Arms Control Wonk on N Korea NW History

A little while ago, I wrote about a December 2019 article, written by Torrey Froscher and published by the CIA on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Jeffrey sent me some insight about that piece and said that I could share it.

Some background: the article made this observation:

When North Korea’s nuclear program was in the formative stages, judging whether the intent was to develop nuclear weapons was a mystery, not a puzzle. Most of the analysis in the early years of the program, as described above, was agnostic about its purpose or noted both civil and military possibilities. This apparently changed by the end of 1991, when the program began to be characterized in definitive terms as a nuclear weapons program. The reason for the change is not made clear in the available record. 


In contrast to previous nuanced and cautious assessments of weapons intent, a December [1991] NIC memorandum judged that potential economic sanctions “would not cause North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.”

Here’s the December 1991 memo. Here’s what Jeffrey said:

Well, I found a simple enough reason.  In February 1991, Kim Yong-ham, at the time the DPRK foreign minister, told Tanzanian officials  “Now that the U.S.S.R. no long provided security, the D.P.RK. was going ahead with a program to acquire its own nuclear weapons.”

Given the specific reasoning offered, I think something like this would be very hard to ignore.

I would guess this was not the only foreign government to whom North Korean officials made such comments.  Froscher may be professing ignorance because the IC have gotten a more direct version, either through HUMINT or SIGINT, as opposed to a third party account like this.

Jeffrey was kind enough to send me a document. The whole thing is below, but I think this is the main paragraph:

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