This synthesis report, “Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus: Breaking the Stalemate with the DPRK,” addresses a critical missing element in engagement with the DPRK, modelled on one of the most successful and enduring disarmament and non-proliferation initiatives: the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program.
Tailoring the lessons from the CTR program to the DPRK’s unique circumstances, the new approach called CTR Plus proposes the implementation of discrete, small to medium scale localized projects with the potential for large-scale impact which address the DPRK’s critical and urgent problems on energy insecurity, public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adopting this approach provides an opportunity for pragmatic engagement, reopening channels of dialogue and improving regional security whilst also addressing concerns of the DPRK leadership, the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and China, Japan, and Russia.
The report makes clear that engagement is essential to promoting shared security and for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. It should not be used only to reward good behaviour. The report draws its analysis from APLN’s CTR+ project and applies lessons from the US-Soviet-Russian CTR program – though contextually and situationally appropriate to the DPRK. It includes the following recommendations:
Sanctions: As a basic pre-condition for engagement, the UNSC permanent members should make a careful assessment of partial sanctions relief for the DPRK and conditions under which sanctions must be reimposed. A new agreement could model key aspects of the JCPOA agreement, including mechanisms for the reimposition of sanctions, as well as monitoring, and verification.
Energy: Help address DPRK’s energy insecurity through cooperative projects in the energy sector and energy intensive projects in other sectors, including the rapid construction of mini-grid systems powered by renewable energy for electricity generation.
Chemical: Cooperation between the US and DPRK on chemical weapons disposal could be modelled on initiatives such as US and German assistance to the Soviet Union and its successor states, or the China-Japan cooperative chemical weapons disposal program.
Nuclear: The US and the ROK should provide measures to assist the DPRK with converting its nuclear and space infrastructure to civilian use following a US-DPRK agreement to freeze DPRK’s nuclear program and declare its uranium enrichment activities.
Public Health: The DPRK should be encouraged to join the ROK-led Northeast Asia Cooperation for Health Security (NEACHS) which includes the ROK, the United States, China, Russia, Japan, and Mongolia to help address the DPRK’s health security needs and build regional dialogue.
Research exchanges with the DPRK’s bioresearch facilities would improve biosecurity practices, reduce the diversion risk of biohazardous material, and provide employment opportunities for DPRK scientists. These research exchanges would mimic the International Science and Technology Center an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway, and the United States.
Space Cooperation. The DPRK should recommit to its moratorium on long-range testing of ballistic missiles, in exchange for satellite data for weather and disaster monitoring, and resource exploration, provided by the United States and the ROK. Dismantlement of the DPRK’s space and long-range missile program should be treated as a separate issue from the dismantlement of its nuclear program.
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DPRK Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus Project
Learn about the project here.
The analysis from this synthesis report is drawn from the APLN’s project on CTR Plus which was supported by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and sponsored by the ROK Ministry of Unification and the MacArthur Foundation.
As part of this project, in September 2021, APLN held three workshops with ROK and US officials and senior experts to review prospects for Cooperative Threat Reduction plus (CTR+) initiative in the context of a renewed diplomatic approach to the DPRK. The intention was to explore the viability of a CTR program which facilitates not only CTR-nuclear, but also parallel, linked, and concurrent engagement in other critical sectors of the North Korean economy, i.e. space, energy, and public health.
The first webinar, “Applying CTR to the Korean Peninsula,” commenced with special remarks by the ROK Minister of Unification Lee In-Young. Opening remarks were given by Senator Sam Nunn, Chair of Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Dr Marty Natelagawa, Chair of APLN and former Foreign Minister of Indonesia. Moderated by Chung-in Moon, Vice-Chair of APLN and Chair of the Sejong Institute, this webinar featured presentations by Dr. Siegfried Hecker, former Director of Los Alamos Laboratory on “Lessons Learned, Differences, and Practical Approaches Comparing US-Soviet and Russian CTR-nuclear program with DPRK-CTR-nuclear program” and Dr. Namrata Goswami, independent scholar on space policy on “CTR+, Space Engagement, and Cooperation with the DPRK.”
The second webinar, “CTR+ and Energy Security in the DPRK,” featured opening remarks by Dr. Peter Hayes, Director of Nautilus Institute, and presentation by Dr. David Von Hippel on “Linking CTR to Energy Sustainability and Prosperity in the DPRK.” Moderated by APLN Executive Director, Ms Shata Shetty, this webinar discussed how CTR can be linked to energy sustainability and prosperity in the DPRK and potential for converting military work to civilian in the energy domain.
The third webinar “CTR and Public Health,” covered how regional cooperation on public health could enable engagement with the DPRK as part of a broader CTR package to enhance peaceful scientific engagement and cooperation. Professor Jong-koo Lee, former Director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) gave opening remarks. Moderated by Angela Kane, former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the webinar featured presentations by Professor Park Sang-min, Seoul National University College of Medicine presenting on “DPRK’s Covid-19 Outbreak Update, and DPRK Public Health Sector Priorities and Resource Requirements” and Professor Shin Yeong-jeon, Hanyang University School of Medicine presenting on “Northeast Asian Public Health Initiative.”
The presentations given by the six experts at the webinars were later published as APLN Special Reports: Siegfried Hecker explained the differences between CTR with Russia and the DPRK, and David von Hippel and Peter Hayes proposed engagement with the DPRK through renewable energy. Namrata Goswami and Sang Min Park explored the potential for inter-Korean cooperation in space and in the biomedical field respectively, and Young-jeon Shin discussed how to bring the DPRK into the Northeast Asia Cooperation for Health Security (NEACHS).