Managing North Korea

Thomas Cynkin
Reuters

Thomas Cynkin

Security, Asia

Here's what Washington should do to test Pyongyang's intentions and move forward successfully.

Managing North Korea

We are in the eye of the storm of U.S.-North Korea relations. Stakeholders are still assessing the Hanoi summit between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un and its aftermath, and all parties seem to be in a state of uneasy equilibrium. The Trump-Moon April 11, 2019 summit seemed largely uneventful, with President Trump telling the press “I think that sanctions right now are at a level that’s a fair level” while not ruling out the idea of easing food shortages in North Korea.

Pyongyang adopted a typically minimalist posture in Hanoi. The North offered a terrible, one-sided deal—attempting to sell Yongbyon to the United States for the third time—in return for totally disproportionate moves by Washington to gut United Nations sanctions. President Trump wisely decided to walk. In the run-up to the summit, the North Koreans had kept U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Steve Biegun at arm’s length, apparently laboring under the misapprehension that they could hold out for a better deal from President Trump. They showed up in Hanoi devoid of technical experts or fresh ideas.

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