Despite the promise of change, the Obama administration has started to address North Korea just as the Clinton and Bush administrations did–accusing it of wrongdoing and trying to punish it for its transgressions. As Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test demonstrates, the crime-and-punishment approach has never worked in the past and it won’t work now. Instead, sustained diplomatic give-and-take is the only way to stop future North Korean nuclear and missile tests and convince it to halt its nuclear program.
Pyongyang was not alone in failing to keep its agreements. Unfortunately, Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul didn’t manage to keep theirs either.
Many in Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul were quick to question whether the declaration was “complete and correct,” prompting the Bush administration to demand arrangements to verify the declaration before completing disabling and moving on to permanent dismantlement of North Korea’s plutonium facilities. However, the October 2007 accord had no provision for verification.
This article appeared at The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on May 29, 2009.
Recommended citation: Leon V. Sigal, “Why Punishing North Korea Won’t Work: Toward Resolution of the US-North Korea Conflict,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 23-1-09, June 8, 2009.