When it comes to negotiations between the United States and North Korea over the latter country’s nuclear program, things are in something of a holding pattern, to put it kindly.
The Trump Administration, of course, opened a diplomatic channel with North Korea, with Trump even holding a pair of summits with Kim Jong-Un, as well as one more informal meeting aling the Korean Demilitarized Zone. However, that opening did not lead to any type of nuclear agreement with North Korea.
Since the start of the Biden Administration, there does not appear to have been any major move towards a rekindling of diplomacy with North Korea, although the administration did conduct a review of its North Korea policy.
Now, an argument has been made that the U.S., as well as its allies, should try once again to make a new nuclear deal with North Korea.
Iordanka Alexandrova, writing in Foreign Policy, wrote this week against the apparent Biden policy of requiring “inspections first, negotiations later.” Instead, Alexandrova argues that the U.S. should head directly back to the table. Biden should “revive multilateral talks, ease sanctions, and commit to concessions to negotiate a mutually acceptable deal,” according to the argument.
“There are no signs that Kim Jong Un might capitulate to U.S. demands. He will insist on receiving security guarantees before making any meaningful moves toward reducing his nuclear arsenal,” Alexandrova wrote of the talks. “In the meantime, North Korea’s nuclear program continues to advance. South Korea’s 2020 Defense White Paper revealed that over the past two years North Korea has significantly expanded its missile capabilities and improved the technology for miniaturization of nuclear warheads. Kim declared his ambition to further expand North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in a speech at the Eight Party Congress of the Korean Workers’ Party just days before Biden’s inauguration earlier this year.”
Alexandrova also argues that there’s a reason diplomacy hasn’t succeeded up until now.
“Negotiating a nuclear deal between North Korea and the United States is challenging since both sides face strong incentives to cheat,” Alexandrova wrote. “When negotiating, Washington hopes to see Pyongyang cooperate by disarming, at which point it will be tempted to make new demands. Pyongyang prefers to reap the benefits of cooperation with Washington, while making sure its deterrent stays in place as insurance. As a result, neither can credibly commit to uphold the terms of any agreement.”
Alexandrova also argued that Kim, who has admitted that North Korea is suffering from famine, might be more motivated than usual to make a deal with the U.S. and other potential partners.
“Regional powers today are better equipped to assume more active roles in underwriting the deal between Washington and Pyongyang. China and possibly Russia have grown both their interest and capabilities to act as guarantors of an arms control agreement. There is a role for South Korea, albeit different from the course of direct inter-Korean cooperation pursued by the current administration. Seoul can offer its own guarantee, such as a promise to advocate on behalf of Pyongyang before Washington to increase mutual trust and understanding. Japan would be an important part of this effort as well.”’
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.