[Special Report] Political Mobilization For CTR Plus: Lessons Learned From CTR
Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus DPRK

[Special Report] Political Mobilization For CTR Plus: Lessons Learned From CTR

As part of a project on Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus with the DPRK, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network published a special report by Dr. Susan Koch, former senior official at the US National Security Council, Department of Defense, and Department of State, on lessons from the US Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program that could help improve implementation of and donor support for a CTR Plus initiative with the DPRK. CTR Plus would aim to reduce or eliminate weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials, while incorporating important additional, non-WMD elements, such as energy, space, and public health cooperation. 

One lesson from the CTR experience is that legal and political agreements are essential to lay out the goals, methods, and rules of the overall cooperative effort and of its individual elements. Another is that initial, relatively small projects can build trust over time that leads to more ambitious cooperation. A further lesson is that a division of funding responsibilities would be required between the US and other donor governments. The US Congress would likely support Department of Defense (DOD) funding and active involvement only for WMD-related reductions and elimination. Most funds for the non-WMD aspects of CTR Plus would probably have to come from other donor governments. An important resource in that regard could be the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, which now has thirty-one active members. Many of those are European Union and Asia-Pacific governments, which would have a special interest in CTR Plus. 

Although the US government should not play the dominant role in CTR Plus that it did in the original CTR program, its active participation and leadership would be essential to success in the effort. The special report provides three general recommendations for the US government to follow in order to attain that outcome: 

  • The US government should engage in a vigorous public relations effort to persuade the US public, media and potential future members of Congress of the need and prospects for successful CTR Plus engagement with the DPRK. That would be most necessary and difficult, given the long history of conflict between the two nations. 
  • The US executive branch would have to keep Congress closely informed of the progress of discussions with the DPRK on CTR Plus from their early stages. 
  • The US should work with leading members of the Global Partnership well before any specific CTR Plus agreement with the DPRK, to ensure the Partnership’s active financial support of the effort, and especially of its Plus aspects. In turn, the ability of the US executive branch to tell Congress of the willingness of other governments to participate actively in CTR Plus, especially in support of its Plus elements, would go far to persuade Congress to fund the threat reduction aspects. 

Click on the adjacent link to download the full report.


About the Author

Dr. Susan Koch is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction, National Defense University, and an adjunct professor at Missouri State University, Department of Defense and Strategic Studies. In government, she held senior positions at the White House National Security Council Staff, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State. She received the Presidential Distinguished and Meritorious Executive Awards, the DOD Distinguished Service Award (five times), and the Nunn-Lugar Trailblazer Award. Dr. Koch received a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University.

About the DPRK Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus Project

As the Soviet Union broke apart in the early 1990s, the United States government led a cooperative effort to mitigate the proliferation risks associated with the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, delivery systems, and nuclear knowledge controlled by the Soviets. Despite domestic political hurdles to engaging with America’s long term Cold War adversary, the US-Russia Cooperative Threat Reduction (or the Nunn-Lugar program) helped support two decades of US-Russian cooperation towards the shared goal of mitigating nuclear dangers. 

This project reviews the potential for an effective Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus (CTR Plus) initiative in the context of a renewed approach to the DPRK. Through a CTR Plus initiative, this project aims to address critical missing elements in the proposed denuclearization of the DPRK. It centers around other types of engagement that are essential to the success of a DPRK CTR program, i.e., missiles and space, energy security, and public health. Learn more about it here. 

The findings of this project have been compiled into a synthesis report, “Cooperative Threat Reduction Plus: Breaking the Stalemate with the DPRK,” addressing the critical missing element in engagement with the DPRK.  


Image: Flags of North Korea and USA, IgorIgorevich, iStock

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