A new ‘Art of the Deal’ plan to end North Korea’s nuclear threat – Washington Examiner
It’s the “Art of the Deal” solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis: The U.S. gets North Korea’s ended nuclear threat, and Kim Jong Un gets to keep his nuclear weapons.
I get that this proposal sounds inherently impossible. But there’s a way it can be done. The first point to note, however, is the current political reality. While Trump wants North Korea’s nuclear program ended, Kim Jong Un wants it sustained. The North Korean leader believes that surrendering his nuclear weapons would mean surrendering his guarantee against any future coup attempt or foreign invasions.
But as I say, there is a solution that can address both U.S. and North Korean concerns. It would involve four planks of North Korean action in return for U.S. sanctions relief and international investment.
First, North Korea’s ending of its nuclear weapons production. Second, its closure of nuclear facilities beyond low-enrichment production under intrusive inspections, or snap inspection authority. Third, Pyongyang’s provision of its existing nuclear weapons stockpile to an International Atomic Energy Agency facility on North Korean soil. Fourth, its dismantling of ballistic missile research and production facilities and its destruction of existing ballistic missile stocks.
The beauty of this approach is its balance in matching Kim Jong Un’s sense of a survival guarantee to the U.S. sense of eliminated threat. After all, while the nuclear weapons would be moved into an IAEA facility, the North Korean leader would know that he could easily use his military to return those weapons to his control if he desired. The IAEA facility would simply ensure a long-term dormancy of North Korea’s nuclear threat in a way that gives the U.S., South Korea, and Japan confidence that the weapons were accounted for and nondeployed.
In essence, North Korea’s short-term nuclear threat would be removed, but its long-term threat potential sustained, albeit on a basis manageable for the U.S. and its allies.
The U.S. could live with this solution. The associated dismantling of North Korea’s ballistic missile program would mean that were a North Korean leader ever to seize their weapons from the IAEA facility, they would be unable to use those weapons to cause a short-term threat to the U.S. Without ballistic missile delivery systems, North Korea would only be able to deploy their nuclear weapons on cruise missiles, a ground vehicle, or a gravity bomb platform. That would allow Kim Jong Un to threaten South Korea by reseizing his weapons, but not America or Japan. And it would give the U.S. time to develop a new response to the new crisis without the dangling threat of a nuclear attack.
The key, then, is that this deal would offer Kim Jong Un his sustained sense of regime survival while resolving U.S. and Japanese concerns over imminent nuclear threat.
Would South Korea accept this deal even though it would only reduce, not remove, the nuclear threat it faced? I would suggest the answer is a confident yes. Seoul has been happy to appease Kim Jong Un in order to avoid that which it most fears: a new conflict on the peninsula.
Is this a perfect solution? No. But it is the best solution likely available.
While Kim Jong Un seems genuinely interested in a grand deal with the U.S., he is not going to give up his perceived golden ticket to long-term regime survival. The Trump administration’s current approach is unrealistic in intent and, in necessarily refusing to give Kim Jong Un the sanctions relief he desires absent his concessions first, risks a near-term return to North Korean missile testing. If that happens, America will have to choose between force and appeasement.