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Foreign Policy Brief #41

 May 16th, 2018


The peace process with North Korea nearly derailed this week as the North Korean government canceled high level talks with South Korean leaders, just hours in advance. The future of the planned summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has also been placed in jeopardy as relations have regained hostility. History was made late last April, as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un became the first leaders of their respective countries to cross the border since the Korean War began in the 1950s. This followed the two countries’ unified performances at the last winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

North Korea previously offered an olive branch, calling for the unified pursuit of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula. Stating they no longer have a need for nuclear weapons, the North Korean government invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month. Three American prisoners were also released into the hands of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a recent visit. The government’s tone shifted this past week in response to several perceived slights at the hands of America and South Korea. Firstly, the US and South Korean military engaged in a number of annually held military drills on the border, an act which North Korea warned would be seen as an unnecessary provocation. Second, the Trump administration has been shifting the goalposts for what they expect of North Korea, in advance of the upcoming summit. What started as a unified goal of heading down the path of denuclearisation, beginning with the lifting of sanctions, has shifted to a more direct demand. National Security Advisor John Bolton has more recently made it clear that immediate denuclearisation is non-negotiable, and that sanction relief would come in time. Bolton has also made remarks suggesting that the Trump administration wishes to follow the “Libya model” when it comes to handling the threat of North Korea. This has alarmed North Korean leadership, who released a statement declaring that the “Precondition for denuclearisation is to put an end to the anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States.” After being asked whether the US-North Korean summit would proceed as planned, President Trump responded “we will have to see”.


What’s missing from much of the discussion surrounding the North Korean government is an honest analysis of their intents. Kim Jong-un’s administration, as brutal as they may be towards their own people, are not interested in conquest. They see themselves as one of the few true rogue nations in the world, somehow allowed to remain in power after the brutality of the Korean War, and want to hold onto that power for as long as possible. They have witnessed what has happened to other nations who have stood up against the United States and our allies, and have no interest in following that same path. Muammar Gaddafi agreed to surrender Libya’s nuclear weapons program in return for reduced hostility with the West, and was killed by NATO supported militias once he was disarmed. Saddam Hussein never built nuclear weapons, and was killed by the United States. North Korea has watched this happen, and has no interest in being next on the chopping block.

For this reason, negotiations need to include a certain amount of understanding for the paranoia North Korean leaders must be experiencing right now. They have been sufficiently cowed by the reckless aggression exhibited by President Trump and will mostly likely agree to a denuclearisation process if they can be convinced that we are authentically pursuing peace. Conducting military drills on their border referring to the “Libya model” will only have the opposite effect. On top of this, Trump’s decision to forgo diplomacy and break the historic peace agreement that is the Iran deal only serves to feed the fears of North Korea. The peace process will never succeed if it continued to be viewed as a military maneuver instead of a universal commitment to demilitarization.

Engagement Resources

  • Learn More About the Korean Peace Movement Through Women Cross DMZ: Women Cross DMZ is a coalition of activists from around the world, including both North and South Korea, who are calling for a peaceful solution to the Korean conflict. They are organizing a protest on the DMZ later this month in partnership with the Nobel Women’s Initiative. You can learn more on their website.
  • Donate to Peace Action: Peace Action is a network of peace activists committed to pressuring Congress into passing legislation supporting a foreign policy which respects human rights and non-violence. You can donate on their website.



This Brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this Brief please contact Colin@usresistnews.org.



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