September 28, 2022

The North Korean offer: Why now?

Deal of no nuke tests for no U.S.-ROK drills even falls short of Leap Day Deal

In a recent interview with the AP, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong made an offer that Pyongyang also made in January 2015. Although we do not have the full text of the interview, the offer was stated in clear and concise terms in the AP reporting: “stop the nuclear war exercises in the Korean Peninsula, then we should also cease our nuclear tests." The timing of Ri’s remarks – as the exercises are already coming to a conclusion – makes its precise nature somewhat unclear. But the interview suggests that the exercises would have to be stopped “for some period, for some years.”

This detail aside, it was highly unlikely that the U.S. will take up this offer, and both American and South Korean officials quickly dismissed Ri’s remarks. Yet it is also worth stepping back to consider the wider strategic game that is in play in the wake of the fourth test and the initiation of new multilateral sanctions under UNSC Resolution 2270. Given that North Korea is not going to disarm unilaterally, is there any path back to the Six-Party Talks?