What a difference a few months makes. Back at the end of 2017, it looked like the United States and North Korea were on a collision course for war. Then Kim Jong Un swerved.

The North Korean leader has finally decided to try diplomacy. Thanks to a combination of external sanctions pressure, the fear of a military strike by the U.S. and the North’s ability to relegate its nuclear and missile research to the lab, Kim has opted to return to a time-tested playbook: the offering of an old-school great power summit to end this nuclear standoff once and for all.

Provided Pyongyang is sincere, what happens next will determine if there truly will be war or peace in northeast Asia. A successful summit between Kim and President Trump could set the stage for the denuclearization of North Korea. But a failed meeting would create tremendous pressures on both sides. North Korea would likely go back to missile and nuclear testing while America and its allies could increase sanctions further. This could force Kim to perhaps conduct an atmospheric test that pushes Washington to then respond with deadly military force.

Therefore, the Trump administration must not only lay the groundwork for testing Kim’s intentions, but set up very clear diplomatic redlines and conditions that Pyongyang must meet.

Indeed, such conditionality should not be controversial. Considering the stakes involved, both sides must be sure they can enter the meeting with much of the outcome already guaranteed. The worst mistake of all would be for the Trump administration, or even the North Koreans, to think two men who do not know each other, who have very different backgrounds and no mutual trust can hammer out a deal to denuclearize the so-called Hermit Kingdom in just a few hours or a …read more

Source:: The Week – World


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