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Opinion: What I Learned Leading America's 1st Nuclear Inspection In North Korea

Joel Wit, a former State Department official who played a key role in negotiating and implementing the 1994 denuclearization deal with North Korea, writes about important lessons.
President Bill Clinton in a picture taken July 11, 1993, uses binoculars to look across the demilitarized zone into North Korea with two U.S. soldiers during his trip to South Korea. Source: Luke Frazza

Joel Wit (@Joel_Wit38) has participated in face-to-face talks as a State Department official and as a private citizen with North Korea for 25 years. He is a senior fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center and director of the 38North project.


With a second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expected in late February, one crucial question looms large: Will Kim give up his nuclear weapons program?

If the past is any guide, a new North Korean pledge to denuclearize will be eyed warily in the West.

Verification will require more than just photos snapped by orbiting spy satellites. The United States will need to send inspectors on the ground to ensure Kim's regime is living up to its word. I know from personal experience that will not be an easy task.

I was the State Department official in charge of implementing the 1994 North Korean denuclearization deal. In the spring of 1999, I led the first American nuclear inspection in North Korea. It was an

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