The inability of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to reach a denuclearization deal in Hanoi leaves the international community searching for a solution to the North Korean nuclear conundrum. The recent erosion of international efforts to enforce economic sanctions make efforts to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons through bargaining is more challenging. A North Korean charm offensive and, perhaps, a desire among some to see this longstanding, seemingly intractable, problems disappear have led to diminished pressure on the North Korean regime. This changed context weakens the U.S. hand in negotiations and provides encouragement for Kim’s regime. Going forward, the U.S. administration and its allies need a focused, concerted effort to strengthen the U.S. bargaining position vis-à-vis the North Koreans, including by complementing inducements with more forceful efforts to up the pressure on Pyongyang. There is a need to tighten sanctions enforcement globally, weakening Kim’s walk-away options in future talks. Any effort to do this will have a political dimension. U.S. policymakers and leaders must reinforce the political will that has dissipated in recent months and take concrete steps to collaborate on counter-proliferation activities on a wide international basis. It will require coordinated action across dozens of states and, within those states, hundreds of domestic agencies and departments.
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