August 10, 2017

How to avoid war in North Korea

Paul Blumenthal, Huffington Post - Experts on Korea and nonproliferation agree that there is one incredibly easy way to avoid war: The U.S. should simply not preemptively bomb or attack North Korea.

“We can’t attack them,” said Robert Kelly, a professor of diplomacy at Pusan University in South Korea. “We’re talking about a million people who are going to get killed. So let’s not do that.”

“Kim Jong Un and the ruling regime of North Korea are not suicidal. They are not seeking martyrdom,” former Secretary of Defense William Perry wrote in HuffPost in March. “They want to stay in power, and they understand that if they launch a nuclear attack, their country will be destroyed, and they themselves will be killed — it would end the Kim dynasty.”

As every U.S. president has made clear since the Korean War armistice in 1953, any attempt by the North to move on South Korea or other U.S. allies like Japan would result in the end of North Korea as a nation and of the Kim dynasty.

The flip side of that coin is that any attempt by the U.S. to attack North Korea would be met with all-out force from the North. For decades, the 10 million people living in Seoul have lived with the possibility that the North could incinerate the city with conventional weapons at any moment. Now armed with nukes, the North could destroy more than one city on its way to the dust heap of history. The North would lose the war, but millions could die.

Neither North Korea nor the U.S. has initiated this mass blood-letting. It’s clear that none of the countries involved want that ? especially not South Korea. President Moon Jae-In made that clear in a phone call with Trump this week. Moon “emphasized that South Korea can never accept a war erupting again on the Korean Peninsula,” according to a statement from his office.

At this point, that leaves either punitive sanctions (which the North is already under) or negotiations as the options to get the North to pause its nuclear and missile tests and possibly reach the United States’ stated goal of having a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.

Negotiating, however, is far more difficult than the easy step of just not bombing North Korea.

... The North, of course, would need some assurances from the U.S. and its allies. Those nations would need to listen to North Korea seriously to decide what assurances to provide.

“The North Koreans say this over and over again,” said Joel Wit. Wit is a senior fellow at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the former coordinator of the U.S.-North Korea Agreed Framework. “They are willing to put their [nuclear] program on the table if the U.S. drops its hostile policy toward North Korea. Well what does that mean, hostile policy?”

Wit, who has also spoken to the North Koreans as part of unofficial negotiations, explains that “hostility” means the general posture of the U.S. to North Korea in every regard from the political, security and economic.

No comments: