North Korea’s big new ICBM doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about dealing with Kim Jong Un

Kim Jong Un

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After insults and missile tests, summits and “love letters,” US-North Korea relations have come to a stall for the better part of a year, each nation preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic.

That relative quiet was broken this weekend when North Korea’s ruling party celebrated its 75th year with a military parade and unveiled a gigantic ICBM. However, dramatic displays are nothing new for the Hermit Kingdom.

For Washington, then, the task at hand is to refuse to be provoked, because North Korea’s new ICBM doesn’t change two basic truths about US security vis-à-vis the Kim regime: that North Korean denuclearization is vanishingly unlikely in the foreseeable future, and that the US can coexist with a nuclear North Korea indefinitely.

Washington’s engagement with Pyongyang is too often framed around a single question: How can we get Kim to surrender his nuclear weapons?

Denuclearization would be a good thing, but this is the wrong question, and its deviance from our proper goal sends the entire project off-target. The question we should be asking is rather: How can North Korea be kept at peace?

Of course, peace precludes nuclear warfare. As an overarching goal, it encompasses the substance of the first and more usual question. But aiming for peace instead of denuclearization is both a more ambitious and more feasible task.

The ambition includes not merely mean altering the Kim regime’s nuclear posture but its entire politics, bringing Pyongyang into the international community for normalized trade and diplomacy — and hopefully, in time, normalized governance at home with overdue freedom and prosperity for the North Korean people.

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For the immediate direction of US policy, however, the feasibility element requires more attention. Denuclearization is not a realistic short-term goal. The Kim regime has been extremely clear that it wants nuclear weapons to deter forcible, likely US-orchestrated regime change, and that fear shows no sign of dissipating.

The United States is still actively at war in Iraq and not entirely disentangled from the chaos in Libya, the two countries whose regime changes (complete with dead dictators) Pyongyang has cited as exactly what it seeks to avoid.

“Genuine peace can only be safeguarded when one possesses the absolute strength to prevent war itself,” the North Korean ambassador to the UN said in his September remarks, indicating this fear-based position has not changed.

Pyongyang is convinced handing over its nuclear arsenal would invite American invasion, and it will take years of diplomacy and major shifts in US foreign policy to convince the regime otherwise.

President Trump has criticized former National Security Adviser John Bolton for his open discussion of applying the “Libyan model” to North Korea, but careful word choice alone isn’t enough if Libyan-style regime change continues to be a plausible part of US foreign policy — and it does. Imagining otherwise is naïve and counterproductive.

While significant foreign policy reform would be advantageous for the US in its own right, we don’t have to wait for Pyongyang to believe in American good intentions …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Politics


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