Reckless, juvenile threats from President Donald Trump toward North Korea have escalated the acrimonious relationship between the two nations and undermined attempts, even within his own administration, at securing a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which the world has never seen.” – Donald Trump
“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” – Donald Trump
The bellicose rhetoric coming from the U.S. does nothing but reinforce the fears of the North Korean regime, which has developed its nuclear program as a means of defence against what it perceives as American aggression. Even White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has contradicted Trump’s bluster by categorically rejecting the possibility of a military solution to North Korea’s nuclear threats.
It is vital that Canada work alongside its international partners to encourage constructive negotiations between the two nations. In a recent statement, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made a thoughtful and balanced series of recommendations based on his experiences in Pyongyang:
“In addition to restraining the warlike rhetoric, our leaders need to encourage talks between North Korea and other countries, especially China and Russia… All parties must assure North Koreans that we will forgo any military action against them if North Korea remains peaceful… When this confrontational crisis is ended, the United States should be prepared to consummate a permanent treaty to replace the ceasefire of 1953.” – Jimmy Carter
Canada has an important role to play in facilitating discussion and promoting restraint. To that end, Canadian diplomats have reportedly begun preliminary discussions with North Korean officials. Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has commented on the situation, maintaining that Canada should seek multilateral diplomacy while also decrying North Korean nuclear development and, unfortunately, side-stepping the issue of U.S. culpability.
“It is of absolutely pressing concern for Canada and we are very involved working with our international partners to seek a resolution, a de-escalation, to really get North Korea to understand it must get off of this path.” – Chrystia Freeland
It serves no one’s interest to overhype the threat posed by North Korea.
“The Kim regime is ruthless and brutal, but it is not reckless. Nor is it suicidal. Instead, its priorities and nuclear arsenal are designed to preserve the ‘divine’ Kim Dynasty and North Korean sovereignty.” – Dr. Joseph Gerson
Despite the challenges, there is a credible and progressive path forward in North Korea–U.S. relations, if cooler heads can prevail. Joseph Gerson puts it thusly:
“There is no military solution to the dangers posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. We need to do all that we can to bring reason to bear with Common Security diplomacy that can bring these two nuclear powers back from the brink … the Common Security approach seeks a near-term freeze in North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenals in exchange for halting threatening U.S.-South Korean military exercises and finally ending the Korean War by replacing the Armistice Agreement with a Peace Agreement. Negotiations for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula could then be pursued on the basis of improved relations and increased trust.”
And lest we forget, Scott Taylor reminds us in a recent (paywalled) article in the Hill Times (“Scariest part of U.S. – North Korea showdown isn’t Kim Jong-un,” 16 August 2017):
“… the only nation to have ever actually used a nuclear bomb against humans is the United States.”
For those interested in delving further into the history and motivations of the secretive North Korean regime as well as some possible ways forward, see the insightful paper prepared by former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Marius Grinius (North Korea: A New Great Game, Canadian Global Affairs Institute, August 2017).
Photo credit of North Korean Demilitarized Zone: Wikimedia Commons