Larry A. Niksch Specialist in Asian Affairs March 30, 2009
Congressional Research Service 7-5700 www.crs.gov RL33590
CRS Report for Congress
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Development and Diplomacy
Since August 2003, negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear weaponsprograms have involved six governments: the United States, North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. Since the talks began, North Korea has operated nuclear facilities at Yongbyon and apparently has produced weapons-grade plutonium. Various estimates place North Korea’s plutonium production at between 30 and 50 kilograms, enough for five to eight atomic weapons. After North Korea tested anuclear device in October 2006, the six party talks served as a framework for bilateral negotiations between the Bush Administration and North Korea, with significant Chinese influence on these bilateral talks. The Bush Administration negotiated four agreements with North Korea between February 2007 and October 2008; two were issued as six party accords. The agreements produced the initiation of adisablement of North Korean nuclear installations at Yongbyon, including a nuclear reactor and plutonium reprocessing plant; Bush Administration lifting of Trading With the Enemy Act sanctions against North Korea and removal of North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism; a North Korean declaration of nuclear programs limited to known nuclear installations at Yongbyon and reportedlya plutonium stockpile of 31 kilograms; and a commitment by the five non-North Korean governments in the six party talks to provide North Korea with one million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent forms of energy assistance. The fourth of these agreements, negotiated in October 2008, established a system of verification and inspections but limited to the declared facilities at Yongbyon and notincluding the taking of samples by inspectors. The Bush Administration and North Korea disputed the contents of this agreement, especially over sampling. As of early 2009, full implementation of the agreements requires a completion of deliveries of one million tons of heavy fuel oil to North Korea and North Korean completion of the disablement of the Yongbyon facilities. Oil deliveries are about200,000 tons short, and the Yongbyon facilities are about 80% disabled. The Bush Administration took the position that full implementation also would require North Korean Korean acceptance of inspection sampling at Yongbyon. Completing the implementation of the agreement is one challenge facing the Obama Administration. A second challenge will be to develop a negotiating strategy for the next phase ofnuclear negotiations, including decisions on how to respond to tough negotiating positions, which North Korea set forth at the start of 2009, which include a call for normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations prior to a final agreement to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and a demand that a final agreement include elimination of the “U.S. nuclear threat” to North Korea. These agreements didnot cover important components of North Korea’s nuclear programs: the apparent production of a few atomic bombs; a highly enriched uranium program known to the United States since the late 1990s; and alleged nuclear collaboration with Iran and Syria. According to U.S. officials, collaboration with Syria involved the construction of a nuclear reactor, which Israel bombed in September 2007.Collaboration with Iran reportedly involves development of high enriched uranium, development of a nuclear warhead that could be mounted on a jointly developed intermediate range ballistic missile (North Korean Nodong, Iranian Shahab missile), collaboration in developing long-range missiles, and North Korean assistance in constructing deep underground installations to house part of Iran’s nuclear...