Dr. Hayes sees little hope of a quick resolution to the nuclear side of negotiations, but believes the peacekeeping side of talks has the potential to bear quick fruit. Conventional arms control talks have been effective at Panmunjeon: in addition to building diplomatic momentum, they also contribute to lower risks of miscalculation and unintentional escalation. In exchange, agreements could be made to loosen energy sanctions, which Dr. Hayes characterizes as “the essence” of sanctions on North Korea. This would be a wise course of action as the DPRK has already taken actions to minimize the impact of energy sanctions, meaning they’ve already had their full effect, and no longer subject their increasing pressure.
Ultimately, Dr. Hayes makes two suggestions: “1) Allow partial re-export of coal to China in order to pay for imports from China, particularly of food and other critical goods that are essential for the livelihood of the NK population,” and “2) Introduce a package for sanctions relief, designed to introduce isolated microgrids, small scale renewable wind power (supplemented by local hydropower and diesel generators) that are aimed at welfare-generating public centers such as hospitals, clinics, and schools.” These microgrids would allow the tangible benefit to be delivered in as little as six months, providing invaluable trust-building between actors.