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North Korean Nuclear Disarmament

Diwata S. Thomas

Florida State University

Author Note

For the advancement of United States intelligence around the globe.

  1. Problem Statement

  2. Literature Review

  3. Research Methods & Evaluative Criteria

  4. Conclusion and Policy Recommendations


Intelligence policy recommendations for the permanent North Korean nuclear disarmament cover numerous different strategies and tactics on how the United State of America should respond to their nuclear weapons development. Strategies include the six party talks during the Bush-Cheney administration, intelligence agencies primary objectives to counterintelligence methods, intelligence collection by human intelligence and technological advancements on North Korean cyber security. Ideologies of the intelligence community turned into a new phase of intelligence gathering methods, counterintelligence and intergovernmental operations that helped limit the North Korean regime from attaining advanced nuclear technology capable of attacking the United States mainland. Major disarmament considerations for the North Korean nuclear advancement project suggest that the United States must stay unified with international coalitions to end any threats that North Korean leadership poses.

Keywords: intelligence community, counterintelligence, intergovernmental organizations, nuclear disarmament

North Korean Nuclear Disarmament

  1. Problem Statement

The United States has collected vital intelligence that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is an aggressive international country that seeks to threaten the US and allies. The aggressive nature of North Korea has left the country seeking new advanced methods to control other international territories, economic trade systems, and spread authoritarianism throughout the world. The North Korean Kim Dynasty has a history of building nuclear weapons artillery for combat and providing international organizations with illegitimate information to protect North Korean national interests. Territorial civil conflict disputes with the Republic of Korea (ROK) has incentivized their regional authority and seeks to attain global recognition as a nuclear power nation. The United States and global allies must stop North Korea from seeking advanced intercontinental nuclear weapons and nuclear energy facilities.

  1. Literature Review

The North Korean regime was considered the “axis of evil” by President George W. Bush in his January 2002 state of the union address. The National Security strategy document issued by the Bush-Cheney administration referred to two named “rouge states,” meaning states that brutalize their citizens, ignored international law, strive to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), sponsor terrorism and “reject basic human values and hate the United State with everything for which it stands.” The North Korean aggression towards Democracy grew and the regime found to alleviate the pressure on their imperialism rule through the acquisition of weapons technology. North Korea’s military centered and nuclear preoccupations are dictated by the endless siege of the United State’s nuclear nonproliferation and deterrence strategies.

North Korea seeks to build new WMDs, the country lacks reliable sources of oil supply, possesses antiquated equipment and trains soldiers who are desperately hungry. North Korean regime officials repeatedly stated that it seeks assurances from WMD countries that their sovereignty will be respected and a unilateral attack not be launched against them. The international community will maintain the international law of nonproliferation, however North Korea is still involved in manufacturing, trading of narcotics and missiles, to counterfeiting, smuggling, abductions, spying and sabotage while within their own borders. Continuing to deny North Korean citizens of their most basic rights and freedoms, operates a surveillance system, practices severe punishments which includes public executions, and dissidents to a network of gulag camps.

North Korea is a country that is one-third the size of California, with an economy equal to that of Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay area. Despite the size of North Korea, the country is gaining access to economic infrastructure and investments from neighboring countries like China and Russia. The North Korean regime is highly regarded as a unified communist, imperialism and nationalist aspirating country that follows the rules of superpower countries like China and Russia. Since the war between North and South Korean governments, communist and anticommunist, the United Nations and member states sought to leverage certain aspects of the countries reunification. In 1949 North Korean leader Kim Il Sung visited Mao Zedong to gain his support in the civil war conflict with the South Korean government. During the Mao Dynasty, the Supreme Leader Sung did not believe there would be a United States intervention which would lead to the creation of a nuclear arms development program. The communist leadership in North Korea wanted to use the threat of nuclear destruction to coerce the democratic, anti-communist South Korean government into reunifying their lands under a complete communist rule. The United Nation’s superpower countries decided to wage diplomatic interventions through economic sanctions, denying humanitarian aid, and providing each Korean hemisphere an amount of troops and weapons to keep their political ideology active in the South Asian region.

In June 1950, the initial UN commission repelled aggressive forces out of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which drew the line between North and South Korean troops. The 38th parallel was the actual line of contact on the battlefield and the UN-US agreed not to send air and naval supremacy troops to counter the Northern invasion personnel who helped Seoul in March 1951. The UN had a direct role in the resolution between North and South Korea in the 1950’s which resulted in 140,000 casualties, including 9,000 Americans died, and about half a million more civilian Koreans died. The UN also ran prisoner of war camps that held a total of over 98,000 prisoners, 22,604 prisoners were handed over to international custodial forces rather than repatriated to North Korea or China. Most Chinese POWs wanted to be released to Taiwan rather than return to China because of the punishment they would endure for collaborating with the enemy. The United Nations seemed to be working on both sides of the Korean war during this time and decided to create their own methods of punishment for the military prisoners that were captured. The International Atomic Energy Agency has played a dubious role in the denuclearization of North Korea. The Agreed Framework negotiations complained that the IAEA kept shifting the goalpost by adding new conditions for ‘continuity of safeguards’ inspections, making it difficult for the United States and North Korea to return to the negotiating table. Some US officials felt the IAEA was piling on the pressure too much, and that the need to ensure that there would be no diversion of North Korean nuclear material required fewer activities than it was demanding. (Beal, 2005)

Agreed Framework Condition

  • The US agrees to provide two light water reactor (LWR) power plants by the year 2003 (article 1.2)

  • The US agrees to provide formal assurances to the DPRK against the threat or use of nuclear weapons by the US (article 2.3.1)

  • The DPRK agrees to freeze its nuclear reactors and to dismantle them when the LWR project is complete (article 1.3)

  • The DPRK agrees to allow the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to monitor the freeze with full cooperation (article 1.3)

  • The US and the DPRK agree to work toward full normalization of political and economic relations, reducing barriers of trade and investment etc. (article 2.1)

  • The US and DPRK will each open a liaison office in each other’s capital, aiming at upgrading bilateral relations to the ambassadorial level (articles 2.2, 2.3) (Cha, & Kang, D. C., 2003)

Looking forward to modern North Korea we can see these elements of the US -DPRK relationship for denuclearization. Many of the aspects that the US learned from North Korean leadership after the Agreed Framework are that North Korea are self-reliant, resilient, and determined to protect their sovereignty.

Kim Il Sung made three strategic decisions which included :

  1. Establishing an inter-Korean peace mechanism to replace the armistice regime and proposing a confederal system to realize unification in form

  2. Improving relations with the US and Japan, even refraining from making the long request that US troops should withdraw from South Korea

  3. Developing its nuclear deterrence capabilities against US-South Korean forces to ensure its long-term security in the face of a rising South Korea. (Park & Snyder, 2012)

Although the Korean war was over and both countries attained their own sovereignty with agreed sanctions Kim Il Sung still progressed in his attempt to use nuclear deterrence capability for long term security against South Korea to prevent another Korean war. The Kim dynasty believes in the ability to unify the Korean Peninsula. Yet, their methods of using weapons and troop deployment are cause for concern to the US.

The Bold Approach

President George W. Bush created a new national security policy coined “The Bold Approach” to North Korea. Working closely with his National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and the U.S. State Department, the Bush-Cheney administration devised a step by step plan with incentives for Pyongyang to follow the U.S. international relations. The Bush-Cheney administration was concerned about the types of highly enriched uranium (HEU) programs that could have been created by North Korean military scientists before 2000. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) sought out to find any HEU or centrifuge materials used for a North Korean nuclear weapons program. Reports that Abdul Qadeer Khan ran a black market nuclear supply ring from Pakistan confessed to providing North Korea with centrifuge prototypes and blueprints. This enabled North Korea to start their own centrifuge enrichment program.

The six party talks were a series of multilateral negotiations held intermittently from 2003 - 2009 and attended by China, Japan, North Korea, Russia, South Korea, and the United States for the purpose of dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program. After the first round of six-party talks, the parties negotiated a consensus of the following points:

  • All parties wanted to create a peaceful settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula through dialog and to safeguard peace and stability for the region

  • All parties agreed to maintain a nuclear-free Peninsula and all security concerns by North Korea and other areas should be considered and solved

  • All parties agree to solving the nuclear issue in stages for synchronous or parallel new international policy implementation

  • The process of peace talks will continue and any action or words that could escalate or intensify the nuclear security threat situation should be avoided.

  • Peace talks should continue to establish trust, reduce differences, and broaden common ground

  • All parties agreed to continue the six party talks at another date and should be mutually decided in the near future. ( Pritchard, 2007)

The six party talks continued through different rounds that slowly made progress by professional diplomatic communication. However, the six party talks ended when Pyongyang walked out and the United States found other means of communicating their interests in the Southeast region and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Allegations in April 2003, when French, German and Egyptian authorities intercepted a 22 ton shipment of high strength aluminum tubes intended for North Korea by a German firm. The dimensions of those tubes matched the technical requirements for vacuum casings for outer centrifuge casings which could be used in a clandestine gas-centrifuge uranium -enriched program. (McCormack, 2004) The U.S. Intelligence community decided to use the irrefutable evidence that DPRK was creating a covert program to produce nuclear weapons through Uranium enrichment. The Agreed Framework was a policy for US-North Korean relations that covered conventional forces, terrorism, missiles and humanitarian and human rights issues. Pyongyang decided to blatantly withhold information from the U.S. government officials regardless of their agreements of diplomatic issues.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was withdrawn in December 2002 due to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors who were monitoring North Korea’s frozen plutonium program facilities in Yongbyon. On February 10, 2005, Pyongyang informed the world that they had shut down a five megawatt electric reactor, removed 8,000 spent fuel rods from the previously monitored cooling pong, chemically reprocessing the spent fuel and extracting plutonium, converting the plutonium into a metal that can be used to create a nuclear weapon, and ultimately conducted a nuclear test on October 9, 2006.


The strength of the Juche government system has also been its weakness. The autonomy propelled upward from the citizens to the leader and his regime, initiative and creativity were destroyed, the fruits of the labor of the people were consumed and wasted. Surveillance and control became the crucial focus of state energy, yet, the government and bureaucracy were deliberately constrained. The leader is the controller of the government’s operations therefore causing a decrease of initiative to make corrections to security deliberately constrained information.

Juche philosophy depended on the blind eye to any idea that was deviant from the absolute authority of the supreme leader. Juche is not only a political theory but also Juche music, Juche architecture, Juche literature, Juche sports, and Juche medicine. The relief system has been embedded in every aspect of the society that follows this unique rule of law. Yet, the rule of authoritarian rule has lacked in electric power generation, coal and fertilizer production, national bank growth, construction and infrastructure, transportation of materials. The Kim dynasty seeks to rule a Juche model of international development to promote intentional development with attraction to communist and third world nations. (O’Hanlon, & Mochizuki, M., 2003) Reacting out to African countries with full embassies regardless of developed countries like Great Britain's diplomatic sanctions.

Humanitarian Agencies Role to Deterrence

Humanitarian agencies are referred to as a transmission belt to new diplomacy tactics with North Korean leadership. By principle accountability the UN agencies and NGOs funded by governments have to provide regular reports on their work to donor countries like North Korea. Through standard operating procedures the humanitarian agencies with countries like the United States, South Korea, and Japan have access to certain economic and political affairs information that can be used as humanitarian deterrence. These countries have the ability to indirectly make humanitarian negotiations with the DPRK even though they have certain political conflicts. Humanitarian agencies use types of aid to leverage negotiations through international media in order to manipulate political influence on the aid country in accordance with their host country's current political stance. Responses to improve the humanitarian aid conditions by practical, technical and policy negotiations happen daily inside and outside the country.

The DPRK government didn’t use Korean American individuals or organizations as a conduit to the U.S. government. Many of the humanitarian agencies that gave food aid projects were allowed to live in-country for months between 1997-2000, monitoring food aid on behalf of the U.S. NGOs - Private Voluntary Organizations Committee (PVOC). US - NGOs provide a vehicle for dialogue or a trust-building mechanism for the suspicious DPRK government in the U.S. activities. (Smith, 2005) Building a partnership with DPRK requires a dramatic shift into a tentative dynamic dialogue which gives modern updates to new domestic, international and private company issues on a daily basis. Multilateral institutions that include North and South Korea must be disputed for their idealistically different policy options. The U.S. government has been reluctant to directly negotiate political policy deals with North Korean and South Korea. Reliance on the Pyongyang and Seoul talks to figure diplomatic means of conflict resolution puts the U.S. to give to a democratic partner and reasonable NGO humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Historically, the DPRK depended on hidden subsidies from China and the Former Soviet Union for oil imports, barter trade, cheap transfers of technology, and spare parts, and in return preference market access to DPRK exports. (Smith, 2005) The DPRK is very vulnerable to economic sanctions or regressing economic negotiations of China and Russia. Both countries were diverting their economic relations import and export sectors toward developed capitalist country markets. China and Russia decided to force all economic goods to be paid in hard currency and insist on an international market price for exports. The lack of China and Russia’s support economically determined the DPRK to make regional negotiations with ROK. DPRK made threats to Russia to give trade and economic negotiations for cheap, preferable market rates or else they would continue to develop the DPRK security capacities. Yet, Russia prevailed in the economic hardships. The DPRK still was accused of sponsoring illicit economic trafficking in the Russian Far East including currency counterfeiting, drug trafficking and money laundering. (Smith, 2005) The DPRK’s effort to simultaneously normalize the Western countries' relations and maintain a growing nuclear powered military has continued since the age of Juche.

Nuclear Confrontation

Pyongyang’s nuclear and conventional capabilities targeting the United States and its allies. Seeking to use aggressive and potentially destabilizing actions to reshape the regional security of the Southeast Asian region to his favor. Nuclear weapons and ICBMS (intercontinental ballistic missiles) are seen as the supreme leader's ultimate guarantor to his totalitarian and autocratic rule of North Korea. He is willing to continue his nuclear weapons and missiles projects to be seen as a legitimate nuclear power country in the eyes of the world. Despite the recent famine and lack of COVID-19 countermeasures he blatantly disregards the international sanctions for this determination for nuclear dominance over South Korea and other United States allies. Undermining the U.S.-South Korean alliance by exerting periods of escalated behavior and symbolic gestures toward South Korean capital Seoul. Exploiting the regional economic trade relations and reliance on regional imports and exports to fund the nuclear programs and eventually obtain full Korean peninsula capture. The illicit activities that North Korea has been exacerbating include cyber theft and export of UN-proscribed commodities to fund the regime's priorities like the WMD program.

Military capabilities of North Korea pose a threat to the United States and its allies by the investment to deter outside intervention, offset enduring deficiencies in the country’s conventional forces and coercively advance Kim’s political objectives. The investments to deter the United States as the regional mediator of civil and military conflict regional dispute continues through the production of new political autocratic objectives. Authoritarian countries in Southeast Asia have bonded through the mutual understanding that their stronghold alliance is together in the fight for absolute control without the governance of the people. Special interest in Taiwan and China disputes for political ideology has also sparked a deeper commitment by the supreme leader to invest in Chinese trade relations and military expansion. Strategically important to the Chinese objectives to overtake democratic Taiwan ‘s military ideologies often associated with the United States.

In 2021, the supreme leader with Party Congress of North Korea set priorities for developing new weapon systems, such as a nuclear-powered submarine, hypersonic glide vehicles, long-range solid-propellant missiles, and multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV). Many of the long term projects of the regime have started to worry the democratic alliances of their military advancement capabilities in the pursuit of regional stability. Kim has increased the production of a capable missile force designed to evade the US and regional missile defense. For instance, short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs), cruise missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) to validate technical objectives, reinforce deterrence, and normalize Pyongyang’s missile testing. North Korea has continued to normalize hypersonic missile launches and production of plutonium and uranium enrichment programs. Flight tests are currently part of North Korea’s effort to expand the types of missile systems capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the entire United States. Tensions are higher now that North Korea continues to lay the guidelines of nuclear test in 2022. Specifically, sea-based nuclear-strike capability with a new flight tested SLBM.

Chemical and biological weapons (CBW) still pose a threat to the U.S. and the international community has been concerned that Pyongyang will use these weapons during a conflict or in an unconventional or clandestine attack. Cyber security experts determined that Pyongyang possesses the capability to cause temporary, limited disruptions of some critical infrastructure networks and disrupt business networks in the U.S. Cyber espionage efforts against organizations including media, academic think tanks, defense companies, and governments in multiple countries. The significance of the CBW and cyber technology advancement determines reconnaissance, human intelligence and counter terrorist methods the U.S. can conduct to limit full intercontinental range access of WMDs.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea supreme leader has violated the United Nations Security Council resolutions by conducting aggressive military demonstrations to exert his dominance in the South Asian region. Kim Jong-un has shown ruthless leadership through his blatant disregard for the safety of international flights or shipping since the missile flew across the country and into the sea of the east coast. Serious concerns from American reports issue warnings to the oval office of the aggressive nature in these military demonstrations that are the largest missiles North Korea has launched successfully.

Current News 2022

Longest-range missile launch

Sunday, January 30, 2022, North Korea fired the most powerful missile it has tested since U.S. President Biden and Vice President Harris have taken office. This test was the North’s 7th round of weapons launches this month. The US and eight other countries condemn the aggressive action from Pyongyang. The DPRK has violated multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions which must be reprimanded. (United Nations, 2022) Albania, Brazil, Britain, France, Ireland, Japan, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates stand together in condemning the North Korean missile tests. (Business Standard, 2022)

Cyber Attack

According to NK news, the country has experienced an attack on internet servers which was in retaliation of cybersecurity experts through phishing campaigns. The cybersecurity researcher known as P4x has started disrupting servers hosted in the DPRK in retaliation after North Korean hackers targeted him over a year ago to steal his software information and vulnerabilities. The P4x hacker told NK news that his goal was to annoy the regime, but sources say that those hackers working outside North Korea have more to lose in their DDoS campaign allegedly orchestrated by the U.S. (NK news, 2022) The hacker was successful in shutting down the internet for some time and was able to dismantle outbound internet routers.

North Korea and Russia Trade Relations

The DPRK and the Far Eastern Federal District border trade has dropped significantly from $14.7 million in 2020 to $40,000 in the first 11 months of 2021. (NK News, 2022) The drop in trade relations has caused Pyongyang to reconstruct its foreign trade policies that focus on expanding new infrastructure to make trade easier with Moscow. Pyongyang knows that Moscow could be the equalizer between trade with Beijing and will continue to pursue new trade advancement opportunities. Phased restoration talks have begun and both countries are looking forward to new infrastructure plans that will help long term trade investments into both countries' economies.

According to the NK News, there have been at least nine ships suspected of illegally exporting coal from North Korea to China collected humanitarian cargo from the PRC before returning to DPRK last year. Vital agricultural and humanitarian items at the time of the economic recession have been ongoing due to the food insecurity crisis that started during the COVID-19 pandemic era. Reported to the United Nations by an unknown member state there were six of the nine ships photographed with illegal coal smuggling in the Ningbo-Zhoushan area on October 5, 2021, through satellite imagery. (NK News, 2022) The surveillance and sanction on North Korea and Chinese enablers have been ongoing yet both are able to barter trade and evade international sanctions.

North Korean authorities have delivered an ideological lecture that outlines no smuggling policy yet anticipates China-North Korea trade will expand in the coming months of 2022. The North Korean authorities condemned unofficial trade without official sanction in harsh language, warning that officials that participate in smuggling or other illegal activity would lose everything immediately. The North Korean authorities gave a detailed description of one woman who was shot after she was caught smuggling in Nampo. The authorities recalled how she was executed by anti-aircraft gun and her body was obliterated. (Daily NK, 2022) The strong warning from the North Korean is a diplomatic message that the North Korean officials are trying to send the world by mentioning the high cost of trade smuggling in North Korea.

III. Research Methods & Evaluative Criteria

Political feasibility

The importance of North Korea's nuclear weapons has left them to negotiate using the “3-D’s” strategy which is deny, delay and deceive. (Berry, 1995) DPRK’s reunification doctrine, that North Korea makes an agreement and then immediately finds ways to avoid the obligations agreed to must be eliminated through government co-operations. (Berry, 1995) Political feasibility means promoting the wellbeing of all citizens if there is a deescalate of nuclear weapons. The failures to recognize imminent but averted, collapse of the North Korean Kim Dynasty fails to recognize threats to their domestic governmental control and international partnerships. Financing the state’s survival shows explicit reliance on regional domestic partnerships through land and sea ports which are dominated by Chinese military and corporations. Developments of North Korean economic stance finds that the domestic economy is incapable of producing the requisite goods necessary for the maintenance of the division of labor and the regime seems utterly unable to finance their purchase. (Kihl & Kim, 2006)

The necessity of North Korea disarmament is vital than ever before because of the slow economic production and regional control. In the 21st century, North Korean leadership has been rapidly open to new technologies and news information that can help promote the political agenda of the United States in North Korea. Information technologies are a strong capability for the United States to use in relaying vital political messages and interests in the North Korean military nuclear weapons capabilities.

Practical accountability

DPRK denuclearization can be practically achievable through the ability of a “firewall” road map that has four phases of activity including declared freeze, a verified cap, reduction and elimination. Through the phase of a declared freeze it means holding North Korean and allied actors accountable for production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. Certain aspects of denuclearization are holding any activity that produces fissile material, delivery vehicles, weaponization, and militarization. (Dalton & Perkovich, 2020) Similar to the Nonproliferation Treaty, the United States of America and allies must monitor a declared freeze through intelligence gathering methods and attain North Korean compliance from outside the DPRK’s borders.

Self determination of North Korea to denuclearize their program will be achieved slowly in a collective manner that involves implementing a comprehensive verifiable cap to the stockpiles and production capabilities of nuclear weapons. Collective action for the verified restraints on the arsenal. Accounting and monitoring and reductions of existing nuclear weapons will be achieved if political actors understand the harsh environmental conditions of stockpiling nuclear arms weapons. Eliminating these nuclear weapons will require a change of rudimentary ideologies North Korean leadership hold to protect their sovereignty from neighboring countries. Self reliance in many instances due to the authoritarian government holds restraints on North Korean businesses and economic production which have a direct impact on North Korea sovereignty.

International coalition and Stakeholders

The U.S. and ROK by announcing it would permit IAEA inspections of all seven of its declared nuclear facilities, and did not limit these to one-time inspections. However, it still refused to grant access to the two suspected waste sites. If these inspections of the declared sites did occur, this would allow the IAEA to maintain the continuity of safeguards which was essential from the agency's perspective. (Berry, 1995) Although the South Korean nation is open to the IAEA inspections, getting North Korean leadership to agree has been difficult. In the spirit of cooperation, the North Koreans must take small steps to denuclearize through the democratic examples regional international coalitions represent. Similar to the six party talks that occurred, the United States must cooperate with the North Korean leadership to resolve the nuclear arms conditions through a new set of ‘smart sanctions’ that targeted individuals and organizations suspected of involvement in North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme along with various illicit trade and financial activities. (Gray, & Lee, J.-W. 2021)

During the Obama administration it was prevalent that working through international coalitions and keeping stakeholders accountable for their financial and domestic production of nuclear materials were a part of the ‘smart sanctions’ policy. Every political leader faces the challenge of how to hold onto his or her job. The politics behind survival in office is, we believe, the essence of politics. The desire [of political leaders] to survive motivates the selection of policies and the allocation of benefits; it shapes the selection of political institutions and the objectives of foreign policy; it influences the very evolution of political life. (Kwak, Joo, S.-H., & Ahn, T., 2014) Changing the North Korean public and governmental ideology is vital to the denuclearization and has been a strong objective of the American governmental institutions.