinton administration was winding down—but due to fundamental disagreements over whether existing missiles would have to be abandoned and a verification regime.

But the report looks beyond these negotiations to earlier US-Soviet arms control agreements for clues about how to structure a bargain. They note that a deal should include three components: arms control, cooperative threat reduction, and peaceful space cooperation. A surprising amount of the report is devoted the space cooperation angle, and it was one part of the report that gave us pause. The very word “cooperation” is, for the North Koreans, a euphemism for aid. The last thing the North Koreans should be doing is wasting resources on space. Going down this path seems akin to us of the mistaken introduction of LWRs in the Six Party Talks.

Overall, however, the report gets the mind turning on this incredibly complex issue. It is clear-headed in stating the overall objective has to be a “phased roadmap leading to the elimination of all DPRK missiles above the MTCR [Missile Technology Control Regime] threshold.” It is also noteworthy that the authors begin by arguing for some serious commitments from the North Koreans up-front, including a test and export ban, while limiting early aid commitments to exploiting existing international space forums.

For other sources on missiles, some earlier posts include a review of the IISS and CSIS work on the military balance. Those interested in the topic should also consult Dan Pinkston's study for the Strategic Studies Institute.

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