Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle: Chapter 14—Epilogue

by David Albright, Holly Higgins, and Kevin O’Neill

In late 1990 or early 1991, a North Korean official asked a U.S. official at the United Nations to meet with him.  The U.S. official was nervous.  At the time, official contact with North Korea was limited to bilateral discussions in Beijing that amounted to the United States telling North Korea that it must meet several conditions before senior-level discussions could start. Despite his reservations, the U.S. official decided to meet the North Korean.

Their first two meetings were spent discussing the founding and history of the United States, where the North Korean demonstrated serious misunderstandings about the United States.  During the third meeting, the North Korean got to the point after the U.S. official said that North Korea had not fulfilled its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to conclude a safeguards agreement within 18 months after signing the treaty.  The North Korean disagreed, saying that the United States had violated the NPT.  North Korea had joined the NPT with the understanding that the United States would withdraw its nuclear weapons from South Korea, but the United States had not done so.  He then asked the U.S. official to introduce him to people in the State Department in charge of the Korean issue. 

The U.S. official became increasingly uncomfortable.  He declined to set up the requested introductions, and he never reported his meetings to Washington. But the U.S. official was struck by the North Korean’s view that these nuclear issues had to be resolved between the United States and North Korea.  The U.S. official was convinced that the North Korean was operating under instructions from his government and was looking for a political deal with the United States.

Contact between the two countries has evolved considerably since that time. Bilateral talks have become a way to settle many of the most serious security issues posed by North Korea.  Negotiations have often centered on “package deals,” typically a combination of incentives to North Korea in exchange for certain commitments, changes in behavior, or an agreement.

Nonetheless, serious misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and false expectations have often plagued the U.S.-North Korean relationship. North Korea often has miscalculated the impact of its actions or brinksmanship, or had an unrealistic sense of what the United States will do to obtain concessions.  On the other hand, the United States has rarely been proactive in defining the incentives that it is willing to provide.

Support for engagement, particularly in the United States, has been undermined by the security threat posed by North Korea. Complicating any discussion, the United States, Japan, and South Korea do not agree on the extent of the North Korean threat.  Of the three, the United States currently tends to paint the most dire threat assessment.  Many in the U.S. Congress and intelligence agencies are convinced that North Korea already has one or two nuclear weapons.  U.S. assessments also conclude that, by 2005, North Korea will be capable of deploying ballistic missiles—armed with weapons of mass destruction—that could reach the continental United States.  With North Korean ballistic missiles given as the strongest rationale for a domestic national missile defense, the United States may also develop a strong domestic constituency that will emphasize going it alone and, if successful, may place less priority on engaging North Korea directly.

On a more fundamental level, it has proven difficult for two nations with such different worldviews to develop a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.  Many senior U.S. officials who supported the Agreed Framework in 1994 believed that North Korea would disintegrate long before the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) delivered the light-water reactors (LWRs).  But increasingly, despite consistent famine and economic hardship, North Korea is not seen as bordering on collapse. 

The clock cannot be turned back; the United States has invested too much in seeking negotiated solutions on the Korean peninsula to reverse course.  Moreover, engagement with North Korea has produced significant benefits.  A nuclear weapons program was capped at an early stage, before North Korea could accumulate enough separated plutonium for tens or even hundreds of nuclear weapons. Military conflict on the Korean peninsula was avoided.  North Korean missile flight tests have been suspended. Prospects for improving North-South relations and for reducing regional tensions have grown.  To abandon engagement now would likely mean a return to heightened tensions and possibly military conflict, including a resurgence of North Korea’s nuclear weapon program.  The United States thus has little reason to stop engaging with North Korea.

The June 2000 North-South summit has reinforced this view.  The summit may finally mark the beginning of rapprochement on the peninsula.  Moreover, implementing the summit agreement could help reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula, thereby making it easier to resolve nuclear and proliferation concerns.  Likewise, continuing U.S.-North Korean engagement can improve the chances of North-South reconciliation.

Sustained Attention: A Key to Success

Much work remains.  Most are aware of the immense difficulties in making substantial progress.  The situation is analogous to keeping a ball poised on top of a round hill, where a slight push can send the ball rolling down to the bottom.  What is desired is a situation where the ball is located at the bottom of a deep valley; a small push will move the ball upward, but before long it will roll back to the bottom and come to rest at its original position.  Technically, the former situation is called an unstable equilibrium and the latter is a stable equilibrium.

This analogy illustrates that engagement with North Korea requires sustained, high-level U.S. attention.  But such attention has been difficult to muster.  Instead, the U.S. approach has focused on rushing to stop the ball before it reaches the bottom and pushing it back to the top, only to leave it unattended once again.  Too often since the Agreed Framework was signed in October 1994, efforts that could improve U.S. security, reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula, and further nonproliferation goals have suffered from lack of high-level attention—at least until the next North Korean provocation placed the issue back on the agenda. 

Sustained attention means that the United States must live up to the commitments that it has made to North Korea, lest North Korea disrupt the situation. North Korean frustration with the pace of U.S. engagement has led, in the past, to provocations by North Korea, which, in turn, raised tensions and caused further delays.  On the other hand, North Korea has been accommodating in response to positive steps by the United States.  For example, the September 1999 decision to ease Trading with the Enemy Act sanctions led North Korea to suspend flight-testing its ballistic missiles while talks continued on improving U.S.-North Korean relations.

Sustained attention also means that the United States should seek opportunities to offer North Korea incentives to modify its behavior.  For example, the United States should focus on removing North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, thereby eliminating more sanctions on North Korea and addressing North Korea’s long-held complaint about being branded a terrorist state.  In addition, the United States should be quick to recognize steps taken by North Korea to engage in constructive negotiations. 

The policy review conducted by former U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry urges the United States to look for new opportunities to reduce proliferation risks on the Korean peninsula.  By recommending negotiations to achieve the complete cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missile programs, the Perry policy seeks a stable security situation on the Korean peninsula.  Towards this end, the policy instructs the United States to pursue these negotiations with prudence and patience.  Most importantly, Perry’s policy emphasizes that U.S. security objectives would only be compromised by attempts to undermine or supplant the Agreed Framework.

Since the fall 1999 release of Perry’s recommendations, real progress to reduce the proliferation risks posed by North Korea’s missile program has seemed possible.  However, U.S. efforts through July 2000 to address ballistic missiles have produced little progress and serve as a reminder of how difficult the situation remains.  Nevertheless, North Korea’s decision to suspend missile flight tests in exchange for eased U.S. sanctions illustrates a key facet in Perry’s strategy, which specifies progress on a step-by-step and reciprocal fashion.  Periodic setbacks should not be used as an excuse to abandon engagement altogether.

It is also important that the United States continue to closely coordinate with its regional allies, particularly with Japan and South Korea through the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG).  Since it was formed in April 1999, the TCOG has provided a useful forum for the United States and its regional allies to coordinate their respective policies towards North Korea.  Indeed, the TCOG represents one of the most important achievements of Perry’s policy. This coordination should not be allowed to falter simply because improved North-South relations have begun.  If South Korea continues to develop inter-Korean exchanges without addressing U.S. and Japanese nuclear and missile concerns, it will deleteriously strain the TCOG relationship.  In the near future, the TCOG will need to address how far inter-Korean exchanges should proceed before progress on security issues is made.

One of Perry’s key findings is particularly relevant in this election year: engaging North Korea must be sustained beyond the end of the Clinton administration for the approach to be effective.  Clearly, Perry does not envision “quick fixes” for the Korean peninsula’s security. 

Likewise, Perry cites the need for broad, bipartisan support from Congress in order to succeed.  This also will require sustained attention by the Clinton administration and by future administrations, as there is no “North Korea lobby” on Capitol Hill; indeed, sentiments in the 106th Congress lean the other way. 

Recognizing that the U.S. government is poorly organized to implement the recommendations made in the policy review, the Perry report also calls for the creation of a strengthened mechanism within the U.S. government to carry out North Korea policy.  Specifically, the report recommends the establishment of a small, senior-level interagency working group to coordinate all aspects of U.S. policy towards North Korea.  Such a committee would be a valuable resource in dealing with KEDO, negotiating with North Korea, coordinating policy with TCOG members, and building bipartisan support in Congress.

Establishing Peaceful Coexistence

The preeminent goal must be to find ways to reduce the threat posed by North Korea and establish peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula.  In this way, the overall situation can become stable.  Toward this goal, improved relations between North and South Korea remain critical.

North and South Korea need to find ways to normalize their relationship.  Government-level contacts and meetings following the June 2000 summit and additional summits will help, but such meetings can create only so much momentum.  The late July announcement that border liaison offices were opened is a positive step, although much more needs to be done towards normalization.

Efforts to fully normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea also should be pursued more consistently.  Increasingly after the June 2000 summit, North Korea is viewed as raising its diplomatic profile worldwide, and it has established diplomatic relations with additional countries.  Remaining on the diplomatic sidelines will not benefit the United States, as its relationship with North Korea moves forward.

Towards this end, North Korea needs to send a high-level official to Washington, as agreed.  Each side needs to open liaison offices in the other’s capital, as called for in the Agreed Framework. To this end, the United States could offer to assist North Korea in securing appropriate facilities in Washington for its offices.

Since the United States and South Korea have made it clear that U.S. troop presence in Korea is non-negotiable, and both Koreas have now renounced war on the peninsula, some concessions could be made.  Indefinitely suspending large-scale, antagonizing joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises may help solidify cooperation and reconciliation.  A wide range of military confidence building measures could further build trust, such as the long overdue military hotline between the two countries.  To build confidence that hostilities have ended, both sides could agree to mutual, verified troop and equipment pullbacks from forward positions, or mutual and balanced force reductions.  In the longer term, if peaceful coexistence takes hold, the United States, in close consultation with South Korea, may wish to rethink the number of U.S. troops in South Korea or the rationale for their presence.

All sides need to work toward a formal end to the state of war on the peninsula.  An immediate goal for the United States and South Korea should be to persuade North Korea to stop demanding rhetorically a separate U.S.-North Korean peace treaty, followed by the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peninsula.  The long-term goal should be a peace treaty between North and South Korea that the United States and China, given their participation in the Korean War, would also sign.  The now-dormant Four-Party Talks, or another, similar multilateral venue, may provide a useful forum to begin such negotiations.

Nuclear Puzzle

Successfully reducing the North Korean nuclear proliferation threat has proven to be much more difficult than first expected, but the problem has not simply “gone away.”  The time is fast approaching when it will be necessary to face the difficult decisions that were delayed by signing the Agreed Framework.  The most formidable is ensuring North Korean compliance with its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards agreement.

Improved relations between North and South Korea can help on a wide range of issues.  However, North Korea’s relations with South Korea, as well as with the United States and Japan, could also be disrupted if progress is not made on the nuclear issues at the heart of the controversy between North Korea and the rest of the world.

The groundwork is in place to create, as called for in the Perry review, a “nuclear-free Korea.”  The 1991 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula calls for both North and South Korea to forego not only nuclear weapons, but also uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities that could be used to produce nuclear explosive materials.  The 1994 Agreed Framework provides a basis by which North Korea’s existing nuclear infrastructure is to be dismantled, in exchange for a more proliferation-resistant nuclear system that, when constructed, can integrate North Korea into the international nuclear economy in much the same way as South Korea is part of that system.  Perhaps most significant, the Agreed Framework obligates North Korea to resolve a proliferation dispute under a time-bound framework. 

The 1999 and 2000 “inspections” by U.S. officials at Kumchang-ni, and the possibility of future U.S. inspections of other suspect sites, provides at least a partial, interim solution to determining that undeclared activities are not occurring at sites identified by the United States and others.  However, these interim inspections do not provide adequate confidence that undeclared activities are not happening in North Korea.

Many difficult tasks lie ahead in implementing the Agreed Framework.  Addressing all of these tasks will take many years.  But the long timeline should not become an excuse for delay.  Too often, longer-term goals have suffered from exaggerated emphasis on the current crisis or deadline.  These longer-term goals must be addressed soon.

LWR Project Priorities.  With the supply contracts and financing matters settled, the LWR project has accomplished a great deal.  But KEDO is now entering a challenging period as it prepares to start building the new reactors.

The project foresees the construction of modern LWRs in a country that is alienated from the West and possesses no experience of modern nuclear regulatory, safety, health, and environmental practices.  The LWR project entails financial commitments of almost $5 billion, to be paid by several countries that have differing agendas.

Building and ensuring the safe operation and maintenance of LWRs is a highly complex task. The negotiators of the Agreed Framework, particularly the North Koreans, appear to have had little appreciation of the immense problems that would develop.  Now with construction underway, these problems are emerging.

Not least is North Korea’s oft-stated frustration with the pace of construction. Delays in the project have led North Korea to demand additional compensation for potential energy losses.  They have also resulted in greater mistrust between North Korea and KEDO.  Nonetheless, given the difficulty of the task and the rocky strategic situation between North and South Korea during much of the 1990s, it is not surprising that the project has encountered significant delays.

Additional Protocols. KEDO and North Korea have five remaining protocols to negotiate over the course of the project.  In July 2000, KEDO reported that it would focus on starting negotiations on three protocols: delivery schedule and performance, nuclear liability, and repayment. 

The delivery schedule protocol will specify major dates in the completion of the LWR project.  It will also contain the dates when North Korea is to perform its major commitments under the Agreed Framework.

Under the nuclear liability protocol, North Korea must enter into an indemnity agreement with KEDO, which secures nuclear liability insurance or other financial security to KEDO, its contractors, and subcontractors in connection with any third-party claims in the event of a nuclear incident.  North Korea will need to establish an acceptable nuclear liability regime.  Understandably, Western companies involved in the LWR project worry about investing in a country that fundamentally does not understand, much less follow, current industry practices.  How fast North Korea can create an adequate system is unknown.

The repayment protocol is the other protocol set to be negotiated soon.  This protocol is to provide details about the amount and terms of repayment from North Korea to KEDO for the LWRs.  The supply agreement specifies the amount to be repaid by North Korea will be jointly determined by KEDO and North Korea.  Even though the amount to be repaid by North Korea is on a long-term, interest-free basis, North Korea’s cash flow problems will likely complicate negotiations.

The other two protocols are nuclear safety and regulation of the LWRs, and the operation and maintenance arrangements for transferring the spent fuel out of North Korea.  The nuclear safety protocol is to specify details concerning the schedule and procedures for conducting safety reviews on the LWR plants after the reactors are finished (other safety issues, such as the creation of a nuclear regulatory authority, are addressed in the supply agreement).  Negotiations on this protocol are not expected for several years.  Although pressing, the spent fuel protocol depends on finding a country to take the spent fuel, a difficult task (see below).

Guaranteeing Safe Operation. A major challenge is creating an internationally acceptable infrastructure in North Korea to license, operate, and regulate a LWR, including creating and enforcing the necessary safety, health, and environmental regulations.  The safe operation and maintenance of LWRs requires highly skilled and experienced personnel. Both North Korea and, in particular, KEDO are obligated to ensure that the LWRs are operated according to established international practices so as to protect the public and the environment. 

KEDO, its member states, and perhaps the IAEA need to help North Korea establish adequate expertise to operate the LWRs safely and reliably. This assistance is already needed, as North Korea is already engaged in a detailed review of the design of the LWRs.  Soon, North Korea will be required to approve a lengthy Preliminary Safety Analysis Report (PSAR) as part of the process of issuing a construction permit to KEDO.  As of July 2000, KEDO and its main contractor expect to submit a draft, 18-volume PSAR to North Korea in February 2001 for a six-month review period. Although North Korea has some experience with safety evaluations because of its gas-graphite power reactors, this experience is very limited compared to modern safety practices.  As construction proceeds, more assistance will be necessary.

KEDO must ensure that North Korea can operate the reactors safely.  John Mulligan, KEDO’s Director of Project Operation, said in May 2000 at a conference sponsored by the Institute for Strategic Reconciliation in Washington, D.C., that KEDO will ensure that North Korea is fully capable of safely operating the two LWRs before KEDO completes construction and delivers nuclear fuel to the plant site.

In addition, North Korea will need to significantly upgrade its capabilities in modern construction practices, quality assurance, and electrical grid design.  It will also need to absorb a wide range of modern technologies and create a modern nuclear reactor safety culture.

Many North Koreans will need to be trained to staff the LWRs.  Although KEDO can train the first set of personnel, North Korea will need to train successive generations of staff. Where the initial training is to take place has yet to be resolved.

Agreements for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation. Although ultimately dependent on the success of the inspection effort, bilateral agreements for peaceful nuclear cooperation are essential to the success of the LWR project.  If U.S. companies participate in the LWR project, as is almost certain, then the United States and North Korea must negotiate an agreement to ensure that this participation is consistent with U.S. domestic laws, particularly the 1978 Nuclear Nonproliferation Act.  Similarly, North and South Korea will need to negotiate such an agreement.  According to a South Korean government official, this agreement could take a year to conclude and ratify.  Obtaining a U.S.-North Korean agreement could take significantly longer.

Electrical Power Grid.  The United States and its allies need to work with North Korea in order to find ways to modernize and make more reliable North Korea’s electrical generation facilities and transmission system.  Modernizing the electrical system would not only improve the chances of successfully completing the LWR project, but also provide immediate benefits to the civilian population, permit foreign investment to grow, and ensure long-term improvements in the economy.

Visitors to North Korea routinely report frequent power blackouts.  Voltage and frequency fluctuations can destroy newly installed electronic equipment, unless special voltage regulation equipment is used. KEDO’s Mulligan said that KEDO had intended to tie the LWR project construction site into North Korea’s power system and use diesel generators as back-up sources of power.  However, North Korea would not allow the connection, despite the chance to earn hard currency from electricity sales.  It stated that its electrical system could not support the additional electrical load.

A more serious issue is whether or not North Korea can provide adequate backup power in the case of an accident at one of the LWRs.  Throughout the world, national regulations require that nuclear power plants be connected to a reliable electrical grid.  The grid serves as one of several redundant backup power sources that can provide the energy to cool the reactor in the event of an accident.  Should normal power fail during an accident, electricity from the grid may be the only way to prevent the core from “melting down,” possibly resulting in a catastrophic accident.  Mulligan has stated that although the supply agreement stipulates that North Korea is responsible for providing a reliable supply of electricity during reactor commissioning, KEDO will not deliver the reactor fuel until it is convinced the grid system meets international standards.

Assistance could take many forms, some of which is expected to be provided by KEDO.  Foremost, North Korea needs assistance to understand modern technology and practices of energy production and distribution.  Armed with this knowledge, North Korea could make use of foreign loans to rehabilitate its power generation and distribution system.

A related issue is whether North Korea will find the necessary assistance and funds to establish an adequate power grid to efficiently transport the electricity generated in the LWRs to various parts of the country or abroad.  North Korea currently appears unable to finance the needed improvements. North Korea failed to secure funding from KEDO to modernize its power grid during the supply agreement negotiations in 1995.  However, KEDO did promise to use its “good offices” to help North Korean efforts to obtain, through commercial contracts or loans, “such power transmission lines and substations” as needed to upgrade the grid.  Because North Korea needs an upgraded electrical grid to use electricity from the LWRs, it may be willing to make significant concessions to obtain the necessary assistance and financing to do this work.

Sculpting a “Nuclear Free” Korean Peninsula.  Although the chances for peace and security on the Korean peninsula have improved following the June summit, North and South Korea have made no progress on implementing the 1991 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  A fundamental commitment in this declaration is that both countries commit not to possess facilities for reprocessing or enrichment.  Most believe that a “nuclear free” Korean peninsula depends on the absence of these facilities.  Thus, the implementation of the Joint Declaration is critical to obtaining a nuclear free peninsula. 

In the May 2000 talks between the United States and North Korea on the implementation of the Agreed Framework, the United States reportedly sought a ban on uranium enrichment, although North Korea was unwilling to make such a commitment.  The Agreed Framework only includes a ban on reprocessing in North Korea; it does not ban uranium enrichment under appropriate IAEA safeguards. Thus, a North Korean commitment not to possess uranium enrichment facilities would be a natural extension of its no-reprocessing pledge in the Agreed Framework, although such a commitment cannot substitute for implementation of the Denuclearization Declaration.

The declaration also calls for the establishment of a joint inspection agency—the Joint Nuclear Control Commission (JNCC).  However, the JNCC has not met since 1993.  With the improved climate following the June summit, North and South Korea may be able to finally establish a mutual inspection system.

Disposing of Spent Fuel and Dismantling the Gas-Graphite Reactor Infrastructure.  After the major nuclear components start to arrive for the first LWR, the spent fuel from the 5 megawatts-electric (MWe) reactor is to start leaving North Korea for ultimate disposal.  All the spent fuel must leave before the first LWR is completed.  Although this task may appear less urgent than others discussed here, it needs to be worked on soon.  Finding a country to take the spent fuel will be difficult, particularly because the fuel is difficult to dispose of directly without reprocessing.  Only a few countries can reprocess this type of fuel, and they may be unwilling to take the fuel.  Direct geological disposal is possible but unproven.  Given these difficulties, the United States needs to seek a solution now. 

Transporting the spent fuel to a reprocessing plant earlier than scheduled (eg., before the major nuclear components are delivered to the site) would allow a more accurate, and potentially cheaper, analysis of the fuel’s plutonium content.  This course of action could ease the IAEA’s inspection and verification task.

After the first LWR is completed, North Korea will start dismantling its frozen gas-graphite reactors and associated facilities, and will complete such dismantlement when the second LWR is completed.  This is a critical task, but one that North Korea should be able to accomplish on its own. Safeguards and Transparency.  Of all the tasks in the Agreed Framework, the one with the most uncertainty of success is the IAEA verification effort to ensure the completeness and correctness of North Korea’s safeguards declaration and the absence of undeclared activities.  Whether there will be LWRs in North Korea depends critically on the success of this effort.  If the inspection effort fails, tensions in the peninsula could rise dramatically. Delaying IAEA inspections in North Korea was a necessary compromise to obtain the Agreed Framework, thereby avoiding a war on the Korean peninsula and containing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.  But too long a delay in resuming the verification of North Korea’s initial safeguards declaration will further undermine support for the agreement. Once this process resumes, it must be rigorous.  North Korea also has a legitimate right to insist that the inspections be impartial. If this verification effort is to succeed, North Korea must demonstrate its commitment to transparency.  Such a commitment (or lack thereof) will be one of the most reliable indicators of North Korea’s true commitment to denuclearization and peaceful intentions.  Part of transparency is for countries to clearly state their objectives and expectations.  More importantly, transparency means that North Korea must allow internationally acceptable and adequate inspections of all its nuclear activities, and fully cooperate with the inspection process. The IAEA and its member states need to take a fresh look at how to verify that North Korea is in compliance with its safeguards agreement.  As of mid-2000, IAEA officials said they had made a small amount of progress with North Korea on how to preserve historical information, including data, reports and operating records, of North Korea’s nuclear facilities.  But much more needs to be done if the IAEA is to find that North Korea is in full compliance with its safeguards agreement in a timely manner.  Once it begins, the IAEA is currently expected to take two years to complete its task, assuming North Korea fully cooperates.  If full cooperation is not forthcoming, the IAEA may be unable to complete its task.  The longer the delay, the greater the risk that the Agreed Framework could collapse entirely.  Finding ways to speed up the process is a priority. The United States and South Korea have been reluctant to encumber their direct negotiations with North Korea by raising verification questions.  Nor have these issues been broached by KEDO during negotiations to support the LWR project, at the initial talks between the United States and North Korea on implementing the Agreed Framework, or at the North-South summit.  Continued delay in addressing difficult verification issues with North Korea will mean a longer halt to the LWR project later. At the least, the United States should be prepared to tell North Korea what IAEA inspections will comprise, particularly given all the changes in international safeguards over the last decade.  Since the Agreed Framework was signed in October 1994, the IAEA has strengthened its safeguards system to make it more difficult for a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT to hide nuclear activities from inspectors. The United States may need to press North Korea to accept adequate IAEA inspections.  But it should not offer any additional incentives to obtain North Korean compliance.  North Korea could increase its credibility and build support for the Agreed Framework by fully cooperating with the IAEA.  It would be particularly helpful if North Korea declared that it would allow the IAEA to go anywhere, anytime—in essence reaffirming its May 1992 commitment to the IAEA, but without the subsequent restrictions on access.  It could even allow the safeguards inspection process to resume before the date specified in the Agreed Framework. The IAEA needs to prepare for its work in North Korea.  It will need to reevaluate its information and data collected during the original set of inspections in 1992 and 1993 and assess information obtained afterwards.  It will have to prepare for the implementation of new inspections and once again do the basic work of comparing North Korea’s declaration to other information to establish a set of consistencies, inconsistencies, and questions. It must also decide on the most appropriate legal basis for the safeguards effort in North Korea.  The IAEA will need to decide if its existing authority, plus provisions in the Agreed Framework and the confidential minute, are adequate for the task.  Regardless, it should ask North Korea to implement the new safeguards protocol (INFCIRC/540), or an alternative set of measures that are equivalent or more stringent.  With the protocol in force in Japan and soon to be in force in South Korea, these countries are unlikely to tolerate a less stringent safeguards regime in North Korea. In addition, the IAEA needs to decide what level of uncertainty is acceptable in satisfying the Agreed Framework.  This decision could be controversial because KEDO members, all of whom are also influential within the IAEA, may have different expectations of how rigorous the IAEA should be. The fundamental question is: What level of uncertainty is acceptable in exchange for North Korea coming into compliance with its safeguards agreement?  What if the IAEA cannot account for one-to-several kilograms of plutonium, perhaps up to enough for a single nuclear explosive, but still much less than a “significant quantity” of plutonium? IAEA members need to provide political, financial, and technical assistance to the Agency as it prepares to carry out its mission in North Korea.  These types of inspection efforts are resource intensive, and occur against a background of limited funding for the IAEA in general. The United States and other KEDO members need to begin thinking about some of the possible outcomes of the inspection process.  What should happen if North Korea announces it has several kilograms of separated plutonium it had not previously declared?  What impact would such an announcement have on the implementation of the Agreed Framework?  Will the United States and its allies accept leaving this material under IAEA safeguards in North Korea?  Or will they insist that the material be transported out of North Korea?  How would North Korea react? There is also a need to look again at the role of bilateral, North-South inspections, as envisioned in the 1991 Joint Declaration.  Creating such an inspection arrangement would require the intensive training of South and North Korean inspectors as they create and implement a bilateral verification regime.  Although the IAEA would still need to verify that North Korea is in compliance with its safeguards agreement, a bilateral arrangement may prove helpful, as it did in Argentina and Brazil when those countries abandoned their unsafeguarded nuclear programs.  Bilateral inspections could start soon and accomplish many of the same tasks required of the IAEA, but long before the IAEA could do so under the Agreed Framework.  In this way, the time needed for the IAEA to verify North Korean compliance with its safeguards agreement could be drastically shortened. There is no doubt that much needs to be accomplished both to prepare for and carry out the inspections and verification exercise in North Korea.  If the political will exists, the IAEA can accomplish its tasks without causing significant delays in the LWR construction effort.  Lacking such will, the alternative is likely to be a heightening of tensions and a return to confrontation.  With the stakes so high, there is every reason to start wrestling with these verification issues now.  Despite the risk of increased tensions, the IAEA must conduct a thorough and credible inspection process in North Korea.  Doing so can cause tensions even in the most cooperative state, much less in a state like North Korea, which is widely accused of seeking nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. North Korea has repeatedly demonstrated the value of an oft-quoted negotiating strategy:  “You keep asking and asking until the other side screams, then you ask for one more thing.”  North Korea usually does not stop asking even then, and can be expected to remain a tough negotiating partner with the IAEA and the members of KEDO during the verification process. Nonetheless, avoiding another impasse between the IAEA and North Korea, as in early 1993, is in everyone’s interest.  Given the rocky history between the Agency and Pyongyang, member states and the public may need to pay close attention to that relationship as the process unfolds.  Whatever the cause, few would welcome a return to heightened military tensions on the Korean peninsula. During this effort, the IAEA may need to be more open with member states and the public if it wants support for its actions.  Ironically, as the IAEA begins to implement strengthened safeguards, the Agency has become more secretive than it was in the early 1990s.  This development, of allowed to continue, may undermine the Agency’s ability to obtain support for its actions from member states and the international community, should serious tensions with North Korea develop. Ultimately, however, much responsibility for the success or failure of the Agreed Framework rests with North Korea.  Without adequate North Korean transparency, the North Korean nuclear puzzle cannot be solved, and the Agreed Framework will fail, as it should.  A major purpose of obtaining the agreement was to ensure that North Korea does not have nuclear weapons, although this certification was delayed to a future date.  Lack of North Korean transparency would be a clear sign that this approach has failed.