February 01, 2019

Preparing for a “Decent Chance” of Success and Failure with North Korea

By Patrick M. Cronin and Kristine Lee

In a presidential tweet on Wednesday, President Donald Trump sounded cautiously hopeful regarding negotiations with North Korea. “Decent chance of Denuclearization,” he announced in uncharacteristically low-key fashion through social media. He added that negotiations had already achieved more than symbolic gains in the form of a freeze on nuclear weapons and missile testing, the return of soldiers’ remains from the Korean War, and the release of three Americans held prisoner.

The next summit is unlikely to prove a decisive success or failure, although pre-negotiating a couple of specific steps in the direction of denuclearization would help ensure progress. The president has 2019 and perhaps 2020 to demonstrate that diplomacy is productive and not simply buying Pyongyang relief from pressure and time to keep acquiring lethal weapons.

In this next phase of diplomacy, the United States and its allies must simultaneously prepare for two broad contingencies: first, a breakthrough denoted by Pyongyang undertaking significant steps toward dismantling its nuclear capabilities; and conversely, failure in the form of a protracted impasse or an abrupt, crisis-induced short-circuiting of negotiations.

Read the full article in 38 North.

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