As the diplomatic standoff in North Korea enters its fourth year, the crisis atmosphere on the Korean peninsula sparked by Pyongyang's military actions in 2010 has eased. Pyongyang has agreed to return to the diplomatic table, its hand strengthened by advancing its nuclear program in the interim. Washington and Seoul remain reluctant to engage, having been burned by Pyongyang's clandestine uranium enrichment program unveiled in 2010. The authors argue that re-engagement, with the immediate objective to stop a third nuclear test and prevent further missile tests, is imperative to contain the nuclear threat for now; preventing the nuclear program's expansion and preparing the way for the ultimate denuclearization of the peninsula—critical goals—must be left to a second step.
Note: There is a supplement to this piece with detailed overhead imagery, additional analysis of Pyongyang's march toward a more threatening nuclear weapons capability, and brief commentary on how the accession of Kim Jong-un to leadership may influence North Korea's nuclear trajectory. Click here to access "North Korea from 30,000 Feet"