A nuclear-free North Korea is the goal, however impractical
by Anthony Furey (feat. Marius Grinius)
August 10, 2017
On Thursday, President Donald Trump doubled down on his threat to North Korea should they keep talking about an attack on the U.S. territory of Guam.
Problem is, they are doing just that. We also learned Thursday that a plan for the rogue state to fire four intermediate range missiles into Guam is being prepared and, according to state media, will be presented to Kim Jong-un within a matter of days.
“Maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough,” Trump told reporters, referring to his earlier ‘fire and fury’ comments, adding that the regime had been “getting away with a tragedy that can’t be allowed.”
He’s certainly right about that. They’ve progressed so much and faced so few consequences. North Korea has made remarkable developments on their arsenal in a short period of time, now possessing both nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the U.S. and Canada. For years analysts have underestimated both their ability and intent. Now is not the time to do that. Now we have to assume the worst.
But what’s the next step? Where do go from here? The sort of business-as-usual diplomacy we’re used to hasn’t worked. Sanctions are questionable, if only because the economy, with a paltry size of around $25 billion, can’t shrink much further. The people are already malnourished and living threadbare.
It’s heartening to see China, the only country that has leverage, support the latest round of sanctions. But this talking point that China is key, while true to some extent, is too rosy. It's not like Kim Jong-un will readily do their bidding. He’s no client-state dictator.
Also even if they back away from their threat against Guam, they’ll still be in a position to attack such a territory on short notice should they change their mind. It’s not like anything substantial will have changed.
We used to talk about a nuclear-free North Korea. There are videos doing the rounds online of Bill Clinton saying just this during his presidency in the 1990s. Yes, that long ago. And the idea is still afloat.
A paper released the other month by the South Korean Institute for National Security Strategy, restates the plan for a nuclear free north with the new president Moon Jae-in as its intended reader.
It’s a four step plan. Once dialogue is normalized -- right now the two Koreas don’t talk much -- they get the North to agree to the following steps: 1) Freeze nuclear missile tests. 2) Declare and verify all nuclear programs. 3) Seal and shutdown nuclear material and facilities. 4) And, finally, disable and dispose of all nuclear weapons.
It certainly reads like a dream scenario, given all that’s happening. Marius Grinius, Canada’s former ambassador to the two Koreas, told me on my SiriusXM show Thursday morning that he didn’t see this as a viable plan anymore. It's no doubt not, which is a troubling sign.
I don’t know what the other options are though, other than a surgical first strike on the part of the U.S. military -- they already have various plans drawn up for such an event -- which Trump himself says he doesn’t particularly want.
But we still need something bigger to work towards. If we’re going to talk about diplomacy we need a goal. Anything other than just taking things back a notch. Because moving back only a notch or two is still too close to the brink.
So whatever happens with this current exchange, let’s all agree that a non-nuclear North Korea should still be the ultimate goal.