Nuclear negotiations with North Korea — Good or bad?

Josh Budd

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, has agreed to meet with President Trump to discuss a potential deescalation of nuclear armament between the two countries. The fact that the “hermit kingdom” is considering to open a line of communication with the U.S. is promising news. Or is it?

The real question that ought to be asked is: What are the risks of failed diplomacy with an aggressive state that possesses an active nuclear arsenal? The reality is that initial meetings will likely not result in an idyllic nirvana of nuclear disarmament. This unusual diplomatic move is only being taken because the North Korean leadership realize they hold all of the cards on the negotiating table.

This leaves more room for Kim Jong Un to benefit from any agreement — or lack thereof. If the U.S. reaches a desirable peace agreement, in which North Korea becomes completely denuclearized (which is unlikely) then North Korea might claim through their state media that they were somehow bullied into giving up their only means of defense. Even potentially more tragic would be the result of a failed visit to the White House.

Ultimately, if the meeting scheduled between the two leaders went south, it could very well serve as the catalyst for war between two nations that have been at serious odds for decades.

Conversely, the U.S. and the Trump administration have very little to gain from such a deal. According to the State Department, the primary goal of talks with Kim Jong Un would be “complete and total abandonment of their nuclear program.” However, the North Koreans are well aware that the U.S. policy toward their authoritarian regime has always been one of concessions — a trade off that primarily existed because of the threat of the North Koreans acquiring nuclear weapons. Now that they have those, it’s apparent that the main goal of U.S. policy towards the DPRK is for them to give up those weapons. The price of such a concession, of course, is the United States giving up immense amounts of political capital.

A hardline approach to the North Koreans would be preferable to the soft strategy of giving into concessions. We know that the North Koreans are struggling under the economic pressure of sanctions and political pressure, and Kim Jong Un knows that his regime requires financial aid to survive. If concessions are made, he will undoubtedly use that aid to keep himself in power.

As a result, the people of North Korea will continue to live in ignorance under the yoke of their “great and eternal” leader, blissfully unaware that there is something better than regular starvation and political subjugation. It is imperative that the U.S. State Department not compromise on its position regarding their demand, otherwise the hopeful future collapse of the Kim regime will be delayed even further, extending the suffering of the North Korean people.

In the words of CNN guest and special adviser to Bill Clinton on North Korea, Wendy Sherman, “Talk is certainly better than war.”

However, when an authoritarian regime is actively standing against the virtues of liberty that the U.S. holds dear, and continues to undermine the progress of establishing free and democratic institutions for all people, then it is better to be wary of dealings that seem too good to be true.

Josh Budd is a guest columnist. Contact him at [email protected].