Special delivery: unloading North Korean coal in Dandong, China, December 2010.
JACKY CHEN / REUTERS

For the past quarter century, the United States and South Korea have tried to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear aspirations. Beginning in the early 1990s, Washington attempted to bargain with Pyongyang, while Seoul pursued a strategy of economic engagement, effectively subsidizing Pyongyang with aid and investment even as it continued to develop nuclear weapons. Then, after North Korea tested an atomic bomb in 2006, the United States pressed the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on North Korea. Yet at the urging of South Korea and for fear of angering China, the United States failed to use its full diplomatic and financial power to enforce those sanctions. All along, the goal has been to induce North Korea to open up to the outside world and roll back its nuclear and missile programs.

This combination of sanctions and subsidies has failed. North Korea already possesses the ability to hit Japan

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  • JOSHUA STANTON is an attorney in Washington, D.C., and was the principal drafter of the legislation that later became the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016.
  • SUNG-YOON LEE is Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • BRUCE KLINGNER is Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation.
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