DPRK Briefing Book: Policy Area: Negotiating Style

DPRK Briefing Book: Policy Area: Negotiating Style

DPRK Briefing Book: Policy Area: Negotiating Style

“North Korea on the Edge”
Ch. 6 of Negotiating on the Edge

Scott Snyder, US Insititute of Peace, 2002.

Contrary to conventional wisdom among U.S. policy makers, North Korea’s negotiating style and objectives have conformed to a consistent and all-too-predictable pattern. Rather, the inconsistencies and lack of coordination between American and South Korean negotiating approaches and sporadic attention to North Korea as a policy priority given the stakes and size of the U.S. defense commitment on the Korean peninsula are elements of the U.S.-DPRK negotiating equation most likely to appear “irrational” or “crazy.”

The DPRK used brinkmanship strategies to good effect during the Cold War to gain concessions as side benefits of participating in negotiations without paying a price in return. During the negotiation of the Korean Armistice and subsequent Military Armistice Commission (MAC) negotiations, the North used intimidation where possible and made rare concessions in pursuit of its own uncompromising, unilateral objectives. Even the quarter century of North-South dialogue held since 1972 has served primarily as an extension of zero-sum competition for legitimacy rather than as a forum in which counterparts sought to achieve “win-win” agreements, despite sporadic limited progress on issues where agendas happened to coincide.

However, the diminished structural position of an isolated North Korea in the post-Cold War era has created a new situation. Under current circumstances, North Korea has no choice but to pursue negotiations to gain the resources necessary to perpetuate regime survival. Although North Korean negotiators no longer have the luxury of pursuing a unilateral approach to negotiations by walking away from the table, they have not abandoned deeply ingrained tactics of brinkmanship, crisis diplomacy, and attempts to maximize leverage by identifying and withholding the highest priority demands of the negotiating counterpart. Such tactics often cause stalemates and fail to serve North Korea’s strategic objectives, despite Pyongyang’s interest in gaining the benefits resulting from negotiated cooperation. The difficulty of adapting to these new circumstances is reinforced by North Korea’s own sensitivity to issues involving sovereignty (a legacy of the Japanese colonial period), the long-standing influence of juche (“self-reliance”) ideology, and the inefficiencies of North Korea’s own vertically-oriented socialist bureaucratic structure. A major challenge North Korean negotiators face under these circumstances is the need to adopt negotiating tactics that take into account the limitations imposed by North Korea’s socialist structure without risking the loss of critical benefits that may be gained by achieving agreement through the negotiation process.

The failure of North Korean negotiators to adapt new tactics more suited to its current circumstances of isolation and relative weakness is evidence of the influence historical legacies and long-standing Korean traditional practices have had on North Korean officials at the negotiation table. The influence of Kim Il Sung’s own guerrilla partisan experiences provided North Korean negotiators with a ready model for how a relatively weak, rogue state might maximize its negotiating advantages by pursuing unconventional tactics. The guerrilla partisan experience, through which leaders feel unconstrained by norms that might limit the options of other members of the international community, has had direct applications and influence on North Korean preferences for crisis diplomacy and brinkmanship to gain the attention and respect of negotiating counterparts.

The searing experience of having lost national sovereignty to Japanese colonial rulers has also influenced North Korean negotiators to make the defense of national sovereignty a top priority. The sensitivity of North Korean negotiators on sovereignty-related issues and the defiant measures taken in defense of national sovereignty during international negotiations are expressions of North Korea’s perceived vulnerability stemming directly from the colonial experience.

The rigidity of the DPRK’s Stalinist institutional structure has inhibited flexibility at the negotiation table, and has tied the hands of North Korea’s negotiating representatives, who have relatively little authority to make concessions without the direct approval of North Korea’s top leadership. The vertically-oriented structure of North Korea’s system may limit the ability of the negotiator to report fully to his superiors. In fact, the negotiator himself may have authority over and knowledge of only a limited set of issues due to the stovepipe nature of North Korea’s bureaucratic structure and the control of information as an instrument of power within North Korean society, legacies resulting from the adaptation of socialist institutions and structures from the Soviet Union.

The influence of traditional Confucian norms has sharpened sensitivity to issues of hierarchy and relationship to one’s negotiating counterpart, adding to the sense of competition and importance of symbolic protocol issues in sensitive negotiations between North and South Korea, while necessitating a focus on equivalency and reciprocity in negotiations with the United States. In addition, the North’s ideology of self-reliance requires substantive concessions be concealed behind the appearance of equivalency. The emphasis on self-reliance ensures that North Korean concessions or changes in a negotiation position will neither be acknowledged nor revealed. Kim Il Sung’s cult of personality requires an immediate defense by North Korean negotiators in the case of any perceived slight toward the ruling first family.

Perhaps because of the rigid structure of North Korean institutions or the extent of political control within North Korean society, the process of negotiating with North Korea has a distinct and predictable rhythm. Plenary sessions are used primarily for rhetorical purposes and to pursue psychological advantage; informal sessions are used to probe for weaknesses, float trial balloons, and to identify the outlines of a negotiated settlement. Only after carefully reviewing alternatives and seeking the most advantageous atmosphere (punegi) for arriving at a negotiated settlement, will North Korean negotiators respond positively to the negotiating counterpart. Only if the atmosphere is determined to be right will North Korean negotiators engage in bargaining, and their position will harden to maximize concessions by the other side as one approaches the end game of a negotiation.

Atmosphere, or punegi, is critical to determining whether North Korean negotiators will respond with good kibun (feelings) to facilitate negotiations or will demonstrate kojip (stubbornness) as a tactic of delay or stalling. North Korean negotiators have found that crisis diplomacy is a powerful tool for enhancing alternatives, demonstrating commitment, and maintaining control of an issue-specific negotiating process to diminish the strength of a more powerful negotiating counterpart such as the United States. It also serves to shape the agenda by fixing the attention of the negotiating counterpart on favorable terms, and throws the negotiating counterpart off balance by forcing a response to North Korea’s own negotiating agenda and priorities. Although the effectiveness of brinkmanship tactics through stalling, bluffing, using time pressure, and threatening to walk away from negotiations may be on the wane, the ability of North Korean negotiators to identify points of leverage to gain concessions in negotiation has been impressive.

By seeking equivalency and reciprocity in its negotiations with the United States while engaging in zero-sum one-upsmanship tactics with South Korea, North Korea has manipulated differences between the United States and South Korea in order to gain advantage. South Korea’s “Toughness Dilemma” and tendency to respond to North Korea with its own brand of one-upsmanship is likely to create stalemate. As a result, substantive progress in North-South dialogue may be hard to come by, even if it is in the interests of both North and South Korea to come to a negotiated settlement. Differing North Korean approaches in dealing with the United States and South Korea and differing tactical and strategic considerations between the United States and South Korea following the end of the Cold War have made the policy coordination task between Washington and Seoul more difficult as both capitals have attempted to calibrate their respective policies toward North Korea.

Finally, multilateral negotiations conducted through KEDO have focused on technical issues. These negotiations have limited the capacity of North Korean negotiators to effectively use brinkmanship or crisis diplomacy tactics, particularly in cases where Pyongyang has something to lose if prior agreements are jeopardized. KEDO has provided an effective venue for direct interaction between North and South Korean counterparts to carry out a concrete joint project requiring mutual cooperation. The inclusion of South Korean counterparts as part of KEDO negotiations has reduced frictions between the United States and the ROK that had existed during U.S.-DPRK negotiations. Other factors that have facilitated the success of KEDO’s negotiations with North Korea are that the agenda is composed of technical issues rather than political issues and that KEDO as an institution carries with it no historical baggage and is designed specifically to provide benefits to North Korea.

Counterstrategies for Managing A Negotiation Process With the DPRK

Contrary to the initial experience of negotiating with “opaque” North Korean counterparts in the midst of crisis “while rolling down the runway” toward potential conflict, there is a growing database of information and accumulated experience regarding North Korea’s negotiating style. In fact, this book could not have been written without drawing extensively on such a database. With the benefit of this experience, what lessons can be learned from the American negotiating experience with North Korea, and how might negotiators more effectively respond to North Korean negotiating strategies and tactics? The following lessons should be drawn from the American experience of negotiating with North Korea:

Be aware of the stages in the “drama,” or ritual, of negotiation and the importance of “atmosphere” in determining North Korean negotiating moves: It is unrealistic to expect dramatic progress in negotiations with the DPRK until the leadership in Pyongyang has decided it is ready to make a deal. Such a determination will not occur until after North Korean negotiators have methodically explored alternatives and attempted to exploit divisions between negotiating counterparts through informal contacts and pre-negotiation. Such a process will of necessity require the cultivation of personal relationships on either side through which an effective exploration of possible alternatives may occur; otherwise, the margin of error by both sides in understanding the specifics of the counterpart’s position will be increased. Expect the North Korean official position to remain uncompromising throughout this phase until after trial balloons have been investigated and available solutions have been explored. During this “period of testing,” it is necessary to show firmness to reduce North Korean efforts to exploit weakness or division and to limit perceived alternatives to negotiation that might possibly be considered by leaders in Pyongyang.

After it is clear to the leadership in Pyongyang that negotiation is the only possible avenue by which to meet its objectives, the North Korean side will signal clearly that it is ready to pursue a negotiated solution, for instance by announcing the desire to pursue a “package solution.” At this stage, the North Korean side will show flexibility in its position, but such flexibility will decrease considerably in an attempt to draw out concessions as part of the end game of the negotiation. The components of any package solution may involve certain North Korean concessions, but North Korean negotiators will attempt to mask concessions to the extent possible through the rhetoric of equivalency or by masking the details of any concessions through insistence on confidentiality regarding those aspects of an agreement.

Don’t confuse North Korea’s rhetoric with its reality: Some rhetoric designed to show toughness may include an invitation to come to the negotiating table; for instance, the DPRK’s announcements that it will continue missile exports unless the United States is willing to provide compensation for not engaging in such practices. Despite the high volume bluster of certain North Korean press statements, the substance of which is often repeated by their negotiators in initial plenary sessions, the reality of North Korea’s position may be communicated clearly both through highly-directed media messages and through informal or unofficial channels. Such channels allow North Korean negotiators to retain the right to deny certain statements publicly as well as to conceal the weakness of their own negotiating position. Careful and comprehensive analysis of informal or deniable signals may be the best available way of discerning North Korea’s own bottom line.

Expect North Korea to use exaggerated rhetoric to conceal its dependency. Be prepared for the mismatch between North Korea’s public self-assurance, bluster, and maximalist demands and the relatively limited price of agreement that North Korea may find itself willing to accept in the end. Recognize the North Korean pattern of “caving in” and giving up maximum rhetorical demands in the face of the reality of what the market will bear.

Resist North Korean attempts to search for weaknesses within a negotiating team or to exploit divisions among negotiating counterparts: The best antidote to North Korean exploitation of weaknesses or divisions during the “period of testing” is the development of a clear strategy based on an inter-agency consensus or agreement among allies. For instance, North Korean attempts to exploit U.S.-ROK tactical differences may be countered by more closely coordinating U.S.-ROK bilateral relations. South Korean officials may utilize indirect or U.S.-led negotiations as a vehicle for gaining North Korean concessions based on reciprocity versus the one-upsmanship dynamic of North-South dialogue, while the United States should be more sensitive to opportunities for facilitating progress in North-South dialogue.

Before an agreement is reached, North Korean negotiators will repeatedly probe for weaknesses and will return over and over again to issues on which divisions among negotiating counterparts may develop. Even following apparent agreement on some issues, it is important to recall that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. Even following the signing of a negotiated agreement, the implementation phase will include additional testing of provisions of the agreement in practice. The habitual return by North Korean negotiators to issues considered by American counterparts to have already been resolved may reflect a cyclical rather than a linear view of the negotiation process. The only effective response to such tactics is firmness and consistency in rebuffing such attempt to erode the counterpart’s position.

Expect crisis-oriented tactics; avoid allowing the DPRK to maintain the initiative; limit North Korean alternatives; and control the negotiating agenda: One of the biggest failures of U.S. diplomacy toward the DPRK thus far has been its inability to maintain the initiative, allowing the DPRK to effectively utilize crisis diplomacy to force the United States into a defensive position. The joint Four Party Talks proposal was a rare occasion in which the United States and South Korea have taken the initiative, limiting North Korean alternatives and blunting the potential for crisis diplomacy. However, the dynamic of negotiations as part of the Geneva Agreed Framework was driven primarily by the DPRK’s crisis diplomacy. It may be necessary to respond to some of the DPRK’s legitimate demands to “give them something to lose” and to contain dissatisfaction that might lead to the revival of crisis-oriented tactics. Neglect is not an effective strategy for dealing with the DPRK, since North Korea’s level of tolerance for a crisis atmosphere is higher than that of the United States.

Identification of the framework and circumstances under which certain issues might be taken up is one way of taking the initiative in negotiations with North Korea; however, such approaches must also recognize the legitimacy of aspects of the North Korean negotiating agenda if they are to have any real prospect of success. Such a process may require the simultaneous limiting of North Korean alternatives to negotiation and the offering of political or economic inducements sufficient to overcome North Korean resistance to coming to the negotiation table. The structure and timing of such inducements, however, may be controversial if they appear to be the result of North Korean blackmail or if they appear to reward North Korea for utilizing crisis-oriented tactics necessary as part of North Korea’s own strategy for controlling the agenda. At the same time, it is necessary to impose clear penalties on North Korea that effectively limit attempts to pursue crisis-oriented alternatives to negotiated cooperation.

Signal negotiating objectives, but don’t overinvest in them, or the price for North Korean cooperation may be inflated: The higher priority an item appears to be on the U.S. agenda, the higher the price likely to be demanded by North Korean negotiators on a particular issue. For instance, the extraordinary public focus and attention given to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program provided Pyongyang with an opportunity to expand its leverage in negotiations with the United States; even the prospect and implications of the DPRK’s own collapse have been used as negotiating leverage. Downplaying priorities while continuing to seek quiet progress may be a more effective strategy for gaining cooperation. Examples include DPRK cooperation on POW/MIA issues and DPRK cooperation with the Department of Energy on storage of nuclear fuel rods.

By the same token, the content of agreements and expectations for implementation must be precisely defined since ambiguities will be subject to challenge. While American negotiators have noted that North Korean counterparts will keep agreements, it is often the case that obligations are interpreted by the North Korean side as narrowly as possible, particularly in the absence of a “friendship” relationship, adhering to the letter of the law and otherwise challenging both the spirit and terms of implementation of specific agreements.

Multilateral negotiations and/or negotiations on technical issues (versus bilateral negotiations on political issues) may blunt the effects of North Korean brinkmanship and crisis-oriented tactics: KEDO negotiations with the DPRK over technical implementation have proved to be relatively more effective in making progress with North Korea than bilateral U.S.-DPRK negotiations over political matters. KEDO has effectively incorporated a consensus-oriented process of formulating negotiating positions based on the specific requirements necessary to move forward in implementing a project that will eventually yield tangible benefits to North Korea, giving North Korean negotiators a powerful economic incentive for facilitating cooperation rather than inducing crisis.

To the extent that issues can be depoliticized and/or multilateralized, such conditions appear to be less advantageous to North Korean negotiating tactics. For instance, negotiations between the DPRK and the UN World Food Programme have effectively depoliticized certain aspects of highly sensitive and intrusive demands for foreign monitoring and has certainly made more progress than bilateral inter-Korean Red Cross negotiations, which have political overtones. Four Party Talks may be an effective vehicle for blunting certain North Korean brinkmanship tactics; however, the sensitive political/security component of those talks may also be a factor that will inhibit progress. Negotiations in a depoliticized, or “technical” channel often will contain the greatest prospect of substantive progress, whereas political negotiations will receive greater scrutiny by the top DPRK leadership.

Present a detailed strategy based on common interests, but leave North Korean negotiating counterparts with a “face saving” way out of any corner. Because North Korean negotiators are reluctant to put forward concrete initiatives for fear of revealing their own bottom line, expect to take the lead in putting forward constructive initiatives for consideration. A combination of firmness, to eliminate North Korean consideration of alternatives to a negotiated settlement, and generosity, to ensure that the DPRK does not boxed into the corner of resorting to high-stakes, crisis-oriented tactics, should characterize the presentation of a concrete series of steps to resolve issues based on a consideration of mutual interests.

Recognize that application of pressure that limits North Korean alternatives without providing an escape route may have the practical result of forcing North Korea to consider undesirable alternatives to negotiation or to take unorthodox steps to regain the upper hand in determining an agenda for negotiations. It is not only necessary to raise the costs to North Korea of pursuing alternatives to negotiation but also to identify North Korean interests and offer concessions sufficient to convince North Korean counterparts that the preferred “escape route” is worth pursuing.

Use crisis escalation tactics such as time deadlines and threats to walk away judiciously. North Korean negotiators may prefer to use time deadlines or crisis diplomacy because they themselves may be susceptible to such pressures. However, the danger of bluffing is that it damages one’s own credibility if the bluff is called. Don’t hesitate to show emotion as a means of defining the importance of key issues and signifying one’s own “bottom line.” Be prepared to follow through with crisis escalation tactics, but only if you are prepared to defuse the crisis or contain North Korea’s alternatives in responding to such tactics.

To a certain extent, the preferred tactics of North Korean officials in inducing concessions by their negotiating counterparts may also be precisely the tools by which it is possible to “motivate” North Korean officials themselves. North Korean threats to walk away may, ironically, convey the need for a satisfactory negotiated settlement; likewise, the willingness of the negotiating counterpart to walk away, or by the same token, to set a deadline by which negotiations must reach a conclusion, may yield new eagerness by North Korean negotiators to make progress in negotiations under the right circumstances. However, the application of such pressure must be accompanied by a careful analysis of North Korea’s perceived alternatives and a willingness to risk and to resist the potential ratcheting up of crisis-oriented tactics.

Have patience, patience, and more patience. After having presented a concrete formula for arriving at a negotiated settlement, expect the DPRK to test all the alternatives. It is necessary to firmly respond to North Korea’s exploration of alternatives to the settlement under consideration to convince North Korean counterparts that brinkmanship and crisis escalation tactics will not lay the groundwork for a more advantageous deal. The best way to demonstrate that internal weaknesses or divisions among allies can not be exploited is to show consistency in one’s policy positions, even when those positions are being tested by North Korean attempts to instigate a crisis.

Prospects for Future Negotiations With North Korea

To sum up the two major lessons of this study for future negotiations with North Korea: The good news is that it is possible to negotiate with North Korean counterparts, although the process may be painstaking and the path may be circuitous and full of setbacks and apparent detours. The bad news is that major progress in negotiations with North Korea will likely be accompanied by real or apparent crisis, either instigated from within or externally imposed. Periods of crisis may mark a major turning point in negotiations, or they may possibly mark the edge of a downward spiral of failure and instability.

Two primary issues have the greatest potential to substantially influence the direction and context of future negotiations with North Korea. First, it remains to be seen whether North and South Korea may be able to finally abandon their zero-sum policies toward each other. With the inauguration of Kim Dae Jung as President of the ROK and the adoption of his “Sunshine Policy,” it has become possible to make a preliminary test of this thesis. Kim Dae Jung’s policy toward North Korea emphasized an improved relationship with Pyongyang, declaring that economic exchanges are considered separate from political issues in North-South relations. Does such a change in policy transform the future dynamic of North-South negotiations, or will such an effort to reverse the zero-sum dynamic of North-South competition be resisted or undermined in either Pyongyang or Seoul?

Second, although the DPRK continues to utilize outmoded tactics of toughness through brinkmanship and crisis diplomacy, the political leadership in Pyongyang continues to weaken and the perceived threat from North Korea has steadily diminished. Doubts about North Korea’s survivability have diminished its leverage as its ability to project power continues to decline, with the effect that political and financial support among negotiating counterparts for a flexible approach to North Korea will also diminish. Can Pyongyang adjust its tactics to better fit its needs in a situation where it has something to lose; namely, the benefits that may accrue from a successful negotiation?

The initiation by Kim Dae Jung of the “Sunshine Policy,” a more accommodative policy of reconciliation with the DPRK, at first glance might be expected to have potentially major effects on the North-South negotiating dynamic. With the adoption of this policy, one of the two parties on the Korean peninsula has finally declared its intention to abandon zero-sum tactics of confrontation in favor of a strategy in which gain for the one side will not be automatically interpreted as a loss for the other. Thus, it is a test of whether it is possible for the structure and dynamic of the North-South relationship may be transformed from a zero-sum relationship among competitors to one of peaceful co-existence. However, the application of such a policy change in practical terms faces two key obstacles: 1) the traditional, habitually ingrained pattern on each side of viewing the other side as the enemy, 2) rising frustration that is likely to build if the other side responds in its own traditional zero-sum manner, unwilling to acknowledge or respond to such reconciliation measures.

Both of these patterns are illustrated in the results of the first inter-Korean dialogue held under President Kim Dae Jung’s administration in Beijing in April of 1998. The resumption of inter-Korean dialogue in Beijing provided North Korea with a perfect opportunity to test whether and how the forward-leaning rhetoric of the Kim Dae Jung administration might be translated into reality. Despite the changes in South Korea’s declaratory policy, however, practical constraints included South Korea’s divided domestic politics and perhaps most importantly the legacy of past tactics in inter-Korean dialogue. The Kim Dae Jung administration, already perceived as progressive, could not be perceived as giving the North something for nothing, a deadly mistake that Kim Young Sam had already made in his initial rice negotiations with North Korea in June of 1995.

The focus of South Korean authorities was on exchanges of divided families as an issue on which progress would pay rich domestic political dividends and also further inter-Korean relations. As a principle for moving forward on both divided family issues and fertilizer assistance, reciprocity has been an essential domestic political requirement for public support of North-South dialogue in South Korea; i.e. the need for North Korea to respond in-kind to South Korean generosity. However, the two sides were unable to “resolve in parallel” fertilizer and separated family issues.

The negotiating table was once again the venue for ritual competition between North and South Korea, and Seoul had no choice politically but to follow the same tactics of toughness that had led to familiar past breakdowns in prior negotiations. Even despite the development of parallel agenda items on which quid pro quos might be struck, the legacy of past inter-Korean negotiations made it difficult to forge a new pattern of agreement. Predictably, the session ended in breakdown, but served to shape the terms of subsequent official dialogue between North and South Korean authorities.

Second, the DPRK’s tactics of toughness-reflecting a unilateral strategy of brinkmanship and crisis diplomacy-are less and less effective as perceptions of the threat from North Korea have steadily diminished. As the North Korean state has weakened as a result of its economic and political decline, doubt about its survivability have raised questions among counterparts about the desirability of offering generous concessions to a negotiating counterpart who may offer little in return. As long as leaders in Pyongyang perceive that they have something to lose-i.e., the benefits resulting from keeping commitments made in prior negotiations-brinkmanship and crisis-oriented tactics have been diminished. But if the leadership in Pyongyang stands close enough to the brink of failure that it perceives itself as having nothing to lose, the specter of collapse itself will be used as a last-ditch tactic to gain leverage against neighbors who fear the spillover effects of chaos in North Korea.

The central dilemma is that according to a brinkmanship strategy based on toughness, North Korea’s greatest leverage is its potential threat, yet as it trades away the threat to gain the benefits of negotiation necessary to ensure its survival, leverage is diminished as negotiating counterparts can afford to again ignore North Korea’s concerns take for granted the absence of confrontation. Under such circumstances, there is little rationale for North Korea’s counterparts to offer concessions or even to come to the negotiation table, reinforcing North Korean reliance on the old strategy of inducing crisis and stirring up trouble to avoid being taken for granted or ignored.

This dilemma is most graphically illustrated as one examines progress in implementing the Geneva Agreed Framework. As the process of implementation has gone forward and as North Korea’s economic problems have grown more severe and more obvious, the perceived costs of the project have risen as North Korea appears to be getting benefits far greater than are justified by the actual level of North Korea’s threat. The perception of North Korea’s growing weakness has made funding for the project in South Korea, Japan, and the United States more difficult, raising questions about whether the United States and the international community, rather than the DPRK, would be able to meet its commitments under the Agreed Framework. Likewise, to the extent that negotiating counterparts view the North Korean regime as likely to collapse, the rationale is diminished for giving additional concessions or even coming to the negotiating table with the DPRK at Four Party Talks or in other negotiating venues.

In such a situation, the only viable strategy for North Korean negotiators is to return to the threat that it will abandon the old agreement, reinforcing reliance on old tactics which themselves may jeopardize the critical material benefits derived from the agreement itself. The negotiating stalemate resulting from the growing imbalance between perceptions of the DPRK’s diminishing strength and the need to provide the DPRK with concessions sufficient to ensure that it has something to lose from breaking agreements is likely to reinforce the old negotiating dynamic of threat, crisis, and brinkmanship.

For instance, North Korea’s test of a multiple stage rocket in August of 1998 was a clear way of demonstrating that the DPRK could mobilize a revitalized threat. Whether the test was designed as a negotiating tool, an attempt to showcase technology for potential sale to third countries, or an attempt to develop an offensive capacity that could potentially be used against its enemies, Pyongyang took actions that served at least partially to counter perceptions that the North may go away quietly or was no longer a negotiating partner able to extract concessions. Unable to mobilize attention to its own agenda with the United States in the absence of crisis, North Korea predictably returned to crisis-oriented tactics to regain attention, even if such tactics ran counter to North Korea’s strategic objective of gaining an improved relationship with the United States. Until North Korea can identify a way of moving fully from a relationship with the United States, South Korea, and other members of the international community based on confrontation to one based on compromise, North Korean negotiators will continue to be constrained by their own structural and organizational inefficiencies and are not likely to easily escape the self-reinforcing historical legacy, tradition, and tactics of negotiating on the edge.