December 22, 2017
Talks with North Korea
If the United States hopes to negotiate with North Korea about that nation’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, we should do so without preconditions. Due to perceived threats from the United States, North Korea must view these programs as essential to its survival and would have no interest in conceding anything before negotiations begin. It is true that North Korea had been developing nuclear weapons prior to President George W. Bush’s “Axis-of-Evil,” speech, which named North Korea as one of the “Axis” countries. That speech, however, was followed a little more than a year later, by the war against Iraq, another “Axis” country, and its devastating consequences in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. North Korea’s leadership could well have concluded that without continuing and accelerating its weapons programs, they would be next.
Secondly, as part of any negotiations, it makes eminent sense for the United States to suggest exchanging a halt in U.S.-South Korea military exercises for a temporary cessation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. Despite increased pressure from China and United States verbal assurances, it is unlikely North Korea will do anything to curtail them unless the United States takes an equivalent, major step. Moreover, if the United State were to offer such an exchange and North Korea refused it, we would be in a much better position to seek additional support from China and Russia for implementing stronger sanctions or taking other measures.