The irrational, threatening policies of President Donald Trump and other political and military leaders toward North Korea endanger not only Koreans, but U.S. civilians and military personnel in the region. It is time for serious negotiations. The first step is to stop insisting that North Korea end its nuclear program as a precondition for talks.
Experts writing in a March 2017 publication of the U.S. Army War College characterized this long-held policy and others in frank terms. “Insanity has been described as doing the same thing again and again, while expecting a different result each time. This truism aptly characterizes U.S. dealings with North Korea over the last 7 decades.” Yes, they said, 7 decades.
The article also calls on the U.S. to take steps to normalize relations with North Korea and negotiate a peace treaty to replace the 1953 Armistice, again, without demanding the North end its nuclear program. So long as North Korea is constantly threatened by the U.S., its effort to develop a nuclear deterrent is a rational response. Polls show about 60 percent of Americans support direct talks.
North Korea recently stated it would put is nuclear development program on the negotiating table if “the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated.” It seems reasonable to test the seriousness of this offer.
The first step
The first step is to curtail annual war games like those currently being conducted by 70,000 U.S. and South Korean military personnel. Any hope of negotiations were cut off when this year’s exercises began Aug. 21.
Understandably, for Americans, there is perhaps no more confusing and distressing conflict in the world than that with North Korea. With the latest escalation of words and missiles firing, polls show Americans fear a possible world war. After a 67-year conflict, it is long past time for a change in U.S. policy. Threatening military action and leveling more sanctions clearly is not working.
Trump’s dangerous threats are as insane as U.S. policy of the last seven decades. War would kill millions of Koreans on both sides and many U.S. citizens working in South Korea. China has said it would come to the aid of North Korea if the U.S. were to initiate a first strike. The implications of such an action are without parallel.
Some confidence-building measures would be helpful. Since the U.S. holds the overwhelming military power, it is prudent for the U.S. to make such moves. It is long past time for the U.S. to state clearly a military solution is no longer an option.
Experts with the U.S.-based Korea Policy Institute, a leading organization working for peaceful settlement of the conflict, have urged successive U.S. administrations to make such a move. The American people should as well. Our political and military leaders should listen.
Wayne Nealis, of Minneapolis, is a writer and long-time peace and justice activist.
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