What UN Voting Reveals about North Korean Nuclear Issues

January 11, 2023
Hyuk Kim

The following is an excerpt from Global Asia.

The North Korean nuclear program has been one of the the international community’s most difficult challenges over the last three decades. One question that persists is whether the United States and its allies can resolve the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue with Pyongyang. Unfortunately, data analysis suggests grounds for pessimism over convergence among all the parties. North Korea will continue to present challenges to the international community, albeit with modest room for cooperation. 

In this article, I aim to answer three questions: How difficult is it for the US and its allies to cooperate with North Korea on global nuclear politics? What is North Korea’s worldview on nuclear issues and how does this complicate potential cooperation? And what are potential areas in which the US or its allies in East Asia could cooperate with North Korea on small but practical steps? 

To explore the first and third questions, I collected and analyzed voting records for nuclear-related resolutions adopted at the United Nations General Assembly between 2015 and 2021 to understand the political landscape following the 2015 Review Conference on the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Converting the voting records into vectors, to calculate distances among states, shows how dissimilar the political stance of the US is to that of North Korea (see Figure 1).?[1] These distances were used for clustering analysis to offer a visualized global nuclear politics landscape showing political factions within the international community. I also offer a theme-based granular view to identify potential areas for cooperation with North Korea. 

To investigate the second question, on the potential for co-operation, the study introduces North Korean narratives on the nuclear issues mainly expressed at the UN General Assembly to discuss why it is difficult to resolve the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.

Continue reading at Global Asia.

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