Harvard University

Normalization by Other Means: The Failed Techno-diplomacy of Light Water Reactor Export in the North Korean Nuclear Crisis

John F. Kennedy School of Government – Littauer Building, Fainsod Room, Littauer-324
Wed., Dec. 6, 2017, 10 – 11:30 a.m.

Normalization by Other Means: The Failed Techno-diplomacy of Light Water Reactor Export in the North Korean Nuclear Crisis

We often say that diplomatic engagement with North Korea is our only option for curtailing their nuclear weapons program. Equally frequent is a passing allusion to “years of failed attempts at engagement.” Is this true? Have we earnestly tried engagement for years, and has it been a total failure? In this talk, Lawrence examines a previous attempt to engage North Korea, and focus on the techno-political aspects of diplomacy. In the 1994 Agreed Framework (AF), the regime agreed to dismantle its emerging plutonium-production complex and renounce nuclear weapons, in exchange for western light water reactors (LWR) and the promise of normalization with the U.S. As construction of the LWRs fell behind, however, North Korea embarked on a secret uranium enrichment program. Today we look back at the LWRs of the AF as a “carrot” — “we offered the carrot, and they cheated anyway.” But when we consider the unique technical attributes of LWRs, and how their construction was situated within a diplomatic track to normalization, they appear to function more like a medium for signaling commitment than as a carrot to bribe the regime. In this light, chronic construction delays figure as candid signals about America’s lack of commitment to the AF. This conceptual shift — from carrots and sticks to signaling and credibility — offers important insights into past diplomatic failures and lessons for how we should think about engagement with North Korea in the future.

Gazette Classification: Lecture
Organization/Sponsor: The Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Speaker(s): Chris Lawrence, Visiting Research Fellow with the Program on Science, Technology and Society, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government
More info: www.belfercenter.org…

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