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Naoko Aoki, Ph.D.

University of Maryland at College Park

Country: United States (District of Columbia)

Research Interests

Foreign Policy

Asian Politics

Nuclear Weapons

Public Policy

Nuclear Nonproliferation

Sanctions And Inducements

Cooperative Security

East Asian Security

Countries of Interest

North Korea

United States





(2018) Will North Korea Denuclearize After the Singapore Summit? Lessons from the Past, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland

Policy-makers, scholars, and analysts disagree about whether North Korea will take any meaningful denuclearization steps after its leader Kim Jong Un met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018. Many believe that the breakdowns of the 1994 Agreed Framework and the Six Party Talks process in the 2000s show that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program cannot be constrained through cooperation. According to this view, Pyongyang violated its previous commitments once it received economic and political benefits, and it will do so again. The underlying assumption is that Washington was fully implementing its own commitments until Pyongyang broke the deal. But is this true? This paper discusses three key findings drawn from an analysis of U.S. implementation of past denuclearization agreements with North Korea. The first is that the United Stated did not always follow through with its cooperative commitments because of domestic political constraints, even when North Korea was fulfilling its commitments. This makes it difficult to determine whether North Korea ultimately did not honor its obligations because it never intended to or because it was responding to U.S. actions. The second is that some parts of past deals were more susceptible than others to being undercut by domestic opposition because they received insufficient political attention. The third is that such domestic interference could be minimized by obtaining the widest possible coalition of domestic support from the negotiation stage. The roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization is unclear, as the Singapore summit did not determine concrete steps toward that goal. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang in early July also did not yield specifics such as the scope and timeline of denuclearization. But based on the findings from past agreements, this paper argues that the only way for the United States to find out if engagement will work this time is to test North Korea’s intentions by carrying out Washington’s own cooperative commitments more consistently than in the past.

(2017) A Lesson for Iran from the Nuclear Experience, CSIS Pacific Forum

Opponents of the nuclear deal that the United States and other global powers struck with Iran complain that the scope of the agreement is too narrow. The deal, they say, only covers Iran’s nuclear activities, ignoring Tehran’s other troubling behavior. This is not the first time this logic is being used against a nuclear agreement. It was one of the arguments made against the 1994 Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea. But expanding the goals of that accord came with risks and costs. To avoid similar problems, the US should avoid informally broadening the Iran agreement. Any expansion would have a better chance of acceptance if it goes through a process involving all affected parties.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2018) BBC

Commentary on June 2018 U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore

Radio Appearances:

(2018) NPR

Commentary on the June 2018 U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore

(2018) Talk Media News

Commentary on the June 2018 U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore

(2018) BBC

Commentary on North Korea

(2018) NPR

Commentary on the planned return of the remains of U.S. soldiers from the Korean War from North Korea and its relevance to the overall denuclearization goal.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) Washington Post

Commentary on North Korea

(2018) The Independent

Comments on North Korea's knowledge of U.S. domestic politics

(2018) Al Jazeera

My comments included in an article on the North-South Korea talks held in January 2018.

(2018) La Razon

Story on inter-Korean talks in January 2018.

(2017) NK News

View by five DPRK watchers (including me) on US policy after North Korea's declaration that it has “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power.”