Trump Will Only Get Results If He Plays Hardball with North Korea

    James Sturgeon, Ben Lowsen

    Security, Asia

    North Korea's envoy Kim Yong Chol poses with U.S. President Donald Trump for a photo by an official photographer as he departs after a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

    With the prospect of peace on the horizon, as well as the shadow of serious consequences, Kim should understand that the power to preserve his rule lies in cooperating with America. Let’s hope the message gets through.

    When discussing the possibility of military action on the Korean Peninsula, it has long been an article of faith that in the event of any serious conflict North Korea would simply destroy Seoul (for example here and here). Some suggest even the smallest military action would lead to a precipitous conflict. These ideas have hobbled efforts to negotiate a lasting peace with North Korea: the Kims never needed to fear for their safety, even as the United States and South Korea performed backflips attempting to assure them of the same. The time is ripe to rethink these assumptions.

    Today, we see North Korea rapidly arming itself to threaten a group of vibrant, democratic nations. Once Kim possesses a suitable quantity of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, what will deter him from taking a more aggressive stance towards the West? Can there be any compromise between these two poles? The authors believe the answer is “yes,” but only if the United States and its allies are ready to stand firm and take the difficult road of being willing to use force to hold Kim to his promises.

    Kim is showing some sign of responding to the U.S. pressure campaign, although we have yet to see what it might take to loosen his grip on nuclear weapons. Considering the Kim family’s indifference to the suffering of North Koreans, it seems that threats short of force would prove little more than an annoyance. Thus the threat of force must be on the table if we are to expect any concessions from Kim. But does this mean America must either go to war or accept North Korea as a nuclear power?

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