Verifying North Korean nuclear disarmament

In April, the leaders of South Korea and North Korea will have their first summit meeting in over a decade. This is to be followed in May by the first ever summit meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea. In these meetings, a freeze on North Korean nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests and agreement on a commitment to a verifiable path to nuclear disarmament by North Korea will be key agenda items. This will not be the first time these countries have had to think about verifying North Korean nuclear disarmament, however.

In September 2005, China, North Korea, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States agreed a Joint Statement as part of the Six-Party talks that to enable "the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner," North Korea was "committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards."

This led in 2007 to an agreed plan for the implementation of the Joint Statement, including for North Korea to make "a complete declaration of all nuclear programs and disablement of all existing nuclear facilities."

In 2008 the US proposed a verification regime for North Korea, which was described in an undated "Verification Measures Discussion Paper" first reported in the Washington Post. The Discussion Paper was reproduced in Global Fissile Material Report 2009 and is available as a separate paper in the IPFM library:

Global Fissile Material Report 2009, Appendix 4A: U.S. Proposal for Verification of North Korea's Denuclearization.

The Discussion Paper outlined a detailed set of verification measures and claimed "These measures provide a means to address all elements of a nuclear program, to include plutonium production, uranium enrichment, weapons, weapons production and testing, and proliferation activities." In addition, there were to be "additional measures to facilitate the verification process, including additional measures to help confirm the absence of undeclared nuclear material, equipment and related activities."

The verification was to be conducted by "experts of the six parties" and was to be managed by "the Working Group on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the other members of the Six-Party talks.