This is a tough one. North Korea is a hostile, socialist, arguably Stalinist country, known for their numerous violations of human rights. They boast of a military nuclear weapons program and have a significant quantity of chemical and biological weapons. They are no longer a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, a pact made to prevent the spread of such weapons and its technology. Those weapons and technology are dangerous in the hands of a hostile nation.
So what do we do? How do you solve a problem like (North) Korea?
For decades, presidents have attempted to find an effective strategy with this growing threat — and for decades, there has seemed minimal, significant, positive movement. In fact, with each considered an incredibly provocative threat, North Korea has now conducted six nuclear tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 (2x), 2016, and 2017 — under presidents Bush 43, Obama, and Trump. They and the presidents before them have been united in their sobering concern.
Shockingly… fascinatingly… eerily — whatever the right word is — there now exists at least the possibility of progress. After years of trying to find the right approach — from Pres. Clinton saying he would prevent the country from developing a nuclear arsenal “even at the risk of war” to Bush 43’s positioning on the infamous “Axis of Evil” to Obama’s policy of “strategic patience” — only now has there seemed at least the possibility of progress. This comes amid Pres. Trump’s approach of “maximum pressure,” a policy bookended by a series of both questionable and sometimes, in my opinion, even queasy quotes.
Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, and Trump have each exchanged their share of insults. Now, however, Kim and Trump are set to sit down together soon — this month or next. This will be the first time a sitting U.S. President will have met the leader of North Korea since the Korean War. This is significant.
There exists a deep, deep challenge here, friends. Yes, this is significant, and yes, there exists only the possibility of progress. And in all candor, the war of words between Kim and Trump has seemingly, only caused concern by the watching world to increase. With no recent president able to permanently diffuse the growing threat, it is difficult for arguably most to imagine that Pres. Trump, with his tweets and unconventional approach, will be effective. Even more so, the question exists in the minds of many: will Trump do more damage than good? What if he makes the situation worse?
Once again, I find myself observing from a limited vantage point. Also, I find it incredibly difficult to find an unbiased perspective. As noted recently, when news was breaking that Kim and Trump would meet, when tuning into CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC, each had a completely different approach. Each was laced with bias.
I found some words this week that resonated with me, as I crave positive change but unsure if such can be delivered via the current — or any — administration. From Jeff Greenfield of Politico:
“… In the wake of the head-snapping developments on the Korean Peninsula—North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shaking hands across the 38th parallel, talk of a formal end to the war 68 years after the armistice, a meeting between Kim and Trump—voices far removed from the circle of Trump admirers, such as former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell, and diplomatic correspondents for the New York Times and the Washington Post, have offered the president measured praise. One of the president’s toughest critics, Rep. Adam Schiff, offered this backhanded compliment: ‘I think it’s more than fair to say that the combination of the president’s unpredictability and, indeed, his bellicosity had something to do with the North Koreans deciding to come to the table.’
Yes, it’s probably too early to sound the trumpets; yes, there is a history of North Korea playing Lucy with the football while the U.S., as Charlie Brown, whiffs badly. Yes, some will argue that Trump has already given Kim what he and his forebears have always wanted—the respect due a nuclear power—without North Korea having to put anything tangible on the table. But when you measure where we are now from where we were just several months ago—Trump threatening ‘fire and fury’ last August, belittling Kim as ‘Little Rocket Man’ in September as North Korea fired missiles into the Pacific, fears of war at a near-fever pitch—we are clearly in a better place. And it is at least plausible that the president’s words and deeds mattered…
It’s not hard to see why the President’s most zealous critics see him as they do…
But that feeling is all the more reason to retain a sense of perspective; to be able to consider seriously the proposition that this misbegotten president has somehow achieved an honest-to-God diplomatic success. After all, it won’t be long before he provides a whole new set of reasons to mourn the fact of his ascendance. If the possibility of a peaceful Korea becomes reality, let’s just let him have this one triumph.”
Wanting to hope… wanting North Korea to no longer be hostile… to no longer be capable of nuclear armament… regardless of who is President.