The Dire Necessity of Strategic Concessions and Relationship Building in U.S.-North Korea Relations

Adriana Nazarko
Reuters

Adriana Nazarko

Security, Asia

Strategic patience and maximum pressure don't work, but active engagement will.

The Dire Necessity of Strategic Concessions and Relationship Building in U.S.-North Korea Relations

Looking back at U.S. responses to North Korea’s nuclear program, one would think that they are looking at a modified model of the five stages of grief. The United States has gone through everything: denial, anger (see: “fire and fury”), bargaining, depression, denial again. Yet, try as we might, we cannot hide from established fact—North Korea has developed the capabilities necessary to target U.S. bases and homeland territory with nuclear weapons, and it has been able to target U.S. critical allies in Asia for far longer. With Kim Jong-un showing no indication of a willingness to completely give up his nuclear arsenal in the near future and with little in the way of engagement since the second summit in Hanoi, where do we go from here?

On the surface level, U.S. President Donald Trump’s current policy of maximum pressure appears to have worked. After all, Kim was brought to the bargaining table in a historic United States-North Korea summit in 2018. However, attributing the summit to a policy that was hawkish at best, and brought the United States and its allies to the brink of nuclear war with North Korea at worst, would be blatantly overlooking history. To praise “maximum pressure” would also be downplaying the decades of North Korean precedent to meet pressure with pressure and diminishing crucial peace-keeping role that South Korean President Moon Jae-in undertook to alleviate tension on the Korean peninsula.

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