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May 26th, 2009 at 10:41 am

Pyongbang!: Washington’s Korea Conundrum” — Victor Cha on North Korea

Nuclear North KoreaThough written after North Korea’s failed missile launch earlier this Spring, Victor Cha’s article on the Foreign Affairs Web site speaks to this weekend’s events.

Victor Cha, co-author of Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies , argues, “So while Obama should continue to extend the hand of negotiation to Pyongyang, his administration should also embark on two other tracks: in the short-term, calculated pressure to punish Pyongyang’s missile launch, and in the longer-term, preparing for a united peninsula, free and democratic.”

Cha then lays out steps the United States should take in response to North Korea:

First, the United States should enforce Resolution 1718 and reimpose economic sanctions, including financial sanctions to target entities that finance ballistic missile development. These types of sanctions, similar to ones used in 2005 and 2006, hit at the personal riches of the North Korean leadership that are stashed away in accounts in Europe and Asia and can be very effective. They were lifted in 2007 in light of North Korea’s agreement to allow international inspection and disablement of its nuclear facility at Yongbyon, but it is time for similar instruments to be put to use again.

Second, Obama should consider restoring North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, using the revelations of Pyongyang’s help to Damascus’s nuclear program as justification.

Third, he should instruct relevant agencies to start a quiet but serious dialogue with China and South Korea about how to deal with a post-Kim leadership, reaching out (along with Japan) to potential new leaders in Pyongyang by offering them the prospect of security assurances and economic assistance in return for constructive policies.

Fourth, the United States and other countries should offer to educate and feed every North Korean child and dramatically increase humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people in general, including food, medicine, education, and energy. (Some of this could even be tied to stimulus package efforts to employ U.S. workers from Michigan and elsewhere on winterization and house-building projects in North Korea.)

All these measures can and should supplement the existing six-party diplomacy. Sustaining the six-party talks is critical for continuing the disablement and degradation of Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities. But U.S. strategy needs to acknowledge that there will never be a true end to the North’s nuclear ambitions so long as Kim and his immediate circle remain in power. While negotiating today, therefore, the United States needs to prepare for the real opportunities for engagement that may lie down the road.

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