Leveraging Contemporary Technologies to Denuclearize North Korea

*This is an exploratory research paper submitted to the Bureau of Arms Control Verification and Compliance for how can Blockchain be used as a solution for achieving peace in the peninsula.

The successful inter-Korean dialogues continue, as they pledged together in the historic Panmunjon Declaration for “no more war on the Korean Peninsula” and declaration for a “new era of peace.” The mood was described as hopeful and optimistic, as Kim announced that he is suspending ballistic missile and nuclear testing, closing the Punggyeri-nuclear test site to “join the international desire and efforts for the total halt” to nuclear tests. 

 However, “complete denuclearization” in the Declaration remains ambitious and vague, leaving room for interpretation on both sides. In the much anticipated U.S.-DPRK bilateral, success of the talks will depend on each party’s definition of extensive disarmament. 

Washington is looking for a comprehensive “all-in-one” approach on “complete and verifiable” denuclearization, whereas North Korea is looking for an incremental, synchronized nuclear disarmament. 

 Previous agreements have fallen through in the stages of implementation. To take the steps toward the long-term goal of complete denuclearization, the Trump administration will have to design a long-term balanced framework where both parties are comfortable with the level of transparency and security in designing a verifiable dismantlement process. 

 Verified dismantlement in a nutshell is to obtain high confidence that the program no longer exists and that reconstitution will be difficult and likely to be detected relatively quickly or at least long before significant quantities of banned items are produced. In this sense, the dismantlement is called irreversible. 

Verifying North Korean for nuclear disarmament may be historic – in calling for an unprecedented extensive inspection campaign miles across industrial sites and hidden tunnels with clandestine labs and facilities from 40 to 100. The International Atomic Emergency Agency (IAEA) estimates around 300 inspectors to keep track of uranium and plutonium flows through factories and equipment of potentially 20 to 60 nuclear weapons. 

It would be very difficult to find military specialists trained to prevent arms from detonating along with multilateral oversight with China and Russia. The paper surveys methodologies and synergism of technologies available as a baseline for what it means to have a complete denuclearization ensuring security, transparency, and irreversibility to accommodate political climate and the North Korea’s sprawling nuclear complex. 

 Data Sources 

 The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), a central authority in nuclear proliferation, immediately called for North Korea to consider signing and ratifying the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). It is a “legally binding in force CTBT” as the only way to solidify the moratorium on nuclear testing, which was an essential step towards the “ultimate goal: a world free from nuclear weapons.”

CTBTO collects, processes, and analyses data from the 337 facilities of the International Monitoring System, such as the Global Alarm System to detect all nuclear explosions and 80 extremely sensitive sensors to detect radioactivity. It also registers dispersion of radioactivity stemming from all other sources anywhere in the world, in particular to nuclear accidents. 

Verification, or measurements and procedures that the negotiated activity is taking place, are often done through the traditional systems, but there is a serious need to utilize full range of technologies to detect and characterize nuclear activity, equipment, and materials. One being, to be able to use various sensor detection radars to differentiate between the accidental nuclear activities or elicit, and also to be able to examine its ending of production in the full lifecycle – in substantive, verifiable, and secure ways. 

Open source data, seismic technology, and geospatial information analysis are used as well as other mediums to mitigate challenges in detecting nuclear activities. A method on the horizon is the public technical means, one where concerned citizens and the public participate in the process of arms control using smart phones or citizen sensors to collect and analyze data and information. Social media is also cited as a tool, to examine the field verification activities. However, this methodology also must accompany a larger public campaign about data privacy and mitigate potential deception and falsification, and in a country like North Korea, where ICT infrastructure is seriously constrained, the option to use public technical means to monitor verifiable denuclearization are not available. 

There are audio-visual tools, to evaluate the completeness and correctness of information. Multimedia data, such as photographs, videos, and audio recordings at nuclear facilities, it may be used to enhance preparation for in-field verification by helping to visualize physical attributes of facilities and equipment, thus aiding in such safeguards activities as design information verification and environmental sampling. 

 Another emerging source is the emerging earth observation tools such as satellite imagery equipped with high-definition videos, and emerging synthetic aperture radar systems, and thermal infrared. The deployment of high-definition (HD) video cameras on small satellites could facilitate close monitoring of motion, short-lived, or quickly changing phenomena to detect fissile materials in distance. The denuclearization of North Korea means securing international and regional security. 

Multilateral agreements between nuclear weapon possessing states – developing variety of options to meet the diversity of possible scenarios, including optimizing technologies to maximize their robustness, minimize intrusiveness as well as building cohesive configurations of approaches to cover the diverse set of facilities and objectives. 

Data Fusion Model 

Making sense out of the disparate data source is not in the future. The heterogenous data streams can be integrated through validation algorithms and systems. 

Voluminous amounts of data are being generated on a daily basis from a multiple data streams. The most effective way to monitor verification of nuclear facilities is for the data to proceed in real-time and stored persistently. 

We can detect anomalies in the data, such as unusual nuclear activities or potential elicit activities in pattern of behavior or what constitutes nuclear weapons development activity prohibited under the treaty, drawing a line between activities exclusively weapons-oriented and those peaceful or for dual use those that can serve both military and/or civilian purposes. This would help clarify whether an application other than nuclear weapons development is plausible, such as a firewall to look at presence and absence of activities and their evolution over time. 

There exist many approaches today, but one this paper will explore is the method of efficiently fusing heterogenous data streams by gathering a network of dependencies within a dataset and compare the different networks to quantify the similarities. A mathematical proof based deductive process can be hard to scale due to the exact modeling of the programming language; therefore, the paper will opt to fusing an algorithm to create a normative pattern. 

First of all, the data has to be collected in a standardized matter and cleaned-up so each dataset contains similar fields. For the data be digestible and to be able to be interpreted, the model can use APIs, or a systems integration application layer that can interface with different systems into the data fusion model. 

Data fusion can be modeled with different methods and techniques based on the relations of the data source. For instance, two sensors monitoring the same site could be considered as redundant to increment the confidence of the data. If it is of two different viewpoints, it could be complimentary. When fusing original information to the new, such as additional audiovisual tools, it could be considered as cooperative. 

This pattern-based vulnerability discovery graph would essentially be a data governance model, acting as a meta data layer as a single version of the truth. It acts as a data validation layer providing integration access through the data fusion running the anomaly detection software among distributed sources. 

As participation allows, using novel open data, multimedia or geospatial can be used as synthetic data to ensure we are able to detect the anomalies with minimal false positives. Later, injecting real data into the dataset can validate the algorithm for no false positives. 

The data fusion model and its overlapping interface would allow analysts to detect unusual patterns of events and activities that support attribution of the source of illicit activity. 


U.S. officials worry that DPRK would hide key nuclear materials or facilities. Now, how can we ensure no entity purposefully tempers with the data?

In North Korea, Blockchain has been used in illicit procurement networks as a means of avoiding sanctions, but its applications, such as storing records, clearing and settling accounts, and ensuring validity and execution of contractual arrangement, could allow us to also view when a data has been viewed or modified. It would ensure data integrity in nuclear, satellite command, and control to permanently log crucial intelligence on whether a hacker had modified something in a database. 

The spread of nuclear weapons technology consist of a rainbow of decentralized, sometimes overlapping and sometimes fragmented systems of international agreements, informal arrangements, and national legislation. Not surprisingly, differences in national implementation and enforcement continue to frustrate efforts to keep dual-use goods and technologies out of proliferator hands. These implementation gaps, coupled with the sheer volume of global trade and commerce, have reduced the barriers to entry for intermediaries and created pathways for illicit procurement networks to exploit. 

Any measurement system in such a regime necessarily requires tamperproof certification and authentication. As is easily imagined, the security system is what assures the integrity of the process to prevent both cheating or leakage of military secrets. The DPRK leadership likely suspects the other parties’ commitment to rewards and their motivations for conducting certain verification activities. This dismantlement model recognizes the initial lack of trust among the parties and allows confidence building through the successful implementation of initial cooperative steps towards verified dismantlement. 

Verification would occur throughout the process, and incentives and security guarantees would be implemented in stages linked to the dismantlement and verification steps. 

AI is concerned with building algorithms which are capable of working with (processing, or operating with) data while it is still in an encrypted state. As any part of a data process which involves exposing unencrypted data represents a security risk, reducing these incidents could help to make things much safer. The AI data fusion model could help make decision about whether the transactions should be investigated. Having each decision recorded on a datapoint by datapoint on a blockchain to be audited with the various stakeholders, would ultimately be a machine learning-powered algorithm with a decision making process.

The way we could achieve this is by integrating the data fusion model into an encrypted ledger, the segmented verified databases built and implemented only upon databases have been verified can reduce the stress of troubleshooting and finding abnormal datasets. 

The data quality assurance or maintenance of the server can be offloaded onto a Cloud, potentially maintained by the CTBTO to have a third party all stakeholders are politically comfortable with. 

The Blockchain model would be in a permissioned ledger to only allow a few selected members could access it, and distribute the files across the network to have files available even if part of the network is broken. This would ensure the file would not be tempered, a highly robust database that can only be read and updated only with this with permission. 

When a data has been created for the purpose of model building, licenses which cause restriction or permission can be specified by the party. Blockchain technology then makes the process of doing this relatively easier. 

A centralized, or permissionable,  Blockchain model, where roles are granted to certain users to interact with the ledger for a trusted set of users would only allow for the IAEA Member States or selected parties to view the data. For instance, when a report is transmitted into the data, it would be distributed across separate entities. They would be able to view when and if the data is valid, unique, and authenticated, as verified by the data fusion model. Using private key encryption, IAEA could also only share the meta data only deem suitable for sharing, and only allow certain entities with permission to view more sensitive information. 

Supply-Chain model 

Blockchain has been discussed as a method in the supply-side controls, but there remains discussion on whether blockchain-based systems will help or hinder monitoring for illicit transactions and fraud. It opens up possibilities for transactional monitoring, as it could help ensure transparent and real-time monitoring across all transactions. Moreover, trade and finance systems based on blockchain mean that financial transactions need not be conceptually separate from trade-related transactions (i.e., shipping and insurance), thereby increasing the granularity of information available to regulators, enforcement, and intelligence agencies. 

The Trump administration is now looking for ways to continue to peaceful talks to sustain the momentum to pursue a creative, realistic, and conciliatory way to move forward with credible steps toward disarmament of North Korea. The task has been accomplished by states willing to make the necessary political commitment and resources- with detailed models and verifiable dismantlement of gas centrifuge and nuclear weaponization programs for application in North Korea. 

While the weight of that demand is heavy on any verification system, the certain consequences of failure require no less. To that end, we will have to close disparities between treaty compliance and the existing verification means available to serve that function. Otherwise, the imbalance will continually jeopardize the shared nonproliferation and disarmament aspirations of this century. Strengthening verification standards and practice through modern technology will ultimately strengthen transparency and security inherent in the verification model and renew commitment to compliance. It will then serve not only as a catalyst to future agreement, but also enhance the certainty that those security challenges that nations choose to meet by agreement will not be illusory.