Transforming the DPRK through Energy Sector Development

A new paper by David von Hippel, Scott Bruce, Peter Hayes is up at 38 North.  Here is the conclusion:

North Korea has demanded the inclusion of energy aid and development assistance in every agreement covering its nuclear weapons program because it cannot develop into a “strong and prosperous nation” without such help from the international community. The country’s energy infrastructure is decrepit, and until it is redeveloped, the country will remain stuck in survival mode. Energy imports from China keep the North afl oat while it sells its minerals assets for hard currency. Until the DPRK earns enough foreign exchange to diversify imports and to refurbish its refi neries, it has no alternative but to rely on China. This situation means that the United States and its partners must prepare to engage the North on energy issues to prevent confl ict, avoid the collapse of the North Korean regime, build transparency and gather real data on the DPRK economy, and develop communication channels with North Korea. Without convincing the DPRK that it can overcome its energy insecurity and achieve a sustainable energy economy, it is unlikely that Pyongyang will shift away from an economy that emphasizes exports of military hardware and illicit goods, cease its provocative behaviors, and take steps to assume productive relationships with the global community.

The DPRK’s small LWR and uranium enrichment programs present an additional challenge, but if managed correctly, are an opportunity for engagement on energy issues. Moreover, the immediate demonstration of good faith on both sides will be necessary to proceed with denuclearization. Since big ticket energy infrastructure projects will take some time to deliver, non-nuclear fast fuels and technical assistance will be more useful in the short-term. There are a number of options for energy sector engagement available, ranging from capacity-building in science, technology, law, and economics to assistance with implementation of energy effi ciency and renewable energy measures and refurbishing/replacing major energy infrastructure to connecting the DPRK with big regional energy grids. Though engagement should start small, it should also start soon in order to open doors, establish relationships, and create a foundation for the peaceful economic growth in the North necessary to sustain a thaw in the DPRK’s relations with the United States, its allies, and the international community.

You can read the full piece at 38 North here (PDF).


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