The Nuclear Crisis Group welcomes the decision by President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to pursue a diplomatic approach to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. The possible meeting between the two is a positive, if unexpected step — one that helps, for now, reduce the risk of accidental conflict that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons.
Sustained and effective diplomacy is needed to further reduce tensions, increase predictability, and resist the dangerous mirage, offered by some, of pursuing military action to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear capability. The summit is unlikely to produce immediate concrete steps to denuclearization, but has the potential to start a diplomatic process that could reduce instability, increase security and lead to the elimination of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. All countries should exhaust every possible diplomatic option to achieve these goals.
With the intent to meet by May, planning time is short and the stakes are high. The Nuclear Crisis Group issued guidelines last summer that would reduce the risks of military conflict and escalation that could lead to nuclear use between the United States and North Korea. Any real, verified process that eliminates North Korea’s nuclear weapons will be a long-term undertaking; it will take time to negotiate and implement. As part of that process, the two sides can pursue a wide range of steps that would increase both their security and that of US allies in the region and build space for sustained diplomacy.
In June 2017, the Nuclear Crisis Group released a set of urgent recommendations to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and called on national leaders to act now to reduce the unacceptably high risk of nuclear conflict. The report called for the United States and North Korea to begin immediate discussions, without any preconditions, to reduce the risk of conflict. The goal of full denuclearization through the “Six Party” process — including a freeze on nuclear and missile tests, production of nuclear materials, suspensions of military exercises, and negotiation of a formal peace regime — will take time, but must not be allowed to prevent urgently needed discussions to avoid escalation of nuclear risk.
The Nuclear Crisis Group calls on national leaders to pursue these immediate steps:
- Refrain from nuclear threats and adopt nuclear no-first-use statements;
- Suspend flights by US strategic bombers and visits by strategic submarines in return for key commensurate restraints by North Korea;
- Resume humanitarian assistance to North Korea;
- Agree not to adopt new sanctions on North Korea;
- Fully and consistently implement communication links between DPRK and ROK military leaders;
- Refrain from provocative military actions that could escalate to nuclear conflict; and
- Reaffirm the September 19, 2005 Six-Party joint statement on denuclearization as part of multilateral negotiations.
Additionally, the Nuclear Crisis Group urged these follow-up steps:
- Pursue a permanent peace regime and end production/separation of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium under verification;
- Expand and enhance Track-II discussions by North Korea, the United States, and other regional states;
- Agree to a non-nuclear deployment pledge for the Korean peninsula from the United States, and North and South Korea;
- Create UN-endorsed multilateral security guarantees for North and South Korea from China and the United States;
- Implement progressive sanctions relief and economic assistance in parallel with progress in denuclearization;
- Suspend US-ROK joint military drills, establish US-DPRK diplomatic relations, and complete economic and energy assistance at the time North Korea’s denuclearization is fully implemented and verified (by the five parties in the Six-Party Talks and the IAEA); and
- Pursue negotiations to establish Northeast Asia as a nuclear-weapons-free zone.
“The recommendations we made last year remain a sound basis to pursue de-escalation and improve stability in Korea. They remain very relevant to both countries, and could form the basis for a US approach that truly addresses the root cause of instability in Northeast Asia,” added Jon Wolfsthal, director of the Nuclear Crisis Group and former Senior Director at the U.S. National Security Council. “If the will and commitment is there to produce results, these are the steps that any President should pursue.”
For a full list of Nuclear Crisis Group members, click here: http://bit.ly/NCGlist
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Global Zero is the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It is led by more than 300 eminent world leaders and backed by a half a million citizens worldwide. For more information, please visit www.globalzero.org.