North Korea’s Denuclearization: The Challenge of Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust, by Naoko Aoki

An examination of the breakdown of the Six-Party Talks on North Korea’s denuclearization in late 2008 and the increase in tensions in the first half of 2009 can identify the reasons for the collapse in the latest international effort to denuclearize the country. Mutual mistrust between the United States and North Korea has played a major role in the collapse of the denuclearization process and the subsequent heightening of tensions. North Korea’s peace initiatives since the summer of 2009—termed by some as a “charm offensive”—culminated in the December 2009 trip to North Korea by Stephen Bosworth, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy. While the U.S. envoy’s trip is a positive development from the point of view of avoiding misinterpretations and misrepresentations, there is a continuing danger of mutual mistrust triggering dynamics that negatively affect any future denuclearization efforts. North Korea maintains various nuclear programs and possibly nuclear collaboration with other countries. An assessment of how far North Korea has progressed in reversing all that was accomplished during the “disablement” phase since the collapse of the Six-Party Talks in December 2008 may provide an insight into the challenges ahead for denuclearization efforts.

“North Korea’s Denuclearization: The Challenge of Breaking the Cycle of Mistrust,” is an excerpt from Part IV of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

Naoko Aoki is pursuing an M.I.P.P. degree at SAIS. She is originally from Japan and has worked as a journalist for 14 years. She covered Japan’s domestic politics, foreign policy and the economy in Tokyo for a Japanese news agency before moving to Beijing as a correspondent for the same news agency. There she covered both China and North Korea for five years, and has visited Pyongyang over a dozen times.