This month in Singapore, President Donald Trump went further than any of his predecessors in an effort to eliminate the nuclear threat currently emanating from North Korea. Thanks to diligent work by the president, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, we could be on the verge of seeing Kim Jong Un give up his nuclear weapons and at least TRY to be a responsible member of the international community. Our hopes are still moderate for this totalitarian state ever getting to the point where we can trust them, but those hopes are higher than they’ve ever been, thanks to this historic administration.
Still, in testimony on Capitol Hill this week, experts on North Korea warned lawmakers that now was not the time to take the pressure off the Kim regime. Heritage Foundation fellow Bruce Klingner, Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Abraham Denmark of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars all agreed that it was imperative to hold North Korea’s feet to the proverbial fire.
“We need to maintain pressure until significant progress is achieved,” said Klingner. “U.S. negotiators should make clear the differences between negotiable presanctions such as constraints on resources, import and export in the U.N. resolution, and non-negotiable U.S. targeted financial measures, which are law enforcement mechanisms.”
In his testimony, Green reminded Congress that North Korea has a long history of playing games with the United States and her allies. He said that it would be a mistake to go into these negotiations without remembering the regime’s prior deceit, but he said there were things the administration could demand to ensure a different outcome this time around.
“We’ll know it’s different this time, or potentially different, if Secretary Pompeo can get the North Koreans to produce a list of North Koreans’ weapons and missiles and a verification plan,” Green said. “We were supposed to get this during the six-party talks.”
For his part, Denmark warned that the time factor should not be ignored. If North Korea can keep the U.S. in limbo for any significant amount of time, it would only give them more room to further develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles capable of a farther reach and a more reliable payload. He said that there were ways, however, to limit that threat.
“One way for the United States to address time pressures in this negotiation would be to achieve a complete freeze on North Korea’s missile programs,” Denmark said. “The U.S. should insist on strict inspection and verification mechanisms before coming to any concessions focused on denuclearization.”
As was known from the start, it will take more than a single summit to eliminate the North Korean threat. Hopefully, though, Kim Jong Un is serious about getting free of these sanctions and restoring some degree of economic viability to his nearly-failed state. If so, we could be on the precipice of a major breakthrough. If not, war may be the only answer.