Nuclear Partnership
(January, 2007)

Korean Quarterly, Vol. 10, No.2
Winter 2006/2007
(January, 2007)

 By Moon J. Pak*


“A Proposal for Nuclear Partnership—Joint ownership of weapons could open an umbrella of security and peace in Northeast Asia”


After two years of on-again, off-again talks, the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks proved successful. On the last day of the Talks, September 19, 2005, a "Joint Statement of Principles" was issued.  The document listed following four agreed principles;

1. Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula with recognition of North Korea's right for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and its return to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
2. Normalization of relationships between DPRK, the US and Japan.
3. Economic cooperation with North Korea in the areas of energy, trade and investment.
4. International cooperation for lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Thus, North Korea for the first time had agreed to dismantle their nuclear weapons, and denounce nuclear intentions in exchange for cooperation from the US in two key areas. First, the North wants the US to resume the Light Water Reactors Project, which would put more electricity on the grid in North. This project is already 33% complete, and has used mostly South Korean funding. North Korea also wishes to establish a normal diplomatic relationship with Washington, obtain a peace treaty with the US; and have the US lift existing sanctions and embargoes on North Korea.

A faithful implementation of this Agreement by both sides could have led to a satisfactory resolution of the current nuclear crisis in North Korea. However, largely due to intransigent US actions intended to provoke the North Korea, no progress has been made. This missed opportunity will be known to history as one of the major foreign policy failures of the Bush administration.

The Joint Statement was intended to be a series of coordinated steps to implement the agreed principles in a phased manner in line with the principle of "commitment for commitment, action for action".

None of these coordinated steps were ever taken; rather, the US has begun to undermine the spirit of cooperation by a series of actions that are designed to deliberately provoke the North Koreans. North Korean hope for the electricity supply from the renewed Light Water Reactor Project was completely dashed when the White House terminated the KEDO (Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organization) immediately after the announcement of the Agreed Principle. Additionally, a fifteen-year-old US charge was renewed, accusing North Korea of counterfeit money trafficking. In connection with this charge, significant hardship was placed on the North Korean international financial transactions caused by pressure to close their accounts in a Macau bank.  
The “July Missile Crisis” in 2006 unfortunately did little forcing the US and other allied countries including South Korea to take actions that could have led to an effective bilateral negotiation to implement the above “Agreement”. Instead, it resulted in the UN Resolution of Sanction on North Korea and led to a generally unfavorable public perception of North Korea.

On October 9, 2006, in the midst of rampant speculations on both sides of Pacific, North Korea successfully conducted its first underground “Nuclear Weapon Testing” in its remote northeast mountain region, thus becoming the world’s ninth nuclear power. It may be of significance to note that the weapon they detonated was plutonium-based one rather than a uranium bomb, negating the US accusation that North Korea had been engaged in clandestine uranium enrichment activity in violation of the Agreed Framework Accord of 1994

The DPRK’s (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: North Korea) nuclear weapon system represents its only and most effective deterrence against external powers threatening its existence. Clearly, for this deterrence to be credible and effective, North Korea’s nuclear weapon system needs to be proven for its presence, and tested for its effectiveness. For the same reason, all but one of the eight nuclear nations (the one was Israel) have tested their weapons system, thus proving their effectiveness.

Therefore the testing of nuclear weapons by a country is as much a political event as a technical experiment. It should also be noted that North Korea has an added burden of somehow proving its technical expertise in miniaturizing the weapon, given the known limited ability of its delivery system.

From the post-cold war era, the world is now entering into a post-proliferation era: A nuclear weapons system is no longer a high-tech domain monopolized by the superpowers. Hopefully, it will remain as deterrence only and no countries will ever use it as a real weapons system. 

The only salvation for the world composed of complex multi nuclear countries, is a system of geopolitically meaningful regional nuclear security alliances that will meet the deterrence need of individual countries, while still guaranteeing nuclear safety of the region placing its control under multi-national alliance.

Prior to the October DPRK “Nuclear Weapon Testing”, three of the six countries  in the Six-Party talks, had nuclear weapons; US, China and Russia. In Japan, in spite of the Article Nine of the so-called “Peace Constitution” (which prohibits Japan from having a standing military force), rising nationalistic politicians make no secrets of their interest in becoming a nuclear power. There have been statements by Japanese politicians that their engineers could make plutonium weapons within a few months with readily available nuclear material from their many nuclear power plants. This would leave the Korean peninsula, the most vulnerable of the five countries (historically the weakest, smallest, and one of the most invaded countries in the Northeast Asia), without a nuclear deterrence.


The two Koreas have a joint agreement to build on in working toward peace, called “Joint Declaration between South and North Koreas”, which was signed June 15, 2000 by then-President Kim, Dae-jung of South Korea, and President Kim, Jong-il of North Korea. The “Joint Declaration”  asserts that the two Koreas have an eventual goal of reunification, and sets out some broad  guide-lines in how to do it. To date however, there is no peace treaty which formally ends the war between the two, and no sure diplomatic routes to get there.

 One way to get there could be through a concession by the North based on its new-found nuclear nation status. Based on the spirit of the Joint Declaration, and as a bold step toward peaceful reunification, North should publicly propose its willingness to place the existing nuclear weapons system, as well as the production facility under the joint ownership and joint management of the two Korean governments.

This magnanimous proposal will have a double-edged effect; it would relieve the nuclear threat felt by some conservative South Koreans and at the same time alleviate concerns the US and its Western allies have about the possible transfer of the weapons system to the Islamic terrorists.

Such a nuclear alliance between the two Koreas will pave the way to a smooth implementation of the formal peace treaty between the two countries. It would be a key step towards the gradual and orderly disarmament (and reduction in defense expenditures) that is essential in the economic development of both countries, especially in the North. 


 Additionally a proposal could be made for an international alliance that would include, the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia as full members, and the US and Taiwan as observers if they so desire. The centerpiece of this Alliance, which might be called “Northeast Asia Regional Nuclear Security Alliance” will be an abrogation of the use of the nuclear weapons against other Alliance member countries as well as the provision of a common nuclear umbrella over the member countries against other nuclear powers of the world.

The concept will alleviate Japanese and possibly Taiwanese nuclear insecurities and at the same time nullify the US nuclear threat against member countries, especially North Korea.

The proposed joint ownership of nuclear weapons system by the two Koreas and bilateral peace treaty between them that may follow would, in time, lead to an emergence of a reunified, permanently neutralized, country of 72 million people with a strong joint defensive force, thriving economy and a credible nuclear deterrence of its own, as well as the nuclear umbrella offered by the Alliance.

Moon J.  Pak,  M.D., Ph.D.*
US-DPRK Medical Science Exchange Committee

Board of Directors
Korean American National Coordinating council

Submitted by:

Moon J. Pak, M.D., Ph.D.
Chairman, US-DPRK Medical Science Exchange Committee (UDMEEX)

Member, Board of Directors, Korean American National Coordinating Council (KANCC)

Address: 811 Oakwood Dr. #201
Rochester, MI 48307










(Click here to see the October 2005 letter on the
Recommednations for the Six Party Talks )