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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/14/17

US Experts Say North Korean Leadership May Be Ruthless and Reckless, But They Are Not Crazy

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From Common Dreams

"Time is Not on Our Side": Former senior US government officials say there must be dialogue with North Korea

Despite the rhetoric from the Trump administration about military confrontation with North Korea, the common theme of many U.S. experts on North Korea is that the U.S. presidential administration MUST conduct a dialogue with North Korea -- and quickly! Military confrontation is NOT an option according to the experts.

And most importantly, the new President of South Korea Moon Jae-in was elected in May 2017 on a pledge to engage in talks with North Korea and pursue diplomacy to finally officially end the Korean conflict. Nearly 80 percent of South Koreans support a resumption of long-suspended inter-Korean dialogue, according to a survey by a presidential advisory panel showed in late June.

On June 28, 2017, six former high-level experienced U.S. government officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 30 years sent a letter to President Trump stating that "Kim Jong Un is not irrational and highly values preserving his regime... Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. It is a necessary step to establishing communication to avoid a nuclear catastrophe. The key danger today is not that North Korea would launch a surprise nuclear attack. Instead the primary danger is a miscalculation or mistake that could lead to war."

The signatories to the letter were...

  • William J. Perry, 19th U.S. Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration;
  • George P. Shultz, 60th Secretary of State under the Reagan administration and now Distinguished Fellow, Hoover institution, Stanford University;
  • Governor Bill Richardson, U.S. Secretary of Energy and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under the Clinton administration;
  • Robert L. Gallucci, former negotiator in the Clinton administration and now with Georgetown University;
  • Sigfrid S. Hecker, nuclear weapons expert and the last U.S. official to visit the North Korean nuclear facilities and now with the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University; and
  • Retired U.S. Senator (Republican) Richard G. Lugar, and now president the Lugar Center

Together, they wrote: "there are no good military options, and a North Korean response to a US attack would devastate North Korea and Japan. Tightening sanctions can be useful in increasing pressure on North Korea, but sanctions alone will not solve the problem. Pyongyang has shown that it can make progress on missile and nuclear technology despite its isolation. Without a diplomatic effort to stop its progress, there is little doubt that it will develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the United States."

The experts ended their letter to President Trump by calling for quick action: "Today there is a window of opportunity to stop these programs, and it may be the last chance before North Korea acquires long-range capability. Time is not on our side. We urge you to put diplomacy at the top of the list of options on the table."

Two weeks earlier, on June 13, 2017, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and University of Chicago Korean War historian Bruce Cummings both strongly advocated for dialogue with North Korea at the Korean Peace Network's conference "Off Ramps to War" hosted by the Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia program at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs in Washington, DC.

William Perry said, "North Korean leadership may be ruthless and reckless, but they are not crazy." He added, "Why do we have a double standard for North Korea? We accept Saudi Arabia as it is with its human rights violations, but we do not accept North Korea as it is -- a nuclear power. Refusing to listen to the North Koreans about their goals and needs has meant that in the 17 years since the last relevant dialogue, the North Koreans have developed and tested nuclear weapons and intercontinental missiles."

The Bush administration's naming North Korea as part of the "Axis of Evil" in 2002 and the Obama administration's subsequent "Strategic Patience" policy were not forms of diplomacy, argued Perry, but instead were "miserable policy failures." According to Perry, the U.S. has not had a negotiating strategy with North Korea in 17 years, and during that time, North Korea has continued to do what the U.S. and other major powers do not want it to do -- test nuclear weapons and missiles.

Perry said that the North Korean government has three goals:

  • Staying in power;
  • Gaining international respect;
  • Improving their economy.

Perry emphasized that the North Korean government will sacrifice the last two goals -- gaining international respect and improving the economy -- to achieve the first goal, which is staying in power.

Because of the lack of listening to and acknowledging North Korean objectives on what its goals are -- which includes signing a peace treaty to take the place of the 50-plus year armistice, signing a nonaggression pact and reducing U.S.-South Korean military war games, Perry believes that the best outcome available to negotiators is to freeze the nuclear weapons and the ICBM programs, not their elimination.

Perry said he believes North Koreans would never use nuclear weapons as those weapons "are valuable only if they DON'T use them. They know the response from the U.S. would be devastating, should North Korea explode a nuclear weapon."

University of Chicago history professor Bruce Cumings, author of The Korean War: A History, said at the symposium that the Clinton administration achieved very important goals with North Korea, including "North Korea freezing its plutonium production for eight years (1994-2002) and, in October 2000, indirectly working out a deal to buy all of North Korea's medium and long-range missiles -- and signing an agreement with North Korean General Jo Myong-rok in a meeting in the White House stating that neither country would bear 'hostile intent' toward the other."

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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