June 11, 2018
Writing in 38 North, NCNK Program Manager Daniel Wertz provides an outline of how the phased relief of sanctions on North Korea could proceed, commensurate with progress toward North Korean denuclearization.
The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has led to a dramatic escalation in the scope and enforcement of US and international sanctions against North Korea over the course of the past year. These enhanced sanctions have not yet led to an economic breakdown in North Korea, and economic pressure was certainly not the only factor prompting Pyongyang to shift to its current course of diplomatic outreach earlier this year. However, as talks with North Korea move forward on both the North-South and US-DPRK tracks, the phasing and structure of sanctions relief and any economic aid packages will be a critically important issue, requiring close coordination between the US, South Korea, and China, among other actors.
Credible offers and implementation of sanctions relief and other economic inducements in return for North Korean compliance with its commitments to denuclearization will be crucial for diplomatic success. A sanctions relief package should also be designed to encourage North Korean marketization and its eventual integration into the global economy, while creating clear disincentives to backsliding on nuclear or other diplomatic commitments. To meet these goals, such a package would need to proceed in carefully-designed stages, commensurate with progress toward denuclearization.