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Diplomatic Engagement with North Korea Is the Best Option

John Delury warns [1] that the U.S. is about to miss a major opportunity with North Korea:

The opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics this Friday promises to be historic. Athletes from North and South Korea will march together under a blue and white flag symbolising peace and unity on the peninsula. Instead of reading about missile tests and joint US-South Korean military exercises, we will soon be watching a joint hockey team. Leader Kim Jong Un, is sending his sister, a senior party official, along with North Korea’s head of state and éminence grise, Kim Yong-nam, opening up the chance for direct talks with the inner circle in Pyongyang.

Yet, rather than making the most of this detente, our fears and fatalism towards North Korea have got the better of us. This is a rare opportunity to stimulate real diplomatic progress towards de-escalation, common security, and peace. But if we miss this window, the problem gets much harder to solve, North Korea’s capabilities improve as America’s threats intensify, and the geopolitical and economic risks once again rise to an unsupportable level.

It is easy to dismiss diplomacy with North Korea, but it has only been through engagement that any progress has been made in changing its government’s behavior. Piling on more and more punitive sanctions hasn’t made North Korea more cooperative, and adding even more punishment won’t have a different outcome. While there is always a need for healthy skepticism about the intentions of a government like North Korea’s, that should not be allowed to blind us to the possibility of finding a mutually satisfactory compromise that lowers tensions, reduces North Korean provocations, and avoids unnecessary escalation. U.S. officials routinely claim to be open to talks, but in practice this administration does everything it can to ensure that talks can’t succeed even if they happen. We are living with the consequences of the Bush administration’s decision to blow up the Agreed Framework over a decade ago, and we will similarly rue the Trump administration’s current unwillingness to pursue engagement with North Korea.

Delury’s conclusion at the end of his op-ed is absolutely right:

The time has come to follow Seoul’s lead down the path of principled, constructive engagement with Pyongyang. Progress will be slow and tough. But the alternatives are unacceptable.

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Diplomatic Engagement with North Korea Is the Best Option"

#1 Comment By b. On February 8, 2018 @ 11:36 am

“U.S. is about to miss a major opportunity with North Korea”

This looks like a misunderstanding of motivation and incentives. The problem of the US is not really North Korea, and, setting impudency aside, it is not even the threat that North Korea could become even more “non-compliant” with US coercive diplomacy and diktat as it already is.

The problem for the US elite is, increasingly, South Korea, and, in typical “domino” perspective, Japan. South Korea is a vital base for supporting and facilitating – and, one day, launching – US operations against both Russia and China. South Korea has no interest whatsoever in being another large-scale “lily pad” for US campaigns unrelated to its own security and detrimental to its sovereignity – such as last years unilateral THAAD deployment which the Moon administration was unable to prevent or revert. The only factor that keeps South Korea – well armed in its own right, and in fact the only military in the world capable of fighting a war with North Korea effectively – in line is the threat of North Korea, which can be increased at any time by US posturing and provocations.

The US foreign military policy elite is more concerned with keeping South Korea in line that it is worried about “regime change” in North Korea. This is one advantage of US “nosebleed” attacks – even NK nuclear abolition, if it should ever happen, would not remove the threat of conflict.

The US will enact a more or less concerted – it *is* the Trump administration after all – campaign of provocations and disinformation to sabotage the “olympian” efforts of the South at diplomacy, and this will culminate in the military exercises postponed till April 2018.

South Korea is trying hard not to miss a historic opportunity. The US is doing everything it can to mitigate an imminent threat to US control of a very useful conflict on the peninsula. In this respect, the US is not any better than China, and quite possibly worse, given US recklessness regardless of who is the Mouthpiece In Chief.

#2 Comment By rayray On February 8, 2018 @ 12:56 pm

That is a fascinating analysis. Thank you.

#3 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On February 8, 2018 @ 1:01 pm

We managed to make a deal with the odious Mao. Jaw, jaw, with the NORKs.

Not to do so is folly.