Breaking a Deadlock to Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ) as the end goal
Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula is one of the most important security issues that the countries in the region, including the US, will face. Given the ongoing development of nuclear and missile programs in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and increasing tensions between nuclear weapon countries (US, Russia and China) in the region, it is critically important to reduce risk of nuclear war in the region and to find a way to resolve a current deadlock in negotiations between DPRK and the US for denuclearization of Korean Peninsula. This paper proposes a comprehensive approach to peace and stability in the region as well as a phased denuclearization of Korean Peninsula and eventually establishing Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) in the region. The specific recommendations are;
1) Following the Singapore Joint US-DPRK Statement in 2018, the next US administration should declare ending the Korea War and negotiate a peace treaty with DPRK,
2) The US should negotiate a phased denuclearization of DPRK with legally binding verification and negative security assurance measures, possibly under a NWFZ Treaty in Korean Peninsula, and eventually NWFZ in Northeast Asia (including Japan and possibly Mongolia),
3) Establish a regional security framework to discuss possible disarmament and confidence building measures in the region.
1. Confirm the significance of the Singapore Joint US-DPRK Statement in 2018
It is of critically importance for the countries in the region, in particular for the new Biden Administration, to confirm the Singapore Joint Statement remains effective. This will also contribute to keeping the effectiveness of the historic partner statement by North and South Korea in 2018, namely Panmunjom Declaration on Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula.
2. Following the Singapore Statement, declare ending the Korea War and negotiate a peace treaty with DPRK
In implementing Singapore Statement, ending the Korean War is an essential part of the initial process toward the peace and stability in the region, and the US can take an initiative by declaring such intention and start negotiation for a peace treaty with DPRK. Without such clear declaration and a peace guarantee from the US, DPRK will never stop nuclear program. The negotiation for a Peace Treaty will inevitably involve other countries, notably ROK and China. The negotiation might take a long time but clear intention to end the Korean War is an important pre-condition for following processes toward the lasting peace and stability in the region.
3. Negotiate a phased denuclearization of DPRK with legally binding verification and security assurance scheme, possibly under a NWFZ Treaty in Korean Peninsula, and eventually NWFZ in Northeast Asia (including Japan and possibly Mongolia)
Neither President Obama’s “strategic patience” policy nor President Trump’s “grand bargain” approach did not work and will never work against DPRK. The best approach is “phased denuclearization” with legally binding verification and security assurance scheme. At the same time the US should relax sanctions in a phased manner and reduce hostile activities against DPRK. Denuclearization process of DPRK must come with a legally binding verification, which is essential to assure the confidence of DPRK’s willingness to denuclearize. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can negotiate with DPRK for such special verification agreement. Dismantling of nuclear weapons may require special inspections, as it may involve sensitive information and participation of nuclear weapon states may be essential. Possible regional verification scheme, such as ABACC (Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials). The next step will be to negotiate to establish a NWFZ on the Korean Peninsula. It should also involve Japan which will eventually lead to a Northeast Asia NWFZ (NEA-NWFZ). Then the nuclear weapon states in the region (the US, Russia and China) will provide “negative security assurance” (i.e. they will never attack or threaten the non-nuclear weapon states of the Treaty with nuclear weapons). This “3 (DPRK, ROK and Japan) + 3(US, Russia and China)” approach could work best but could involve other countries in the region, such as Mongolia which has already a NWF status authorized by the UN. Under the Treaty, DPRK may benefit regional collaboration in energy technology development as well as other economic assistance. Such arrangements will reduce the risk of nuclear war substantially in the region and thus the need for nuclear umbrella for ROK and Japan could be reduced significantly. It should be also noted that such NWFZ Treaty can co-exist with ROK-US and Japan-US security alliance.
4. Establish a regional security framework to discuss possible disarmament and confidence building measures in the region.
Nuclear weapons are not the only existing security threats in the region. Conventional missiles and missile defense systems have intensified the security environment in the region. Besides, territorial disputes and historical issues remain significant among the countries in the region. There is no regional mechanism to discuss such security issues in the region. As a possible confidence building measure, countries in the region could negotiate a regional Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), such as the one in Southeast Asia. Such Treaty could improve confidence among countries in the region and reduce risks of military conflicts in the region. A proposed comprehensive approach recommends to establish a regional security forum, preferably a permanent one such as OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), where regional countries can discuss critical security issues, including possible disarmament measures in the region.
Dr. Tatsujiro Suzuki, Professor, Nagasaki University, and a Council Member, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
 The author deeply appreciates for the detailed comments given by Prof. Hiromichi Umebayashi, visiting professor of RECNA, and Special Advisor, Peace Depot, who originally proposed the concept of “3+3” NEA-NWFZ.
 See, for example, Research Center for Nuclear Weapons Abolition, Nagasaki University (RECNA), “Policy Proposal: A Comprehensive Approach to a Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NEA-NWFZ)”, March 2015. https://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/bd/files/Proposal_E.pdf, or Michael Hamel-Green, “An Alternative to Nuclear Deadlock and Stalled Diplomacy – Proposals, Pathways, and Prospects for the Northeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone”. A working paper for the 75th Nagasaki Anniversary Nuclear-Pandemic Nexus Scenario Project”, October-November 2020, https://www.recna.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/recna/bd/files/Hamel-Green_Nagasaki_WP_20201016_final.pdf
 It could start “2 (ROK and DPRK) + 3” first or “2 (ROK + Japan) +3” first.
 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia was signed in 1976 by five ASEAN countries first. Now the Treaty has been expanded to include outside ASEAN countries and US, China, Russia, ROK, DPRK and Japan are all members of the Treaty.