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2020 Could Bring a U.S.-North Korea Crisis. Here Is How It Could Unfold.

November 28, 2019 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

In fall of 2017 threats of fire and fury filled the air. President Donald Trump applied his “maximum pressure” policy to North Korea, tightening sanctions while sending the “armada” to sit off the North’s coast. Pyongyang responded with a cascade of unique insults and threats.

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Reflexive hawks such as Sen. Lindsey Graham dismissed worries about starting a war “over there” in Northeast Asia. The U.S. and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appeared to be but one errant tweet away from Korean War II.

Then came the unexpected in 2018: an explosion of diplomacy. Kim Jong-un made the rounds, meeting Moon Jae-in, Xi Jinping, and, most importantly, Donald Trump. Missile and nuclear tests were suspended. Military exercises were halted. Official visits were exchanged. Promises of denuclearization were made. America’s president fell in love, or so he said.

Relations warmed, but the president’s expectation that the North Korean leader was going to show up, nukes in hand, never was realistic. The push for an all-or-nothing deal stalled, along with separate steps to offer the DPRK some assurance that Washington no longer was pressing for regime change—such as making a peace declaration/treaty and opening liaison offices.

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The surprise collapse of the Hanoi summit triggered a global diplomatic retreat by North Korea. The June Panmunjom “drive-by” handshake between Trump and Kim briefly revived hopes of renewed negotiation, but later talks ended quickly with Pyongyang complaining that the administration offered nothing new, presumably meaning a realistic path forward with meaningful sanctions relief before full denuclearization. Kim Yong-chol, a top DPRK official, said that Washington “should not dream of the negotiations for denuclearization before dropping its hostile policy toward” the North.

Kim set the end of the year as a deadline for an agreement being reached. And in his 2019 New Year’s speech warned that the North would be “compelled to explore a new path” if the United States “seeks to force …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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