HOW SHOULD THE U.S. APPROACH NORTH KOREA?
First, the U.S. must realize that it needs a new N. Korea policy. The current policy of avoiding negotiations, while threatening military aggression, and wanting regime change… IS NOT WORKING, and cannot work.
Before I get into my brief list of ideas for dealing with N. Korea, I must preface it with a list of what N. Korea really wants and needs:
1. N. Korea wants to become a part of the international community.
2. N. Korea needs economic development and humanitarian assistance.
3. N. Korea wants normalized relations with the United States.
4. N. Korea wants a comprehensive Peace Treaty with the U.S., which would include a mutual or multi-lateral non-aggression agreement. Security guarantees are important to N. Korea.
All of these issues (and more) present creative diplomats with plenty of opportunity to use carrots rather than sticks during any kind of negotiation process with N. Korea. If U.S. diplomats are serious, there are plenty of ways to reach a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
With that said… there has never been an official Peace Treaty ending the Korean Conflict. This is a good opportunity to come up with a Comprehensive Peace Treaty with N. Korea that would cover areas from Security to economic development and it should encourage the N. Korean government to gradually open its society & become a true part of the international community. Such an agreement is favored by S. Korea. This is one of the main obstacles getting in the way of S. Koreas own efforts to negotiate with the North. There can be no reunification without a final peace settlement there.
The U.S. must enter one on one negotiations with N. Korea without pre-conditions. There should be a sincere effort on the part of the U.S. to resolve the long standing Korean conflict once and for all. So far, there has been no effort on the part of the U.S. to take negotiations seriously.
The U.S. should address N. Koreas security concerns. N. Korea cannot move forward with reconciliation with S. Korea or Japan when they feel under threat from the United States.
Efforts should also be made to increase Trade and cross border business activities, as well as opening the Korean border to more travel. If diplomats can get the Koreas to open their shared border, reunification may occur naturally over time, without a shot being fired. This is what occurred in Eastern Europe in the late 1980’s. So many people were migrating out of certain parts of Eastern Europe that the East could no longer sustain itself and eventually collapsed, due to the lack of human resources. This effectively ended the Cold War… or at least brought us into a halftime- I never really believed that the Cold War was actually over… mainly due to militarism on the part of the United States. But the same could be done with North and South Korea, over time.
There must also be an effort to provide the top members of the N. Korean regime with some level of amnesty, should they agree to step aside or if there is some sort of collapse. This could provide a much easier platform for negotiations down the road. This fear alone causes some in the regime to want to hold onto power at all costs, to save their own necks. For some, this may sound like an unacceptable idea. However, sometimes in life you are left with the scenario of deciding between 2 bad choices. In this case, do we provide a couple hundred high level and mid level officials with free passage to wherever they wish to go, and a pension, so that they (along with their families) can go away quietly? Or do you risk war which could kill or maim tens of thousands of people, risk a wider war, and cost billions to fight and billions of dollars in property losses? This is really an easy decision, although not without some pain.
The ultimate goal of these negotiations should be the signing of a comprehensive Peace Treaty, officially ending the Korean conflict and putting both parties on a path towards normal relations.
Instead of the 4 other countries being primary parties in the talks, these countries should remain a part of the discussions as witnesses and should sign the Treaty as witnesses. In fact, all members of the U.N. Security Council, willing member countries of the General Assembly, and the UN Secretary General should send representatives to be present for all or part of the negotiations and should sign the Treaty document as witnesses. This would make it difficult for either party to break their agreements.
Unfortunately, i'm not confident that the U.S. will seek this approach. The only "diplomacy" that the U.S. knows is military threats or aggression. Everything else in U.S. policy seems to be built around flexing its military muscle. No matter how unproductive this approach is, U.S. policymakers consistently return to this flawed ideology of militarism to solve all of its problems.
What will it take for the U.S. to change course?
Previous Blog Entries on the Subject of North Korea:
1. North Korea to Test Fire Missile
2. Japan Raises the Stakes in Missile Spat
3. North Korea Seeks Negotiations, But The U.S. Says No!
4. Public Radio Discussion on North Korea Missile Standoff. U.S. Pro-War Hawks Are Pushing For A U.S. Attack Against North Korea.