Could he have solved the nuclear issue? Stopped the Kim regime from building ICBMs? We take a look.
It’s obviously too late to reverse history. The North Korean nuclear weapon almost certainly is going to exist so long as there is an independent North Korea. However, something still might be gained from a U.S. opening to the North, including gaining diplomatic ground against Beijing. However small the chance might seem, it would be better than doing more of the same, which is likely to yield the same failed result. If Washington keeps its policy toward the North on autopilot, it won’t be long before the latest Kim has added another twenty weapons to his nation’s nuclear arsenal.
North Korea has been busy developing nuclear weapons for a quarter century or more. The Kim dynasty is on its third leader, Kim Jong-un, who recently presided over Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test. By the end of the year the North could possess as many as twenty nuclear weapons.
Over the same two or so decades, three different U.S. presidents insisted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could not be allowed to deploy nukes. But Washington policy obviously failed: the DPRK long ago crossed what sounded like a “red line.” With the Kim regime also making progress on long-range missiles, the next president may confront a North Korea capable of retaliating against American cities for any U.S. military action.
(This first appeared in 2016 and is being reposted due to reader interest.)
This result might have been inevitable. Kim Il-sung plunged the peninsula into war and created one of the globe’s truly totalitarian dictatorships. Kim Jong-il formally institutionalized a “military first” policy. Kim Jong-un is emphasizing economic development, but only alongside the nuclear program. Negotiated denuclearization might never have been possible.
Yet it’s worth wondering what would have happened had President Bill Clinton visited the North before leaving office. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright partied in Pyongyang during the brief warming of relations after negotiation of the Agreed Framework. Efforts to arrange a presidential summit foundered as the Clinton presidency ran out of time.