Hinge Points by Siegfried S. Hecker [8/10]

So much has been written about the weird, dysfunctional manner in which North Korea, an isolated, totalitarian country, has armed itself with nuclear weapons, a slow, steady, seemingly unstoppable process over three quarters of a century. A test of the global nonproliferation regime that has seen that structure fail, North Korea’s nuclear arming has fascinated scholars and participants. Now we have the definitive account, by superbly credentialled American physicist, Siegfried Hecker. Not only is his technical experience, at Los Alamos Laboratory and elsewhere, been first rate, he visited North Korea, at their invitation, over 2004-2010, and dealt with both diplomatic and technological negotiations. “Hinge Points: An Inside Look at North Korea’s Nuclear Program” is his account of his jaw-dropping experiences, related in a fluid, commanding style, but also his analysis of what he calls “hinge points,” moments of missed opportunity to ratchet back the nuclearization. It is no surprise to anyone with any perspective of the last three decades of the North Korean debacle (for that is what it was) to hear that the most recent Republican administrations were blind and incompetent on this issue, but both President Clinton and President Obama come in for reasoned criticism. Hinge Points is THE go-to analysis and account of this story and was, for this reader, a delight to read.

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