Carnegie NPP co-director James Acton speaks with WBUR on the history of and motivation behind North Korea’s nuclear program. The program, Acton explains, dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, and experienced an acceleration in technology in the 1990s. The regime's motivations for pursuing nuclear capabilities have changed over time, but are rooted in a sense of existential threats coming from outside the regime.
Though North Korean scientists originally trained in the Soviet Union, North Korea has recently reached a high degree of indigenous capability in nuclear manufacturing. The reclusive state now has the ability to produce fissile material, extract plutonium from its own reactors, and enrich uranium. Acton further elaborates on the fact that nuclear weapons technology is 1940s technology; it will become increasingly accessible to an ever larger group of states. Both political and technical solutions are going to become more effecitve, though the international community must get more serious about nonproliferation rules and regulations.
Denuclearization, though desirable, is no longer a realistic outcome, Acton explains. The United States should attempt to offer a deal to North Korea, stipulating restrictions on missile tests over Japan and South Korea; in return, Acton says, the United States may offer a cessation of stategic bomber training flights near North Korea. Despite current high tensions, such a deal may help deter future crises.