The fact that American President Donald Trump was able to sit down face to face with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong Un in Singapore was met with amazement by many government and private parties, who have for decades been hoping to break the stagnation that has characterized attempts to reach a breakthrough in relations between United States (US) and the Koreas. The efforts of President Trump, Chairman Kim, and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in have been truly commendable and will genuinely merit the Nobel Peace Prize should their intended plans reach fruition.
To seal the deal and reach a conclusive agreement when Trump and Kim meet in Hanoi for a second summit on February 27th and 28th, all parties must be prepared to approach the negotiations from the perspective of the North Koreans. The United States must make an exceptional offer that will help Chairman Kim transform the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in a process that will become a talking point for dispute resolution specialists for decades to come.
The North Korean Perspective On Nuclear Weapons
North Korea’s incentive to develop nuclear capabilities was borne from a latent fear that without them they would be invaded by the United States. In practice, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has placed it in the middle of a very tricky situation between the United States and China, both of whom are also armed with nuclear weapons.
The Korean War serves as a stark reminder that due to understandings in place between various nations in the region, any conflict between North Korea and the United States would lead to the direct military involvement of China. Studies of American nuclear policy during the Korean War show that a current confrontation involving North Korea would almost certainly lead to not only the destruction of the entire Peninsula but also Japan due to factors such as diplomatic agreements and the position of military assets.
The prioritization of the pursuit of nuclear weapons has involved considerable sacrifices by North Korea. This has created a sunk-cost dilemma that actually places the DPRK in a worse position geo-strategically. An outbreak of war will inevitably cause them to deploy nuclear arms and trigger in-kind responses from the US and China. It seems that Chairman Kim is aware of this predicament based on comments he was purported to have made to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a diplomatic visit in April 2018.
The United States’ Offer
The historic diplomatic approach of China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and the United States has been to surround the DPRK with troops in an effort to hedge them in. The new approach must be to inundate the DPRK with opportunities for economic growth to the point that continued possession of nuclear weapons is no longer an attractive option. These efforts could involve not only the Six Party nations but others throughout Asia and the wider region as well.
Basic elements of the American offer must include:
- North Korea to become a signatory to a denuclearization agreement that includes any necessary outside assistance with the process.
- An Armistice between North and South Korea to formally end the Korean War.
- Guarantees from the United States that they will not attack or invade North Korea after denuclearization along with tangible promises to assist with economic development.
The time to reach an agreement is now. A suitable offer from the US should have the intended effect of causing the North Koreans to feel that an agreement will help maximize their potential as a nation in a way that the possession of nuclear weapons never can.
Follow Up From The International Community
Although the process so far has been due largely to the commendable collaboration of Chairman Kim, President Trump and President Moon, the long term integration of North Korea after years of hermit-like isolation will require the full efforts of the international community. This will include not only practical advice from relevant nations but also participation from all over the region to show North Korea that they have a role to play should they choose to follow the path of peace.
Leaders with experience in transforming a state from a decrepit, communist style system to an economically stable power can explain to Chairman Kim how the process will work and give invaluable counsel that will inform efforts in North Korea. There is no one better suited for this role than Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has taken Russia from the chaos of the 1990’s to its current position today.
The DPRK will also need assistance with learning to conduct diplomacy both regionally and internationally with players that previously were hostile to North Korea. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be one such figure who has extensive experience working in a nation that has prospered beyond expectations and successfully cultivated relationships both internationally and with its neighbors. Lastly, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe could provide valuable insight into the ways in which his country has become an international player despite the lack of either overwhelming military clout or nuclear weapons.
States from all over Asia and the South Pacific should be prepared to make North Korea feel welcomed and supported on the world stage in the aftermath of an agreement to denuclearize. The ideal approach to dealing with the DPRK is to treat them as one individual would another – with encouragement for the strides they are taking to secure a bright future. Emphasize the positive in contrast to the negative of a past that will now be left behind.
Conclusion: Strike While The Iron Is Hot
Within the period of just a few years, North Korea has gone from being a nation whose moves others watched with trepidation to a party that other countries would be ready to greet with open arms and a handshake. The astounding success of the peace process has already shocked observers from all over the world. The rapport between Trump and Kim has truly caused North Korea prove pundits and experts of every color wrong. There has never been a better moment to make such a significant change.
It is time for North Korea to shed the past and move into a new era. Kim Jong Un is young and has an unprecedented opportunity to bring his country, his people and his family into a golden age and secure a legacy built on accomplishments that outshine all of his predecessors. With empathy that allows all parties to understand each other’s perspectives, a generous and fair offer from the United States at the negotiation table and proper assistance from the international community this vision for North Korea does not need to remain a conceptual dream.
About the author: William Craddick is a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law. He holds a B.A. in International Relations from Wheaton College and a Certificate from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.