Scott Snyder on Reassessing North Korea Policy Options

January 31, 2017

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relation Committee today, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow and NCNK Steering Committee Co-Chair Scott Snyder outlined the state of U.S. efforts to address North Korea's nuclear program, and provided policy recommendations for Congress and the new Administration.

Snyder's recommendations included a call for strengthened military and political cooperation with South Korea and Japan, as well the appointment of a senior envoy reporting directly to the President to manage the North Korea portfolio. He calls for a multi-pronged approached to China, arguing that "North Korea lives in the space created by Sino-U.S. geostrategic mistrust." This approach would aim to separate the North Korea issue from other aspects of Sino-U.S. relations and have Washington work with Beijing when possible, but also entail a greater U.S. willingness to apply secondary sanctions on Chinese entities in order to increase pressure on North Korea.

Although Snyder expresses pessimism about the prospects of the U.S. entering into denuclearization negotiations with North Korea, he argues that direct dialogue between the two countries would have value, allowing the U.S. to articulate the parameters for future negotiations in order to clearly signal how Washington will respond to North Korean actions. Snyder also calls for activities to create an internal debate among North Korea's elites, convincing them that the country has an alternative path forward if it abandons its nuclear weapons and begins to adhere to international norms. 

Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute joined Snyder in testifying before the Committee. His testimony, along with video of the hearing, is available here.