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The United States, North Korea, and the End of the Agreed Framework

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Journal article

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Between October and December 2002, with American policy makers preoccupied by the growing possibilities of war with Iraq, a more immediate and unanticipated confrontation loomed between the United States and North Korea. With stunning rapidity, Washington and Pyongyang unraveled close to a decade of painfully crafted diplomatic arrangements designed to prevent full-scale nuclear weapons development on the Korean Peninsula. By years end, both countries had walked away from their respective commitments under the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework of October 1994, the major bilateral accord negotiated between Washington and Pyongyang during the 1990s. North Korea finalized its break with the earlier agreement by announcing its immediate withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty NPT on 10 January 2003, becoming the first nation ever to withdraw from the treaty, simultaneously severing all nuclear inspection arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA. The abrupt collapse of the Agreed Framework, in the absence of alternative arrangements to constrain North Koreas nuclear weapons potential, triggered major international concern over the longer-term consequences for the global nonproliferation regime. The renewed confrontation between the United States and North Korea also exacerbated the most serious tensions in the fifty-year history of the U.S.-Republic of Korea ROK alliance, quite possibly laying the groundwork for a major regional crisis unparalleled since the Korean War. Though a worst-case scenario is not inevitable, a peaceful outcome that prevents an avowed DPRK nuclear weapons capability seems far from assured, and an agreement acceptable to both states that would supplant the discarded 1994 agreement remains out of reach.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Nuclear Weapons

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