Leveraging towards restraint: Nuclear hedging and North Korea's shifting reference points during the agreed framework and the Six-Party Talks

Soul Park, Kimberly Peh

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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The emergence of new nuclear aspirants has posed a great threat to the post-Cold War global non-proliferation regime. These states have adopted a nuclear hedging strategy that has been deemed both strategically risky and politically difficult to maintain. Yet, hedging has not automatically resulted in nuclearisation. We analyse the conditions under which a nuclear hedger shifts its nuclear policy towards one of restraint. Drawing insights from prospect theory, we argue that a nuclear policy shift occurs when a nuclear hedger gains an asymmetric leverage vis-à-vis its adversary. Specifically, a hedging strategy that is based on loss aversion will only be abandoned when a shift in the nuclear aspirant's reference point occurs during negotiations. To test our theoretical arguments, we conduct an in-depth case study of North Korea's nuclear policies throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The empirical study of the changes in North Korea's negotiating stance during the Agreed Framework negotiations and the Six-Party Talks supports our asymmetric leverage thesis. We conclude with broad policy implications for the non-proliferation regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-114
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of International Security
Issue number1
Early online date31 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Agreed Framework
  • Asymmetric Leverage
  • North Korea
  • Nuclear Hedging
  • Nuclear Restraint
  • Six-Party Talks

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