Can North Korea Trust Us?

on a few questions there is real consistency across his years as a public eminence.

  1. One is his belief, which may give us new steel tariffs, that America is a big loser from the international trade system.
  2. Another, which may give us a Trumpian tête-à-tête with Kim Jong-un, is his belief that he alone can solve the problem of nuclear proliferation.

In 1984, near the peak of Reagan-era nuclear fears, he told The Washington Post that he should lead nuclear deal-making with the Soviets.

Six years later, he warned Playboy that “the greatest of all stupidities is people’s believing [nuclear war] will never happen.”

In 1999, flirting with a presidential bid, he promised to “negotiate like crazy” to prevent North Korea from going nuclear.

.. But we also have no clear example to offer Pyongyang of a denuclearization that worked out for the authoritarian regime that accepted it.

.. Where denuclearization has happened successfully, it has generally followed a

  • transition from dictatorship to democracy (as in Brazil and Argentina), been
  • part of such a transition (Ukraine) or been
  • a prelude to regime change (as in South Africa).
.. Ukraine, which gave up its nuclear weapons in return for guarantees from Russia and the United States, only to find that guarantee a dead letter in an age of Putinist aggression
.. Then there is the case of Iraq.
.. Any authoritarian regime observing that history might reasonably conclude that nuclear weapons should be sought and never be given up …
.. Especially since our next president decided to tacitly confirm that lesson, by pursing regime change in Libya after the Libyan dictator had agreed to close down his own W.M.D. program. The spectacle of Qaddafi getting murdered by a Libyan mob, however roughly just, was also an object lesson in the downsides of believing that the Americans will care about a W.M.D. deal if the opportunity arises to remove you afterward.

.. Despite our official commitment to nonproliferation, then, the revealed preference of our foreign policy elite is often for other priorities — NATO expansion, humanitarian intervention, regime change.

.. the deal that Kim dearly wants to extract from us — a limited denuclearization in return for our withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula — would probably have disastrous effects for regional security and the larger Pax Americana.

  1. .. persuade Pyongyang that we might attack if they keep raising the nuclear ante and
  2. that we really don’t care about toppling them otherwise.


Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans

North Korea, if not stopped, will build an arsenal with multiple nuclear missiles meant to threaten the U.S. homeland and blackmail us into abandoning our allies in Asia. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will sell these weapons to state and nonstate actors, and he will inspire other rogue actors who want to undermine the U.S.-backed postwar order. These are real and unprecedented threats. But the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike. Instead, there is a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.

.. Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake.

.. A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us.

.. I also hope that if North Korea did retaliate militarily, the United States could control the escalation ladder to minimize collateral damage and prevent a collapse of financial markets.

.. the rationale is that a strike that demonstrates U.S. resolve to pursue “all options” is necessary to give the mercurial Kim a “bloody nose.”

.. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind? 

And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?

.. Some have argued the risks are still worth taking because it’s better that people die “over there” than “over here.” On any given day, there are 230,000 Americans in South Korea and 90,000 or so in Japan. Given that an evacuation of so many citizens would be virtually impossible ..

.. these Americans would most likely have to hunker down until the war was over.

.. To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.

.. An alternative coercive strategy involves enhanced and sustained U.S., regional and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize. This strategy is likely to deliver the same potential benefits as a limited strike, along with other advantages, without the self-destructive costs.

  1. .. First, the Trump administration must continue to strengthen the coalition of U.N. member states
  2. Second, the United States must significantly up-gun its alliances with Japan and South Korea with integrated missile defense, intelligence-sharing and anti-submarine warfare and strike capabilities to convey to North Korea that an attack on one is an attack on all.
  3. Third, the United States must build a maritime coalition around North Korea involving rings of South Korean, Japanese and broader U.S. assets to intercept any nuclear missiles or technologies leaving the country. China and Russia should be prepared to face the consequences if they allow North Korean proliferation across their borders.
  4. Lastly, the United States must continue to prepare military options. Force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war.

.. This strategy gets us out of crisis-management mode. It constitutes decisive action, not previously attempted, by President Trump. And it demonstrates resolve to other bad actors that threats to the United States will be countered.

Tillerson Rules Out a Containment Strategy for North Korea

“Many people have asked the question, ‘Well, why can’t you live with a containment strategy? You lived with it with Russia. You lived with it with China,’” Mr. Tillerson said. “The difference is that with the past behavior of North Korea, it is clear to us that they would not just use the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent. This would become a commercial activity for them.”