I was a last-minute substitute speaker this week on the U.S.-South Korean nuclear relationship at the Carnegie Endowment’s 2011 Nuclear Policy Conference. (A podcast of the event is available here.) The focus of our panel on “U.S. Nuclear Cooperation: How and With Whom?” was on issues surrounding a new U.S.-ROK nuclear cooperation agreement to replace the current agreement that expires in 2014, and featured an excellent review by State’s Richard Stratford of nuclear cooperation agreements the United States will be negotiating with at least 17 countries by 2014.
The main focus of my presentation was on the challenges and pressures Korea poses as it negotiates a revised nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States in terms of its own perceived needs as a new exporter of nuclear plants. U.S. non-proliferation policies are in apparent conflict with the aspirations of the Korean industry to provide the full range of services, including enrichment and reprocessing, so as to maintain international competitiveness in this sector. This aspiration is also at odds with a Congressional desire to tighten restrictions contained in U.S. nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries, and raises some interesting questions about how long it is possible for the United States to sustain its role in shaping the parameters for nuclear activity in other states through its web of nuclear cooperation agreements. Fred McGoldrick last year provided an in-depth analysis of these challenges in a paper available here.
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