This chapter reviews the theoretical literature on the effectiveness of sanctions and inducements, with a particular emphasis on the latter. It distinguishes between quid pro quo models of engagement and more transformative models. With respect to the former, the chapter walks through coordination and bargaining problems as well as how the effectiveness of sanctions is affected by characteristics of the target state. It also calls into question the logic of transformative engagement with respect to certain types of authoritarian regimes, and provides an historical review of diplomacy around the Korean peninsula since 1990.
This chapter considers characteristics of authoritarian regimes in general, and North Korea in particular, that affect their vulnerability to sanctions. These include the core constituents of the regime, its capacity to repress, and its organizational structure. The chapter also includes a discussion of the path of reform and opening in North Korea, which is shown to be hesitant at best.
This chapter considers a variety of indicators on the nature of North Korea's external economic relations, including its direction and composition of trade. These data suggest why coordination problems around sanctions and engagement have proven so difficult, as China has come to account for an increasing share of North Korea's trade. The chapter provides a balance-of-payments accounting of the country and demonstrates how the regime has been able to adjust to sanctions through illicit activities and securing external forces of foreign exchange, including capital inflows, despite its ambivalent posture toward foreign investors.
This chapter considers humanitarian dilemmas surrounding aid to North Korea. It provides an overview of the food economy and the recurrence of shortages before turning to the political economy of food aid, which oscillated sharply between periods when aid was extended on both political and humanitarian grounds and periods when it was held in abeyance. The chapter considers the political economy of multilateral assistance and the politics of food aid in the United States, South Korea, and China. The regime's nuclear priorities and/or acute bargaining problems around the monitoring of assistance resulted in delays in reaching needed agreements, shortfalls in the delivery of assistance, and acute humanitarian distress.
This chapter and the next one consider direct negotiations over nuclear weapons and the strategic interplay around the peninsula in two distinct phases. The two administrations of George W. Bush correspond to the rise and fall of the Six-Party Talks process, initiated in 2003 following the onset of the second nuclear crisis and ultimately breaking down in the last year of the second Bush term in 2008. We address that history, showing that, while there is some evidence of financial sanctions "working," they did so only in the context of wider inducements.
In the second period (2009–2014), formal negotiations were in abeyance but the six parties nonetheless engaged in an intricate set of strategic interactions in which sanctions and inducements continued to play a significant role. By coincidence, this period largely corresponds with the two administrations of Barack Obama, which we review here. During this second period, multilateral sanctions deepened in the wake of further missile tests and three additional nuclear tests in May 2009, February 2013, and January 2016, but with little effect on reopening negotiations.
This chapter looks back at our findings, measuring them against some of the analytic expectations established in our introduction in Chapter 1. It then asks two speculative questions. First, what if North Korea were to change? How might that affect the conclusions drawn here? Particular consideration is given to economic reform processes. Second, what if the major parties undertook different strategies with respect to North Korea? These questions permit us to engage in some comparisons with other relevant cases, most notably Iran, and to consider a new spate of diplomatic initiatives—including both sanctions and proposals for engagement—introduced in the wake of the fourth nuclear test in early 2016.