The Avoidable Crisis in North Korea

North Korea set off a crisis with its October 2002 admission of its active nuclear weapons program, in violation of the 1994 Agreed Framework with the United States. The Framework is now history, and with neither side backing down, the crisis continues unabated. For many, the revelations were proof that North Korea is untrustworthy and a dangerous menace. Since March 2001, the United States has refused to engage in dialogue with North Korea, arguing that it will not reward bad behavior.1 Even commentators calling for dialogue with the North call this blackmail and argue that dialogue is better than war.2 However, both perspectives misunderstand North Korea’s underlying security interests and goals.

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