News of North Korea’s test Sunday of a nuclear device drew angry reactions from its neighbors, allies, and the international community, as well as prescriptions of how to respond to the latest provocation, ranging from dialogue, to more sanctions, and “a massive military response.”
The two main proposals put forward so far are tougher international sanctions, an idea promoted by the U.S., and the so-called “freeze for freeze,” favored by China, in which the U.S. freezes military exercises with South Korea in exchange for the North freezing its missile and nuclear tests. Both those ideas have critics: Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country is under U.S. and EU sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea, dismissed sanctions. “They’d rather eat grass than abandon their [nuclear weapons] program unless they feel secure,” he said Tuesday. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, called the “freeze-for-freeze” idea “insulting.” Decision makers seem to have much clearer ideas about what won’t work than about what will—and that’s in part due to the history of failed efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program.
Here’s a look at the options that have been tried with North Korea, how they unfolded, and how they ultimately resulted in the situation we find ourselves now.
Talks: Direct U.S.-North Korean talks during the Clinton administration in the 1990s resulted in the Agreed Framework, under which Pyongyang said it would, among other steps, ultimately end its nuclear program in exchange for two light-water nuclear reactors and heavy-fuel oil shipments.