Regime Change Woes: Why Washington Can’t Win In North Korea

    Daniel L. Davis

    Security, Asia

    Intercontinental ballistic missiles are seen at a grand military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People's Army at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) February 9, 2018. KCNA/via REUTERS

    Denuclearization is a worthy goal to pursue, but getting a genuine complete, verifiable, and irreversible disarmament was always going to be a long shot.

    After several months of a so-called “charm offensive” featuring many positive statements by Kim Jong-un, North Korea changed course on Wednesday, casting doubts as to whether the Trump-Kim summit will happen. While this seemingly erratic behavior from the North is hardly unprecedented, it highlights how America’s past fixation on regime change seriously complicates our future diplomatic and security efforts.

    First vice minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, made some decidedly undiplomatic comments about U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, saying, “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.” The stinging critique was in response to Bolton’s oft-repeated citation of the “Libya model” for denuclearization.

    Last month on Fox News Sunday, Bolton was asked whether Trump would require Kim to “give up, ship out, all of his nuclear weapons, all of his nuclear fuel, all of his ballistic missiles, before the U.S. makes any concessions.” Bolton immediately replied, “Yes, I think that’s what denuclearization means. We have very much in mind the Libya model from 2003, 2004.”

    As I noted last September, North Korea is highly motivated by the experience of Libya and will avoid it at all costs. First Minister Kim responded that it was “absurd to dare compare [North Korea], a nuclear weapon state, to Libya which had been at the initial stage of nuclear development . . . [The] world knows too well that our country is neither Libya nor Iraq which have met miserable fate.”

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