- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

North Korea: The Korean Nuclear Crisis-On to the Next Level

Nicholas Eberstadt and Joseph P. Ferguson

As the nuclear crisis in North Korea unfolds, it has become clear that there is little agreement about a common approach, either within the U.S. government or among its partners in Northeast Asia. This crisis has been more than a decade in the making, but a round of incidents in the fall of 2002 set off the latest alarm bells. At that time, the North Korean leadership made it clear that the DPRK’s nuclear weapons program was alive and well, confirming U.S. intelligence estimates. Whatever the motivations of the DPRK, it is clear that Pyongyang hopes once again to sow discord among U.S. partners in the region. Perhaps the strategy may backfire this time, insofar as all of the nations neighboring North Korea have agreed to a multilateral dialogue to help defuse the situation. The potential outcomes that present themselves, however, do not bode well for an agreement amenable to all sides. The crisis threatens to upset the extremely fragile balance of peace that has existed in Northeast Asia for the past 50 years.