“The Korean Problem”

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Recommended Citation

Peter Hayes, "“The Korean Problem”", Supporting Documents, April 12, 2006, https://nautilus.org/supporting-documents/the-korean-problem/

Presentation to Defense and Strategic Studies Course
Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies
Australian Defence College

Talking Points for Videoteleconference

April 12, 2006

Peter Hayes
Nautilus Institute

1. State Of The Nuclear Issue
The regional proliferation dynamic has accelerated
US policy is now containment + rollback “lite”

2. Brief Background On the Agreed Framework:
Nuclear history for Koreans begins on August 6, 1945 when 50000 Koreans died; 23000 survivors returned to Korea
Cold war nuclear threats, DPRK countervailing strategy (subterranean)
South Korean proliferation efforts
US nuclear withdrawal
The KEDO deal: freeze for 2 light water reactors and ½ million tones of liquid coal per year

3. What Became Of The Agreed Framework:
NK frustration by 1998
NK 1998 missile test over Japan
NK enrichment program resumes
Bush’s 3 years of malign neglect, irrevocable commitment to nuclear weapons by late 2004, fusion of party center and Bomb in NK nationalism

4. What Are The DPRK’s Capabilities For Nuclear Weapons Production
fuel cycle complex, crude, indigenous, dirty, but works
missiles-no successful long-range missile tests; poor reliability
crude, ground, ship or aircraft-deliverable device

5. How Much Material Could It Have Generated
operating research reactor for 2 years, ~ 12-16 NWs of Pu over 2 years
reprocessing: no-one but NK knows how well it has worked
enrichment, likely zero actual enrichment

6. How Many Weapons
Max 2 nuclear weapons-worth of plutonium from late 80s, led to crisis when IAEA discovered discrepancies in dates, amounts of reprocessing
Roughly 6-8 weapons-worth of plutonium from stored spent fuel that was moved out of ponds in late 02/early 03
12-16 weapons-worth of plutonium from 2 years max operations of research reactor to today, assuming 100% operating efficiency of reactor
Maximum today: 20-24; likely zero-less than 10 actually weaponized; no tests may indicate lower numbers as NK no weapons to “waste” on tests

7. What Are The Prospects Now Given The Six Party Process
Six-party talks are stalled, moribund, and have enabled North Korea to evade its NPT obligations
At September 2005 round, ROK kick-started with its unrealistic 2 GWe power supply proposal; the parties issues Principles that led to an immediate verbal shootout between Hill and DPRK over provision of light water reactors and sequencing
If political will results in a breakthrough, which is low probability, then US and DPRK would converge on a roughly 6 month nuclear weapon dismantlement timeline at which point they would commence serious talks on light water reactor issue; it will then take roughly 2 years recertify that DPRK in compliance with IAEA safeguards and NPT obligations, at which time, light water reactor project could resume
US negotiators are hobbled still by US hardliners

8. US Strategy
United States is preoccupied with Iraq; domestic dissension with Republicans
Outsourced problem to China
United States pursuing a squeeze strategy based on the “Soprano state” theory but this theory does not address DPRK motivations to acquire and deploy nuclear weapons
DPRK rebuilding foundations of a new economy, for example, minerals investment in DPRK underway

Peninsula is calm
Seoul clear divergence with Washington over DPRK strategy, cutting its own deal
ROK has aligned with PRC;
Many talks, some investment, stop-start dynamic but steady cumulative progress
Non-nuclear strategy for Korea now rests in hands of South Koreans, not DPRK, which is committed to nuclear weapons short of a miraculous break-through in relations with White House.
New generation of cosmopolitan Koreans, north and south, are building new regional networks that will overtake their Old Guards and also transform regional inter-state security dynamics. This is the wild card.


S. Chestnut, “The “Sopranos State”? North Korean Involvement in Criminal Activity and Implications for International Security” Center for International Security and Arms Control, Stanford University, May 2005, at: https://nautilus.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/0605Chestnut1.pdf

David L. Asher, “The North Korean Criminal State, its Ties to Organized Crime, and the Possibility of WMD Proliferation” Policy Forum Online 05-92A: November 15th, 2005 at:https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-policy-forum/the-north-korean-criminal-state-its-ties-to-organized-crime-and-the-possibility-of-wmd-proliferation/

Kim Tae Kyung, “China’s ‘Abandonment’ of NK a U.S. Neo-Con Fantasy” Policy Forum Online 06-09A: February 2nd, 2006 at https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-policy-forum/chinas-abandonment-of-nk-a-u-s-neo-con-fantasy/

Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), The North Korean Plutonium Stock Mid-2005 Special Report 05-85A: October 20th, 2005 at https://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/the-north-korean-plutonium-stock-mid-2005/

Peter Hayes, David von Hippel, Jungmin Kang, Tadahiro Katsuta, Tatsujiro Suzuki, Richard Tanter, Scott Bruce, “Light Water Reactors at the Six Party Talks: The Barrier that Makes the Water Flow,” Policy Forum Online 05-78A: September 21th, 2005 athttps://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-policy-forum/light-water-reactors-at-the-six-party-talks-the-barrier-that-makes-the-water-flow/


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