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Trump Should Test North Korea with the Offer of a Grand Bargain

March 15, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

When news reports broke that President Trump had agreed to meet
with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, reactions in the United
States were sharply divided. Some pundits and politicians
expressed hope that a summit might defuse the nuclear crisis on the Korean
Peninsula. Others argued that Trump had fallen into a trap and made a foolish concession, giving the so-called
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) a diplomatic
triumph it had sought unsuccessfully for decades: a prestigious
bilateral meeting with a U.S. president. Members of the latter
faction breathed an audible sigh of relief when the White House
seemed to retreat from the prospect of a summit, returning to the
longstanding demand that the DPRK first take “concrete steps” to end its nuclear and
missile programs. Subsequent statements, though, appeared to put
the meeting back on track.

If Kim is serious about
disarming, Trump should offer a Korean peace treaty, diplomatic
recognition, and an end to economic sanctions.

Demanding North Korean concessions in advance reflects a
fundamental flaw in Washington’s entire diplomatic strategy
to this point regarding the Korea crisis. The U.S. approach
emphasizes sticks with little willingness to offer any meaningful
carrots. That strategy has proven utterly futile, and it is time to
adopt a radically different approach. The Trump administration
should offer the DPRK a “grand bargain” in exchange for
that country’s complete denuclearization. Such an offer is
the best (probably the only) chance of resolving an increasingly
dangerous situation. It also would be a definitive test of whether
Pyongyang would agree to resume a nonnuclear status under any
circumstances.

Thus far, the United States has given North Korea virtually no
incentive to abandon its nuclear and missile programs. The Trump
administration has continued the policy of its predecessors:
tightening unilateral economic sanctions and leading the effort to
impose harsher international sanctions every time the DPRK conducts
a new nuclear or missile test. That strategy has failed for nearly
a quarter century. Trump’s main innovation has been to
escalate the usual warnings and threats if Pyongyang does not
comply with Washington’s demands. His actions have increased
the danger of a miscalculation and the onset of a disastrous second
Korean War.

Achieving a grand bargain would require addressing North
Korea’s longstanding goals and demands. Some of the necessary
steps are low-cost, and include actions that the United States
should have taken years, if not decades, ago. Washington’s
initial offer needs to include:

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