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The Danger of Unrealistic Goals for North Korea Diplomacy

The U.S. and Japan released a joint statement [1] calling on North Korea to give up not only its nuclear weapons, but also to abandon all “weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” TAC contributor Harry Kazianis responded to the statement earlier today:

As the inter-Korean summit approaches and the Trump-Kim meeting draws closer, the gap between the U.S. and North Korean positions does not appear to have narrowed at all. If anything, the demands from the U.S. and Japan have increased and become even more unrealistic than they already were. Instead of moderating demands and tempering expectations about what North Korea is willing to give up, the Trump administration and the Abe government are doing just the opposite. This may succeed in reassuring Japan that the U.S. isn’t going to make a deal that Tokyo can’t accept, but it practically guarantees that no agreement can be reached with North Korea.

If Trump goes to the summit thinking that North Korea is going to agree to any of this, he has been misled and will be setting himself up for failure. If the U.S. and its allies aren’t prepared to make an extraordinarily generous offer in return, it is likely that nothing good will come from the meeting between Trump and Kim. The danger is that the hard-liners around Trump will exploit a summit failure as an excuse to ratchet up tensions and push for military action and he will be more inclined to listen to them.

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9 Comments To "The Danger of Unrealistic Goals for North Korea Diplomacy"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 20, 2018 @ 2:17 pm

Regarding your statement, Mr. Larison, that “the gap between the U.S. and North Korean positions does not appear to have narrowed at all,” how do you interpret yesterday’s New York Times report (“North Korea removes major obstacle to U.S. negotiations, South says”) which begins with this statement:

“Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, has removed a key obstacle to negotiations with Washington by ceasing to demand that American troops be removed from South Korea as a condition for denuclearizing his country, the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, said Thursday.”

If the North Korean offer is genuine – and I have no way of knowing if it is genuine – the offer would certainly tend to narrow the gap between the U.S. and North Korea. Is it your position that the offer is not genuine?

#2 Comment By b. On April 20, 2018 @ 3:22 pm

This has been obvious from the JCOPA gyrations of the Trump administration – behind all those “unreasonable” demands for compliance stands the simple truth that advanced conventional ballistic missiles are rapidly becoming a bigger threat for US impunitivism than nukes. Nuclear weapons are a deterrent against a US nuclear strike, they are less of a deterrent against conventional aggression by an increasingly rogue superpower acting unilaterally and unrestrained by the “international order” it designed to apply to everybody else.

A2/AD weaponry, however, threatens to two main instruments of US impunitive action – aircraft and aircraft carriers – as well as the backbone of US “prompt global strikes”, bases existing at fixed locations all over the globe. From a practical point of view, proliferation of anti-aircraft and anti-ship capabilities is a much bigger concern for the US hegemillenional generation than nuclear proliferation (the combination, however, is of course the worst impediment DC could face).

The US will always escalate its demands for compliance as part of its “make ’em or break ’em” campaign for regime change and markets opened at gunpoint, and if its demands were met on missiles, it would be “irreversibility” or “terrorism” or “WMD” or some other maliciously malleable concept next. But it is not by accident that ballistic missiles come first, and proliferation of hypersonic projectiles will follow. The worst that Russia and China could do is sell advanced, simple area denial systems to any prospective target of US coercion that has chosen non-compliance over “protection”.

#3 Comment By b. On April 20, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

South Korea is not without agency. The question is not what his advisers can talk Trump into, but how Moon respond to a failure – or cancellation – of the Trump-Kim meeting:

[5]

We can only assume that Moon’s concerns and intentions do not matter if we assume that the “alliance” between South Korea and the US is effectively not worth the paper it was written on, and South Korea is nothing more than a US-occupied nation with no sovereign power and no relevance to US interests. This might well be the perception within the Trump administration, the Senate, or DC at large, but it is delusional to assume that the US can ignore the position of a nation like South Korea and not suffer significant setbacks.

#4 Comment By LouisM On April 20, 2018 @ 5:49 pm

The negotiation should be simple!
1) North Korea gives up nuclear weapons and free movement of goods, money, investment can flow between north and south korea. Peace Treaty signed.
2) In 25 years to negotiate terms of reunification and free movement of people between north and south.

The Kim Family may or may not continue to hold power but they will be rich for a hundred years or more from the joint business ventures and the trade conducted between north and south korea.

#5 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 20, 2018 @ 8:30 pm

North Korean concessions that – if genuine – would significantly narrow the gap between the US and North Korea going into upcoming talks:

North Korean concession #1 (reported Thursday, April 19th by the New York Times):

“Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s leader, has removed a key obstacle to negotiations with Washington by ceasing to demand that American troops be removed from South Korea as a condition for denuclearizing his country, the South’s president, Moon Jae-in, said Thursday.”

North Korean concession #2 (reported one hour ago by the New York Times):

“North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, announced early Saturday that his country no longer needed to test nuclear weapons or missiles and would close a nuclear test site. ‘The nuclear test site has done its job,’ Mr. Kim said in an announcement carried by North Korea’s state media.”

[6]

#6 Comment By Henry Pylori On April 20, 2018 @ 8:51 pm

There are reports that NK has agreed to indefinitely suspend it’s nuclear weapons and ICBM programs. This is obviously good news, but I’m wondering what’s behind it. I’m also honestly bothered that Trump receive credit for this when there’s no reason to think that he did anything that caused it, but that annoyance is probably worth the good that comes out of it.

#7 Comment By Hexexis On April 20, 2018 @ 10:22 pm

Wonder whether SECDEF has mentioned the Pueblo to his Pres. …

But Trump would prolly think that entails a Pompeo trip to Colorado to demand the town from the native Americans or other such illegals …

#8 Comment By Tiktaalik On April 21, 2018 @ 3:25 am

Henry Pylori
>>This is obviously good news, but I’m wondering what’s behind it.

I think that you could expect successful tests, now with re-entry, in June-July.

#9 Comment By john On April 21, 2018 @ 10:27 pm

I expect the “denuclueraization” will be of the if you get rid of them, we get rid of them variety. So since we won’t they won’t