The Trump administration’s North Korea demands have been unrealistic and maximalist for months, and that is why I have worried that they have set diplomacy with North Korea up for failure. Several leading Senate Democrats want to make it known that they can be just as delusional and divorced from reality as Trump. To gain their support for any agreement Trump might make with North Korea, it would have to meet the following fantastical requirements:
Dismantle and remove every single one of North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons;
End the production and enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes, and permanently dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons infrastructure. This includes the destruction of test sites, all nuclear weapons research and development facilities and enrichment facilities;
Suspend all of North Korea’s ballistic missile tests and disable, dismantle and eliminate all of North Korea’s ballistic missiles and programs.
Commit to robust compliance inspections including a verification regime for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Inspections must have complete access to all nuclear related sites and facilities with real time verification of North Korean compliance. A separate compliance regime for its chemical and biological weapons that prevents, detects and punishes cheating on the part of North Korea is also necessary. These compliance regimes must include “anywhere, anytime” inspections and snap-back sanctions if North Korea is not in full compliance;
The senators that sent this letter were Robert Menendez, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Dick Durbin, Mark Warner, Patrick Leahy, and Sherrod Brown. They are echoing administration talking points by insisting on the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea,” but by publishing this letter they are making it more difficult for Trump to back off from these maximalist demands that North Korea is never going to accept. The senators are inserting themselves into negotiations with North Korea in much the same deliberately destructive way that Republican hawks tried to interfere with nuclear negotiations with Iran under Obama. By preemptively dismissing any agreement that falls short of their unrealistic expectations, these senators are helping the administration’s own hard-liners in their desire to sabotage diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang. They are also demonstrating why the Democratic Party remains forever at a disadvantage on foreign policy when so many of their leading members go out of their way to echo the worst ideas of the GOP.