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It’s Time to Talk to North Korea

March 12, 2018 in Economics

By Eric Gomez

Eric Gomez

Only days after a South Korean delegation returned from North
Korea
with a potential diplomatic opening to address the
peninsula’s slow-motion nuclear crisis,
President Donald Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un
sometime
before the end of May 2018. The upcoming summit between Trump and
Kim will be the first time that a sitting U.S. president has met
with the ruler of North Korea, and marks a major opportunity for a
reduction of tensions between the two countries that ran
dangerously high last year.

This is an important moment for the United States. The key
weakness of the administration’s approach was its lack of diplomatic engagement with North Korea
that would offer a peaceful path toward denuclearization.

Now that South Korea’s diplomatic outreach has created an
opening for U.S.-North Korea negotiations, the Trump administration would be foolish not to give
talks a chance
. However, it would also be prudent for the
United States to enter negotiations with some suspicion about North
Korean intentions and goals.

The key question hanging over North Korea’s offer to talk
is what Kim Jong-un will ask from the United States in return for
progress on denuclearization. The strategic rationale behind North
Korea’s nuclear weapons program is the insurance they offer
against regime change. Therefore, Kim will not give up his nuclear
weapons unless he is confident that his regime — and he
— will survive without them. Reassuring Kim will likely
require the United States to soften its military and economic
pressure against North Korea, which the latter refers to as the “hostile
policy.”

In other words, the peaceful denuclearization of North Korea
will not be a freebie for the United States. While it is too early
to tell what specific demands Kim will make in the upcoming summit,
likely “asks” include lifting bilateral and
multilateral sanctions, withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea,
and the end of the U.S.-South Korea military alliance.

The peaceful
denuclearization of North Korea will not be a freebie for the
United States.

Trading away the U.S.-South Korea military alliance in exchange
for a denuclearized North Korea would be a bitter pill for
Washington to swallow, but such a trade-off would likely be
necessary to reassure Kim that his regime will survive without
nuclear weapons. This trade-off would diminish U.S. influence in
the region to a degree, but the risks of armed conflict between
North and South Korea would not increase as a result. Seoul’s
strong economy and steadily improving conventional military
capabilities
mean that it would not be defenseless should the alliance
cease. North Korea would …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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