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The Rising Threat of a Nuclear
North Korea

Experts discuss U.S. policy options toward North Korea in response to the country’s continued development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the threat the Kim Jong-un regime poses to East Asia and the United States.

The challenge of dealing with North Korea has existed since the armistice of 1953, but the situation has growing progressively more dangerous as the North has advanced technologically. The situation reached an initial crisis in the early years of the Clinton administration, when North Korea stopped abiding by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and began reprocessing plutonium, presumably for use in developing a crude weapon. However, through some adroit diplomacy the Agreed Framework was reached that temporarily suspended the North’s reprocessing in return for a—and reestablished the right of U.N. inspectors to enter the country in return for shipments of heavy fuel oil and some other quid pro quo benefits. Unfortunately, the Agreed Framework was abandoned by both sides during the first year of the George W. Bush administration amidst mutual allegations of secret—that the North was secretly pursuing a second channel through uranium enrichment, and that the U.S. and its allies had failed to deliver on a number of the benefits that had been promised. Also at this time, the North Koreans formally withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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