Pyongyang has a longstanding strategy of engaging with Seoul only when Washington is moving to reconcile. It has acted that way for two decades. Time and again, pressure has proved counterproductive; it has only led North Korea to dig in its heels. To Pyongyang, pressure was evidence of Washington’s “hostile policy,” and that “hostile policy” was its stated rationale for lack of progress in North-South reconciliation. That past is prologue as Six-Party Talks move to a new phase. The DPRK will not take irreversible steps to eliminate its nuclear facilities, let alone give up its fissile material, without abundant evidence of an end to enmity, which will take time. Whether it will do so even then is not certain, which is why significant bargaining leverage needs to be retained for that critical point in the denuclearization process. That does not mean holding up deeper economic engagement or steps toward peace on the Korean peninsula. Nor does it mean doing nothing to address regional security. The key to eliminating North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is to move ahead on three other fronts at the same time: a Korean peace process, a regional security dialogue, and economic engagement.


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