March 05, 2019

The Inevitable Return of Muddling Along in North Korea

By Richard Fontaine

Since the collapse of nuclear talks in Hanoi last week, North Korea experts have argued about what went wrong. Donald Trump should have structured his offer differently, some said, aiming for modest steps toward denuclearization before seeking a grand bargain. Perhaps the administration should have put off the summit with Kim Jong Un, allowing working-level diplomats to make progress that the leaders could ratify later.

A simpler explanation for the summit’s failure is more convincing: The United States wants North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and facilities, and Pyongyang doesn’t want to do so. The problem is fundamental. Now what?

We’ve been here before, more or less.

In 2008, President George W. Bush overruled his more hard-line advisers to seek a deal with Pyongyang, removing North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. In return, North Korea was supposed to provide a faithful account of its nuclear program and destroy the cooling tower at its Yongbyon production facility. According to The New York Times, delisting was just “the first step in what will be a long, drawn-out diplomatic process that is meant to lead eventually to establishing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.”

Read the full article in The Atlantic.

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