Stopping the North Korean Nuclear Program

by Zalmay Khalilzad, Paul K. Davis, Abram N. Shulsky

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The North Korean nuclear program poses a threat to the stability of Northeast Asia and to our global nonproliferation goals. This issue paper examines three strategies which, as of late 1993, the United States could bring to bear against the North Korean regime to discontinue this program. One is to wait until the North Korean government disintegrates as the result of decay or the realignment of internal forces. Another is to provide political, security-related, or economic incentives to abandon the program. A third involves coercive actions, such as trade sanctions, enhancing U.S. and South Korean military readiness, or direct military attacks. The authors conclude that only a mix of the second and third options has a chance of success. Waiting would provide North Korea with time to produce nuclear weapons and further expand its program. Positive incentives alone are unlikely to be effective.

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