- The 2018 US – DPRK Summit paved the way for the Korean Peninsula, the last relic of the Cold War, to establish the post-Cold War arrangement and build the peace regime. The peace-building process and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which attracted the world’s attention, are now at a critical juncture. Concrete progress has not been made in “the complete denuclearization” and “the building of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula” for almost three years since former US president Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un signed the Singapore Joint Statement.
The Biden administration, inaugurated on Jan. 20, criticizes former president Trump’s “top-down” diplomacy and is conducting a full review of its entire approach to the DPRK. Meanwhile, North Korea referred to the United States as its archenemy at the 8th Party Congress. However, it can be interpreted that the North is considering the resumption of diplomacy with the US as the regime has habitually tried to bring the North Korean issue into the light through provocations whenever the direction of the US North Korea policy is anticipated to shift as a new administration takes office.
However, there is no chance that the Biden administration inherits “Trumpian way” even if the US – DPRK talks resume. Therefore, we need to move away from the 2018 approach and draft a whole new roadmap. Former president Trump’s failed reelection campaign is probably not the only reason why the “Trumpian way” is no longer valid. More fundamental reason is that Washington and Pyongyang, despite the historic agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, failed to reduce the gap on the issues of how to define and implement denuclearization and what corresponding measures should be.
Pyongyang has been claiming that Washington has not reciprocated Chairman Kim’s proactive and preemptive decision of denuclearization. Moreover, during the 2018 inter-Korean Summit and the Hanoi Summit, the North specifically called for lifting UN sanctions in return for the dismantlement of its nuclear facilities in the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
The US, however, refused what North Korea demanded as corresponding measures to take phased steps and framed the negotiations in the principle of comprehensive agreement without providing a concrete reciprocal arrangement. Although the US Department of State publically announced that should North Korea follow through on Chairman Kim’s commitment to complete denuclearization, the US
will, in return, provide anything that exceeds North Korea’s expectations in the run-up to the Hanoi Summit, the two leaders remained divided during the Summit. President Trump called for North Korea to take additional denuclearization measures other than the abolition of the Yongbyon facilities instead of discussing specific corresponding measures while Chairman Kim demanded the US lift sanctions in exchange for aban-doning its nuclear complex.
This paper aims to introduce a new framework of the Korean Peninsula Coo-perative Security in an effort to suggest a new approach based on critical assessment of the implementation of what the US and the DPRK agreed in Singapore and the possibility of changes in the future denuclearization negotiations. In doing so, the paper attempts to provide the direction of the Korean Peninsula cooperative security after analyzing why it is needed for the Korean Peninsula peace-building regime on the basis of empirical understanding of the concept of cooperative security that emerged after the Cold War.
- In order to map out a new plan for denuclearizing and establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula within the framework of cooperative security, defining the concept, cooperating parties and type of cooperative security is in order. The concept of cooperative security was originated from Europeans’ perception of security who experienced the horrors of the Second World War and military tensions during the Cold War. Discussions for cooperative security were sparked by the need for pan-European security cooperation to avoid the escalation of military tensions between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
At the UN General Assembly held in Sept. 1990, then Canadian foreign minister Joe Clark proposed the North Pacific Cooperative Security Dialogue which was the first cooperative security proposal introduced to the international community after the Cold War. That Canada as a middle power came up with such proposal reflects an underlying sense of awareness that the capacity of arbitration as well as merits of reasonable moderation, compromise and concession that the middle powers have should be incorporated in designing a new security architecture to replace the superpower-centered security framework after the end of the Cold War.
Minister Joe Clark’s proposal has a significant meaning as he advocated for cooperative security, which included more diverse security issues than common security, in the Asia Pacific region which did not have much experience in collective and common security. The Asia pacific region, compared to Europe, was less familiar with both the subject of cooperative security, which deals with comprehensive security issues including unconventional security issues, and the practice of cooperative security, which is institutionalization of multilateral approach.
The cooperative security initiative proposed by Canada put an emphasis on the hardware of security mechanism such as comprehensiveness of agenda, multila-teralization of negotiation, Track II diplomacy, and habits of dialogue. The US, on the other hand, put more focus on exploring ways to resolve security instability after the Cold War such as arms control and nonproliferation. The US’ efforts were political theorization with an intention to reconstruct the US-led international order in a new security environment after the end of the Soviet Union and Cold War. The US’ diplomatic political goal is explained in a report jointly written by Ashton B. Carter, William J. Perry and John D. Steinbruner in 1992. The report describes cooperative security as a strategic principle to accomplish security goal through “institutionalized consent,” not by threatening each other. Introducing the concept of cooperative security, the co-authors laid out various frameworks to prevent security threats by encouraging engagement of superpowers and response from weaker nations. Included in these frameworks are safety control and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, defensive deployment of conventional military power, defense budget cut, transparency increase, dissolution of the Soviet Armed Forces, biological weapon control and regional coo-perative security system.
Cooperative security means a security system that minimizes or eliminates security threats as well as unstable factors between countries by strengthening mutual cooperation. To this end, it pursues cooperation carried out in a way that prevents the manufacture, deployment and mobilization of means of military threats in advance. As it intends to remove the ability to develop military power which is the material basis for successful aggression, it falls into the category of presentive security. In this regard, cooperative security reduces the military demand that goes into preparations to respond to the threats of adversaries and enhances deterrence to ward off security threats.
As the maximization of individual countries’ national interests is the foundation of intrastate relations, it is noteworthy to consider what enables each state to pursue cooperation that delays or exceeds the pursuit of short-term national interests. In this sense, the shortcut to test the feasibility of cooperative security is studying cooperating partners, type and implementation measures.
First, parties of cooperative security are not limited to allies and conventional partners, but include former antagonists and potential adversaries. The key to coope-rative security is reducing military tensions driven by clashing security issues among countries in conflict, the most important component which differentiates cooperative security from security cooperation arranged among allies or friendly nations. Therefore, understanding the parties of cooperative security requires multifaceted approach as they are comprised of cooperative security among hostile and non-hostile actors and between hostile and non-hostile actors. Moreover, the formation and progress of cooperative security might be somewhat affected by the categorization of actors based on the extent of hostilities.
Since the parties of cooperative security are multilateral rather than bilateral and include exclusive and hostile groups as well as homogeneous and friendly groups, they inevitably affect the type of cooperative security. Cooperative security does not immediately aim or exclude the establishment of an official security organization, but it seeks to form more flexible habits of dialogue.
It is against this backdrop that cooperative security is implemented with a view to ultimately establishing a cooperative security regime. The defensive nature of a security regime, in other words, regulations and norms under which a state restrains its own actions in the belief that other states would respond in kind constitute a premise upon which cooperative security is founded. It is because cooperative security is grounded on a mechanism in which states are incentivized to collaborate and reach an agreement rather than coerced to do so.
Global consensus reached through the assurance of mutual interests both in security and economic arenas is instrumental in the formation of cooperative security. In this framework, the use of force should be confined to the defense of a national territory and the maintenance of multinational peace, while maintaining the objective of effectively deterring nuclear power.
Furthermore, the means of implementation include engagement policies utilizing economic incentives and institutions-oriented agreement, which clearly sets cooperative security apart from the conventional realist security approach which rests on the balance of power theory. It does not necessarily deny the efficacy of security based on traditional alliances, but cooperative security aims at building and institutionalizing mutual reassurance rather than deterrence. Unlike common security that relies on non-offensive defense, cooperative security places emphasis on non-threatening defense (NTD) and this very aspect of cooperative security allows for a more progressive and practical approach.
If engagement policy as a diplomatic tool is broken down into positive and negative engagement, cooperative security may be carried out through the employment of positive engagement. Looking into prerequisites that the two policies need, negative engagement which aims at diplomatic containment requires a perfect multilateral collaborative mechanism among participating states, whereas in positive engagement, the capability of an individual state equipped with willingness and competence is most valued. This is why positive engagement is much more relevant to cooperative security.
Table 1. Qualities of Cooperative Security
|Strategic principle that pursues a pathway in which state-to-state security threat or destabilizing factor is diminished or eliminated through institutionalized agreement, not mutual intimidation
|Parties of Cooperative security
|Homogeneous or friendly groups
Past antagonists or potential enemies
Hostile actors / non-hostile actors
|Preemptively prevents manufacture, deployment, and mobilization of military means of threat
An individual state restrains its action in anticipation of reciprocal measures by other states
Draws on international consensus grounded in the protection of mutual interests
Aims for a security regime founded upon restraint in the use of force rather than show of force
Prefers engagement policy by way of economic incentives
Emphasizes non-threatening defense
Some elements of cooperative security including concept, parties of cooperative security, type, and means of implementation discussed in this paper are overlapped with those of a variety of multilateral security models which arose before the concept of cooperative security gained attention in the global security community. By extension, looking into cooperative security in comparison with a variety of patterns witnessed in multilateral security, such as collective security and common security, for distinctive qualities will make cooperative security more comprehensible as this method allows for multiple perspectives.
Collective security, in general term, refers to security activities that the member states of a group carry out for the prevention of war and the maintenance of peace within the group as they perceive security threats stemming from outside their group as a shared issue of concern. In the framework of collective security, an individual state strives to ensure security by participating in an organized and systematic response rather than by adopting independent security measures such as self-help actions or alliances. Collective security aims at deterring intrusion through a collective response from indistinct threat actors or defeating it at the event of an invasion. The creation of the League of Nations after the First World War and the United Nations after the Second World War is a prime example of multilateral security.
Conversely, cooperative security aspires to preemptively eradicate destabilizing elements by getting rid of threat factors in advance through cooperative means. It is for this reason that advocates of cooperative security since the end of the Cold War described it as a “preventive medicine” not an “acute care,” so that it could be distinguishable from conventional collective security. The fact that collective security seeks to curtail military action of threat actors by employing military coercion or securing means of response or to subjugate them at the event of a breakout makes, by comparison, the preventative nature of cooperative security much clearer.
A more fundamental form of security regime than collective security is common security. The concept of common security laid out by the UN Disarmament and Inter-national Security Committee in the early 1980s rests on the recognition that stability founded upon military buildup cannot be sustained. Vulnerability of arms-based stability is that it stands on an unstable balance, thereby susceptible to being tipped over at any moment, not excluding a recurrence of a nuclear disaster. As deterrence attained through arms buildup cannot guarantee state security, what is more important is to design a path towards disarmament and peace.
Cooperative security certainly owes its inception to international efforts towards security cooperation underwritten by the logic of common security in the 1980s. However, cooperative security that appeared as a major topic for discussion after the end of the Cold War is distinctive from common security in terms of actors, institutions, and pace and means of implementation. To be more concise, cooperative security pays greater attention to the creation of multilateral systems while acknowledging the need for balance of power in bilateral relations and seeks to chart a course towards narrowing down differences in national interests and policies by making mutual collaboration as an established norm while respecting existing interests and policies.
All these aspects make cooperative security take a more idealistic and normative form than collective or common security. Cooperative security is more relevant in mitigating existing threats and preventing the emergence of threat factors than being applied to an ongoing or imminent war situation. As pointed above, and in view of the vulnerability of the US – DPRK Singapore Agreement, it is imperative to kick off discussions on the architecture of cooperative security so as to control threat factors inherent in the 7-decade-long armistice on the Korean Peninsula and to eradicate instability prevailing in the current armistice arrangement. North Korea’s nuclear program poses the biggest threat to the security of the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, but the dismantlement of the program in the near term becomes increasingly elusive. Given the urgency and gravity of the situation, states in adversarial relations should set in motion concerted efforts to mitigate threats posed by the North Korean nuclear program, and cooperative security will be able to provide timely and valuable insights that we can draw on to reinvigorate the peace process on the Korean Peninsula currently at an impasse.
- Under these circumstances, this paper lays out the following reasons that the architecture of cooperative security forged after the Cold War should be reconfigured in the context of the Korean Peninsula. First, it can provide an opportunity to give a new momentum to restart the long stalled denuclearization negotiations between the US and the DPRK. US economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure on North Korea brought North Koreans back to the negotiating table. But the fact that three years have passed without the implementation of the Singapore Agreement reflects the lack of preparation and strategy for negotiations by both sides of the US and the DPRK. It goes beyond a simple lack of trust and communication.
Since the Singapore Summit, as the US demand for denuclearization as a first step collided head-on with DPRK’s call for security guarantees as a precondition, the negotiations have been caught in the doldrums. Therefore, the inevitable choice we need to make in order to revitalize negotiations is to propose and implement mutual collaborative steps that constitute incentives to drive denuclearization – security guarantees for the North Korean regime – but has been left unaddressed since the Summit in Singapore.
Secondly, the cooperative security framework will increase the possibility for a successful denuclearization process. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be achieved in a technically irreversible and politically sustainable way. Lessons from the disarmament talks since 2018 show that such sustainability and irreversibility will be assured only when there is a concurrent agreement on the principle of denuclearization and pathways towards it. This is the reason that a roadmap and implementation plan is much more important than the agreement between the US and the DPRK in itself. The more concrete and clearer rewards given to the DPRK gets in their form and scale at each milestone of denuclearization within the framework of Korean Peninsula cooperative security, the more likely it is that the regime agrees on and executes the dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal.
Thirdly, geopolitical variables stemming from the growing US – China strategic competition in East Asia will have incremental impacts on the endeavors to resolve DPRK’s nuclear issue. Going through the trade and technology disputes over Huawei and TikTok, the strategic competition has grown to become what may be construed as a struggle over international norms and values surrounding democracy and human rights. Now that the rivalry seems to be racing towards a critical point, it can no longer be perceived as a regional issue. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the regional context since East Asia is already home to a number of ongoing contentions, such as the Taiwan issue, disputes over South China Sea, and North Korea’s nuclear program, each of which may lead to a geopolitical collision.
Faced with the US – China strategic competition, the DPRK will likely seek to either delay a resumption of US – DPRK negotiations or ratchet up its demand for rewards for a denuclearization step taken in each stage even if they go back to the negotiating table, capitalizing on its geostrategic value as a buffer zone. After all, Pyongyang’s top priority in its external strategy is expected to be securing security guarantees in tandem with economic assistance from both Washington and Beijing.
In an environment where US – China, US – DPRK, China – DPRK, ROK – DPRK, US – ROK, and China – ROK relations move independently with respect to denuclea-rization and the future peace regime, it is almost impossible to respond effectively to North Korea’s pendulum diplomacy. This is why it is necessary to establish a cooperative security architecture where both denuclearization and security guarantees are dealt together in negotiations based on division of roles between the US and the ROK and between China and the ROK, and where the participation of concerned states as well as partners is assured in the institutionalization of the whole process.
- The post-Cold War cooperative security architecture has been rendered in-creasingly obsolete in the current paradigm of international relations by growing US – China strategic rivalry. It was also proven largely incapable of addressing new security challenges including the recent coronavirus pandemic. As such, it would be inappro-priate to apply the conventional cooperative security architecture that has primarily developed and evolved in the context of Europe and the North Atlantic and Pacific regions to the denuclearization and security process on the Korean Peninsula in its entirety. It should instead be modified to fit the current situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Korean Peninsula cooperative security and the post-Cold War framework are not disparate in that both support the concept of recognizing the security concerns of weaker nations and mitigating threats through institutionalized consent reached in multilateral dialogue processes, rather than simply relying on alliances and deterrence. However, the former differentiates itself in terms of target, objective, actor, and implementation mechanism.
First, its primary objective lies in building a framework for mutual reassurance through the mutual provision of “hard security” to address the urgent issues on the Korean Peninsula – the DPRK’s nuclear ambitions and the continued use of deterrence and compliance by the US – while accepting the comprehensive nature of the target in cooperative security. Thus, as long as the DPRK insists on the withdrawal of hostile policy as a condition to resume denuclearization talks, Korean Peninsula cooperative security has no choice but to focus on the exchange of security guarantees for denuclearization. A cooperative security architecture that does not circumvent, forgo or fixate on denuclearization shall be pursued. In specific, a two-pronged framework that seeks to disarm the DPRK on one hand and to guarantee the security of its regime on the other hand, which would involve a US – DPRK non-aggression pact, the end of the armistice, and a peace treaty, is needed. This approach would also inherit the spirit of the joint statement signed at the Singapore Summit.
At the same time, while involved parties are bound by commitments based on the agreed mutual provision of hard security, various reciprocal measures should be leveraged to ensure that the DPRK remains collaborative and does not repeat the past pattern of aberrant behavior. These measures of comprehensive security include a political move in which the DPRK is recognized as a partner for dialogue and cooperation, economic assistance including supply of capital goods, transfer of technology, and permitted access to the global financial market, and technological cooperation in the fields of environment, healthcare, and disease control. The key approach here is to aim for the accomplishment of finite objectives, such as denuclearization, building a peace regime, and improving the North Korean people’s quality of life, all the while accepting the political system of the DPRK.
Second, Korean Peninsula cooperative security seeks to lower the mutual perception of threat not for the maintenance of the status quo, but for a breakthrough in the current situation by eliminating the causes of fear. Its open nature and gradual implementation process make cooperative security a more realistic and conservative arrangement than common security, thus sometimes creating a belief that the former is a security regime aimed at preserving the status quo. Amid the rise of the DPRK as a nuclear power in Northeast Asia and subsequent concerns over a regional “nuclear domino” effect, maintaining the status quo, however, will not guarantee the peace and stability in the region. The time calls for a radical solution that breaks away from the status quo, one in which the DPRK is successfully denuclearized and a new multilateral model is developed through Korean Peninsula cooperative security.
Korean Peninsula cooperative security recognizes both the threat that the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities pose on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia and the threat facing the DPRK from potential military action and economic sanctions against it. Therefore, specific preemptive measures are proposed to resolve the mutual perception of threat, such as signing a non-aggression pact and establishing a hotline through a liaison office. It is a pursuit of phased but continuous action towards a solid establish-ment of “stable peace” on the Korean Peninsula, which completely rejects the use of armed force for the resolution of conflicts.
Third, in terms of actors, Korean Peninsula cooperative security promotes a multi-layered network and a multilateral system that allows for multiple bilateral arrange-ments on the basis of a multilateral network comprised of key states. It supports the notion of “security with” as opposed to “security against” that underlies the concept of common security, yet limits the scope of actors to the multilateral level by defining parties involved in the armistice regime on the Korean Peninsula as “key states” and participants in the Northeast Asia peace regime as “partners.”
North Korean issues were dealt on several occasions at international forums that have approached regional security issues in Asia from a cooperative security perspective. The DPRK has often been one of the key topics in settings like ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia – Pacific (CSCAP), Ulaanbaatar Dialogue (UD), and Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD). But rarely did they result in productive agreements or specific action plans due to the size of the member-ship and the diversity in agenda items. Korean Peninsula cooperative security takes this lesson and seeks a multilateral network that involves key states and partners.
One possible way to construct Korean Peninsula cooperative security is that the two Koreas, the US, and China make up key states, and Russia and Japan take part as partners, along with an approval process by concerned parties, which consist of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). As the participants of the Peace Treaty on Korean Peninsula, the ROK, the DPRK, the US, and China shall be included as key states. Russia and Japan took part in the Six Party Talks and are also critical technology and financial partners in the denucleari-zation process. Moreover, post-denuclearization sanctions relief and security guarantees for the DPRK will be important topics of discussion for the UNSC during the denu-clearization process. Such cooperative security framework comprised of key states, partners, and concerned parties will give rise to a multi-layered network that allows for diverse bilateral arrangements covering ROK – DPRK, US – DPRK, and China – DPRK relations.
Once a fundamental agreement on the roadmap for the DPRK’s denucleari-zation and security guarantees is reached, international organizations will begin to enter the scene. In such case, a variety of engagement policies will be rolled out towards the DPRK, which could possibly lead to a large increase in the number of actors. The cooperative security network will then further develop to discuss and reach agreement on diverse agenda items and implement solutions in the areas of economic assistance including humanitarian aid, development assistance, technology transfer, and access to the global financial market, as well as technological cooperation in environment, healthcare, and disease control.
Fourth, Korean Peninsula cooperative security is also characterized by the creation of a virtuous cycle in which hard security agreements drive reciprocal behavior in the realm of soft security, and the practice of providing soft security in turn promotes the implementation of the hard security agreements. Such virtuous cycle is underpinned by the “asymmetry of reciprocity.” That is, in the process of building a peace regime based on the agreement on denuclearization and security guarantees, there should be an expectation that reciprocity does not necessarily occur immediately, nor within the same issue area.
To promote the attitude of diffuse reciprocity, it is important to create an environ-ment where the exchange of benefits occurs frequently and in diverse settings among the actors participating in the cooperative security architecture. Using the strategy of issue-linkage and connecting multiple soft security issues to facilitate bartering in negotiations broadens the options and diversifies the terms, and therefore encourages cooperation among countries. This will ultimately help the actors overcome the zero-sum mentality and find common ground within the framework of cooperative security, instead of spiraling into increasing rivalry.
In the realm of hard security, the DPRK and the US could practice diffuse reciprocity to build mutual trust, with the former putting a halt on the production of fissile material and the latter reducing the size and frequency of its strategic asset deployment on the Korean Peninsula. Whether it constitutes an exchange of equivalent benefits is debatable, however, because currently there is no viable method to verify the DPRK’s suspension of fissile material production, and the chances that the US will completely stop military action in the face of the DPRK’s provocations are slim. Moreover, fissile material production and strategic asset deployment hardly fall under the same issue category.
But it is important to note that since the Singapore Summit, the US has considered the DPRK’s suspension of fissile material production as a sign of its willingness to denuclearize, and the DPRK has perceived the deployment of US strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula as a real threat, as demonstrated during the negotiation process. As such, the mutual reduction of threat in the most sensitive issues based on the principle of diffuse reciprocity should be the starting point for Korean Peninsula cooperative security.
Table 2. Korean Peninsula Cooperative Security Directions and Action Plan
|Mutual provision of hard security
Creation of a mutual reassurance framework
|Exchange of security guarantees for denuclearization
Provision of non-political, reciprocal measures
|Reduction of the perception of threat
Elimination of the causes of fear
|Signing of a US-DPRK non-aggression pact
Establishment of a liaison office
|Multi-layered network Minilateral system
|Key states – the ROK, the DPRK, the US, China
Partners – Russia, Japan
Concerned parties – UNSC permanent members
|Reduction of strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula
Suspension of further production of fissile material
Korean Peninsula cooperative security holds the ideals of conventional cooperative security but strives to change the status quo with a multi-layered, hierarchical responsibility-sharing mechanism among key states, partners, and concerned parties.
It is especially important to fully leverage the elements of cooperative security for progress in the denuclearization negotiations, which must be achieved to further advance the Korean Peninsula peace process.
* Researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy