North Korea is currently observing a self-imposed moratorium on ICBM and nuclear testing. While this is a good start for negotiations, there is a genuine fear that North Korea has stopped testing simply because it no longer needs to test. Whether or not this is true—and whether there is truly a warhead gap—is something that time will tell. If tests resume in earnest, then it will be clear that North Korea has more work to do.
South Korea’s perception of China’s role in both the denuclearization and peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula has in part shaped the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) current unwillingness to align itself with the US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, especially due to the significant effects Sino-US tensions have on Beijing’s strategy toward the Korean Peninsula. In particular, Seoul remains concerned that outright alignment with the United States against China could exacerbate the Korean Peninsula’s position in Sino-US strategic competition. For South Korea, this carries the risk of both Seoul’s diminished influence in the pursuit of Korean denuclearization amid Sino-US tensions as well as a reduction of Beijing’s prospective support for Korean unification under the ROK’s lead.
The United States must accept a fundamental reality: the policy of forcing the Kim regime to relinquish its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief is untenable. It is no closer to achieving results than it was in 2010, even while the DPRK produces long-range missiles and plans to develop tactical nuclear warheads. The failure of trade sanctions exhibits the need for a new strategy to deal with the DPRK and its nuclear arsenal. Therefore, the United States should use multilateral talks to negotiate incremental deals that produce tangible results and build trust. Put simply, an enforceable security guarantee, achieved through mutual peace declarations, will help normalize the DPRK’s international relations so that it can undergo economic reform and emerge as a legitimate global partner. Such measures are more likely to attain results that all partners can agree on and could, at a minimum, result in a moratorium on future nuclear production and development. Only then can talks of the DPRK’s complete denuclearization be possible.
Washington must develop a wider, more comprehensive vision of the North Korea problem now, the North Korea problem then, and the best direction in which to take the North Korea problem moving forward. This key first step that Washington must take before establishing a promising North Korea policy is best accomplished by, in essence, thinking like a North Korean—or carefully considering the issues from the North Korean perspective to better gauge and understand their scope and value within negotiations. Understanding how North Koreans think regarding economic, social, military, and other critical issues will better equip negotiators to avoid the diplomatic errors of the past and better understand—for better or for worse—the validity of negotiations with North Korea moving forward.
In the face of a changing and resilient challenge, Washington must adopt a strategy and policy that are novel, flexible, and equally resilient. This new policy must be based upon informed analysis and assessment of North Korean intentions and what can and cannot be reasonably expected of the regime. This approach, titled strategic engagement, aims to continue deterrence and pressure but simultaneously adopt a policy of engagement and openness to negotiation on a wider range of fronts separate from nuclear weapons, including the economic, cultural, scholastic, diplomatic, military, humanitarian, and civilian.
This article examines how a network of recreational bike trails can become a tool to generate strategic surprise. The Republic of Korea, by the simple act of building recreational trails and tangibly rewarding citizens who use them, has begun to ready generations of robust, skilled defenders, a uniquely surprising strategy of defense and a transport system nigh invulnerable to interdiction.
The negotiation process on North Korean nuclearization is stalemated and no change seems likely anytime soon. This stalemate demonstrates the failure of the US policy, a very dangerous situation particularly in view of the absence of any viable American strategic approach to the issue, the ensuing divisions among allies, and lack of a coherent approach to North Korea. Continuing the policy of strategic patience, which would be Washington’s default position if no further progress occurs, is doomed to fail. Therefore, the United States must simultaneously enhance alliance cohesion while pursuing a credible negotiating proposal. This article lays out the reasons why that stance is needed now and is becoming more urgent. Such strategic approach can lead to better negotiated outcomes that would not only bring about denuclearization and North Korean security but also promote a new, more stable, equilibrium in Northeast Asia.
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