It’s okay to negotiate with North Korea

It isn’t wrong to negotiate with tyrants and terrorists.  It is wrong to prop them up with money and weapons, but it isn’t wrong to negotiate with them when the alternative is mutually destructive war.

But if you have no plan to get rid of them or if there’s no assurance that their successors will be any better than they are, then sooner or later you have to deal.

President Nixon negotiated with Mao Zedong and ended the Cold War with China.   President Reagan negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War with the USSR.

President Trump’s willingness to negotiate with Kim Jong-un is a good thing, not a bad thing.  I think the odds are against success, but you never know.

Donald Trump

The reason I think the odds are against success is that the U.S. goal is for North Korea to give up nuclear weapons, and, if I were Kim, I never would agree to that.

Kim in the past has said his government would never give up nuclear weapons so long as the United States refused to sign a peace treaty ending the Korean Conflict of 1950-1953 or to guarantee it would not attack North Korea.

The implication is that if a peace treaty was signed, and if the U.S. government renounced the use of force against North Korea, Kim would consider giving up nuclear weapons.

But without nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, there is no way North Korea can deter an attack by the United States, except maybe by the threat of a massive attack with conventional weapons on Seoul, which is just across the border.

Would negotiations with the United States even by on the table if North Korea didn’t already have nuclear weapons?

President Trump is talking about renouncing the U.S. nuclear weapons agreement with Iran.  How could Kim be sure he wouldn’t renounce an agreement with North Korea?

Maybe Kim would agree to give up nuclear weapons in return for a guarantee against attack by China and/or Russia.  Is this something the U.S. government would want?

Kim Jong-un

Negotiations ought to be aimed at reconciliation between North Korea and South Korea and a promise by the North Korean government to not try to reunify the Korean peninsula by force.

I think this is the aim of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, who invited the North Korean government to participate in the Winter Olympics in South Korea and also offered to meet directly with the North Korean supreme leader.

Any conflict between North Korea and the United States would result in the slaughter of millions of South Koreans.  I think Trump’s and Kim’s violent rhetoric drove Moon into looking for an alternative.

Trade and diplomatic relations between North and South Korea would help open North Korea to the outside world, which in the long run would make North Korea a more normal country.

Now you may say that negotiating with Kim is equivalent to negotiating with Hitler.  But from the standpoint of most of the world, it is the USA that is the dangerous aggressor nation, continually tearing up agreements and attacking countries that do not threaten us.  We Americans need to face up to the fact that it is we who need to prove our good faith.


Can North Korea trust us? by Ross Douthat for the New York Times.

South Korea Report on Summit Discredits U.S. Elites’ Assumption by Gareth Porter for Truthdig [Added 3/18/2018]  Kim reportedly willing to give up nuclear weapons in return for a peace treaty and diplomatic recognition.  Hat tip to Bill Harvey.

What Critics Get Wrong About Kim Meeting Trump by Peter van Buren on We Meant Well.  [Added 3/15/2018]

Landmines on the Road to the Trump-Kim Summit by Doug Bandow for The American Conservative.

On Negotiating With the North Koreans: Advice for President Trump by Robert Carlin for 38North.

How Trump can avoid the setbacks that doomed that doomed North Korean nuclear talks in the past by Jeffrey Fields for The Conversation.

Korea 2018: The Beginning of the End of the Post-1990 World Order? by Ruediger Frank for 38North.

Why Does Sen. Lindsay Graham Think Killing Millions of Koreans Would Be “Worth It?” by Mehdi Hasan for The Intercept.

It’s Too Late to Worry About ‘Normalizing’ Trump by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

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2 Responses to “It’s okay to negotiate with North Korea”

  1. Benjamin Moore Says:

    Do you think Pompeo as the new Secretary of State will hinder or help the negotiations?


  2. philebersole Says:

    Pompeo is a war hawk on Russia, Iran and North Korea.
    Tillerson favored negotiations with Russia, Iran and North Korea.

    I think Tillerson’s firing and Pompeo’s appointment make negotiations less likely to happen and less likely to succeed if they do happen – both because they indicate that Trump may not have been serious about negotiations and because he will have less help within his administration if he tries to carry on negotiations.


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