Are cooler heads prevailing in the North Korea stand off?
Everyone should hope so and North Korea took baby steps toward a better outcome today, indicating to South Korea that it was willing to talk with the United States about the ongoing diplomatic dispute between the two nations. This comes following an invitation from North Korea for a inter-Korean summit to be held in Pyongyang.
There are stark differences between North Korea and the United States in terms of their goals and a bridge might certainly seem incompatible. With that said, we can back up several years for some cues on how to resolve this issue.
Iran was developing, or at least had the intent and desire to develop, nuclear weapons. Coupled with the Iranian government’s antipathy toward Israel, nuclear weapons in the hands of the Ayatollah might have led to an explosive situation in a region that has been fraught with tension for two thousand years.
Under a United Nations framework, a coalition of UN Security Council countries and Iran negotiated strict limitations on its uranium enrichment facilities. Iran would receive significant reductions in regards to the sanctions the country was under. Inspections would occur to ensure that the Iranian government was upholding its obligations. It was one of the most significant accomplishments of the Obama administration and it took the peace process in the Middle East meaningfully and significantly forward.
Beyond the insanity of Trump, there is no reason to think a similar approach wouldn’t work in North Korea. I know I don’t have 20 years of experience at the State Department. But it’s hard not to see patterns. The U.S. and South Korea paused military exercises during the Olympics. North Korea halted missile tests. A freeze-for-freeze would be a good building block for trust for both nations.
It would take a lot of sacrifice on both sides to make permanent peace work. And it’s understandable not to want to negotiate with horrific world leaders like Kim Jong-Un. Nevertheless, it’s not the situation that anyone wants, but it’s the situation we all have presented to us at this moment in time.
It’s a shitty situation that we’ll have to find a way to work with or else hundreds of thousands of people could die. That’s the (relatively) static binary, even though it’s based entirely in hypotheticals.
And yes, it’s still possible to open the minds of North Koreans while seeking to work with their government on this issue and this issue alone. Donate your spare USB drives (or money) to Flash Drives for Freedom, an organization that seeks to put interviews with DPRK defectors, articles from other news sources and American sitcoms onto USB drives so they can be smuggled into North Korea and inform North Koreans about the outside world.
A peaceful, democratic reunification of the Korean Peninsula is something we can all hope for, but until then let’s ensure that the “peaceful” part of that dream stays intact.