Confronting the North Korean Threat: Reassessing Policy Options

January 31, 2017

Testimony
Testimony by CFR fellows and experts before Congress.

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North Korea

Nonproliferation, Arms Control, and Disarmament

Nuclear Weapons

North Korean Nuclear Program

In a testimony to the Senate committee on foreign relations, Scott A. Snyder provided an assessment of the threat posed by North Korea and listed a number of policy options that the United States can pursue. Snyder argued that the window of opportunity to achieve North Korea’s peaceful denuclearization may have. He argued that the Trump administration should appoint a senior envoy for North Korea, seek to spur internal debates among North Korean elites over the costs of North Korea’s nuclear development, and maintain diplomatic dialogue with North Korea in order to spell out clearly the parameters for managing the relationship and expectations for North Korean behavior while strengthening deterrence and applying international pressure.

Four takeaways

  • The window of opportunity to achieve North Korea’s peaceful denuclearization has probably closed.
  • The Donald Trump administration should appoint a senior envoy for North Korea who reports directly to the president as a way of signaling the urgency of the North Korea issue, mobilizing bureaucratic and political support to maintain steady focus and follow-through on a time-consuming and urgent issue, and separating the issue from the already overloaded agenda in Sino-U.S. relations.
  • The Trump administration should seek to promote internal debates among North Korean elites over the costs of North Korea’s nuclear development as a way of bringing Kim Jong-un to realize that nuclear development puts his regime’s survival at risk. The United States should support efforts to highlight to North Korean elites the costs of and alternatives to North Korea’s nuclear development while providing incentives and pathways to encourage them to abandon Kim Jong-un’s nuclear policy.
  • The Trump administration should maintain diplomatic dialogue with North Korea in order to spell out clearly the parameters for managing the relationship, objectives of U.S. policy toward North Korea, and expectations for North Korean behavior while strengthening deterrence and applying international pressure to reverse North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons development.
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