Reducing Nuclear Dangers on the Korean Peninsula: Bilateral versus Multilateral Approaches

This paper addresses the important issue of nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. It reviews alternate solutions: an essentially bilateral solution with the United States as an associated party, and a multilateral regime establishing a nuclear weapon free zone in a designated part of Northeast Asia which would include the militarily significant states in the region along with the NPT nuclear weapon states as associated parties. The effectiveness of a non-binding pledge versus a legally binding agreement and the possible availability of a nuclear assurance commitment itself – a non-binding declaration or a legally binding obligation – are analyzed. The verification requirements of a legally binding arrangement are outlined, and associated issues such as transit through the zone established by an agreed arrangement are considered. The political salience of the two types of solutions, bilateral and multilateral is commented upon: for example what has the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) indicated it would accept and the likelihood that the DPRK is now prepared to be, or can be, persuaded to make the hard decision to eliminate weapons and accede to the vast verification requirements of a legally binding regime; and whether the United States would be willing to provide a negative nuclear assurance of any sort in a bilateral non-binding agreement situation as well as the level of verification it might demand in a legally binding agreement.


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Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr. served for nearly three decades at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, including a decade and a half as general counsel as well as Acting Director of the agency for most of 1993. In 1993 he led the effort to establish a long-term moratorium on the conduct of nuclear weapons tests. From 1994 to 1996, he was a principal figure in the worldwide effort to successfully support the conclusion of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations. In 1994 President Clinton appointed Thomas Graham as his special representative for arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament, with the rank of Ambassador. From 1993 to 1995 Ambassador Graham led the successful U.S. government effort to indefinitely extend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He has taught at—among others—Stanford University, University of Virginia, Georgetown University, University of Washington and Oregon State University.

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