North Korea Two-Step
By Hal Lindsey
Negotiating with a deadly enemy is a kind of dance. You step forward; you step back. You move to the right, and then to the left. You watch your partner, and you watch that partner closely. You react, then the other side reacts.
When it’s all over, you hope your deadly enemy will be less deadly, and maybe not even an enemy. In the back of your mind through the whole thing, you’re saying to yourself, maybe we will become friends. But you keep on watching because deadly enemies have a habit of carrying knives even onto the dance floor.
When President Trump first agreed to a Summit with King Jong-un, it shocked the old-line diplomats. “You’re giving him a propaganda victory just by meeting with him,” they said. “Allowing this upstart to meet with the President of the United States gives him legitimacy.”
The speed with which President Trump agreed, surprised everyone — even the North Koreans. The Obama Administration had taken the opposite approach, something they called “strategic patience.” The Obama team said they would not reward bad behavior by giving the North the negotiations it wanted.
But “strategic patience” did not work. The Obama Administration’s lack of interference gave North Korea the leeway it needed. They built their arsenal from less than five atomic bombs to as many as sixty during Mr. Obama’s years in office. In that same period, North Korea also developed the technology behind their intercontinental ballistic missiles — now capable of hitting most of the United States.
Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. And in hindsight, anyone can see that “strategic patience” was a disaster. The New York Times said, “Mr. Obama hoped that the North would eventually feel it had reason to negotiate and make a good-faith effort at talks. Instead the North pursued its weapons program and launched a series of cyberattacks on American businesses.”
But even with the advantage of hindsight, several prominent members of the Obama team now spend their time criticizing President Trump’s efforts to build peace with the North Koreans. They complain every time the Trump Administration does anything other than “strategic patience.” For some unknown reason, they want the current President to continue the same mistaken policy that brought us to the brink of disaster in the first place.
The media take a different approach. They attack the Trump team for being patient when they’re patient, and for being active when they’re active. Their position is simple. Anything Trump does is wrong. To me, that’s as reckless as saying that everything Trump does is right. He has made mistakes, and he will make more in the future. But on North Korea, give him credit for making a good start.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Trump called off the Summit. At that point, the press said he had been rebuked and humiliated. They said it was a major foreign policy failure. But, to me, it was great news. Trump’s willingness to walk away gave him the upper hand. North Korea had been criticizing members of the Administration, and it was even threatening to pull out of the Summit. They thought Trump needed the political victory, and they began maneuvering to take control of the coming meeting. Their attitude changed completely when the President pulled out.
But the critics are relentless. Nothing Trump does can please them. They need to recognize that there are ultimately two directions — toward war or peace. In this case, a ground war on the Korean peninsula would be a disaster. Millions would die. And at any moment, that war could turn nuclear, and spread. South Korea is vulnerable to North Korean missiles. Japan is, too. And so is the United States.
If the two ultimate scenarios are war and peace — and peace is better — we need to consider how best to achieve peace. Is it through silence? Or is it by sitting down across a table and talking? The answer seems obvious.
Proverbs 15:4 says, “A soothing tongue is a tree of life.”
In trying to peacefully resolve a conflict, talking is almost always better than not talking. Will Kim use photos of himself shaking hands with Trump for propaganda purposes at home? Yes. But he has 60 nukes, along with the ICBMs that can carry them to the United States. Let him have his photo-op if it means talking instead of fighting.
Kim Jong-un leads one of the most brutal regimes ever. He inherited it. He may not have any intention of changing it, but what if he does want to change? What if he wants to bring North Korea out of the dark ages? What is the best way to end the brutality in North Korea? Is it by talking with Kim, or by isolating him with sanctimonious silence? Once again, the answer seems obvious. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”
Did President Trump give away too much? He didn’t give away anything. Agreeing to suspend military exercises with South Korea does not hurt the US position. War games can always be resumed.
Sanctions are our real leverage, and the US has made it clear that the sanctions will remain as long as there are nuclear weapons in North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We’re going to get denuclearization. Only then will there be relief from sanctions.”
What if North Korea reneges on its “firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?” In that case, the fact that the United States tried negotiation — and tried it at the highest level — should make it easier to tighten future sanctions.
Will negotiations lead to the complete denuclearization of North Korea? Will Kim allow inspectors the kind of access to his secret facilities that they will need in order to verify the denuclearization? Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, I’m glad the United States and North Korea are talking. Sometimes, talk can be the alternative to war. So, give it a chance.