Nuclear proliferation in North East Asia

Nuclear Proliferation in North East Asia

Publication date:
Benjamin Hautecouverture

Policy Department, Directorate-General for External Policies - March 2017

The nuclear dimension of the crisis in the Korean peninsula has been compounded since the end of the Cold war, particularly since the North Korean regime announced its withdrawal from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in January 2003. The nuclear and ballistic programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) have dangerously improved since the beginning of the decade and seem to have accelerated since 2014 in spite of the continuous strengthening of the international sanctions regime against Pyongyang’s Weapons of Mass Destruction programmes. Accordingly, tensions have risen dramatically in the Korean peninsula. In the current context, the resumption of the six-party talks – deadlocked since the spring of 2007 - remains very hypothetical. It is clearly dependent on a change of attitude on Pyongyang’s part, something hardly predictable. Even if ‘strategic patience’ towards North Korea has been challenged for some time, it may be that there is no better alternative to this policy. Comprehensively conceived, it should be understood as a strong policy of containment of the North Korean nuclear crisis in order to make possible the return of Pyongyang to negotiations. As a subsidiary issue, it could be asked whether the EU could play a renewed role as regards to nuclear and ballistic proliferation in North East Asia.