Donald Trump has said, a couple of times now, that he would sit down and negotiate with Kim Jong Un. But he has also said that North Korea must unilaterally disarm its nuclear weapons before that will happen. Some of his advisors have said similar things. North Korea will not give up its nuclear weapons in order to talk to the United States; working toward a freeze in its development of nuclear and missile technology would be a reasonable first goal for the United States, with nuclear disarmament a far future vision.
Some of us were talking about that on Twitter today, and Victor Cha, rumored to be Trump’s choice for ambassador to South Korea, offered this:
SENIOR ADMIN OFFICIAL ON AF-1 en route BJ –
Q: What would it take to have authentic talks with the North Koreans?
A: "The President made clear tht reducing the threats, ending provocations, and *moving towards sincere steps to ultimately* denuclearize." Path, not precondition.
— Victor Cha (@VictorDCha) November 8, 2017
But that’s not what Trump has said, and his NSC director H.R. McMaster has also said that North Korea must accept inspections to show that it is no longer making nuclear weapons before talks can begin, again a ridiculous requirement.
Also, Trump tweeted.
NoKo has interpreted America's past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. Do not underestimate us. AND DO NOT TRY US. pic.twitter.com/4llqLrNpK3
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 8, 2017
“DO NOT TRY US” sounds like Vice President Pence’s fatherly admonitions. “I am going to stop this car…” Of course, even the American President cannot expect to treat another country that way.
Meanwhile, the military has made clear that a military option against North Korea carries grave risks. A reasonable interpretation of the letter from the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to
Senator Representative Ted Lieu is that the military thinks an attack against North Korea to secure its nuclear sites would be exceedingly foolish.
In his speech in South Korea, Trump blasted North Korea and blustered about American military power in the region. In contrast, Dick Cheney (who was more sensible in 1991 than he was later) was much more cautious.
— Mark Bell (@mark_s_bell) November 8, 2017
And, of course, Trump earlier tweeted about raining down “fire and fury” on North Korea.
Trump seems to believe that this sort of hostility will break his opponent’s will. Perhaps shouting insults across the table does that in real estate transactions. But diplomacy is done differently. It requires some subtlety and knowledge of the opponent, which is rapidly draining out of the State Department. In any case, Trump recently stated that he alone is sufficient for such things.
Here are more positive suggestions, from
Thae Yong Ho, who defected from North Korea last year
Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.