Stop threatening North Korea and negotiate
Senator of War, Lindsey Graham’s racist insanity
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 fearing a possible world war. After a 67-yearlong conflict, it is long past time for a change in U.S. policy. Threatening military action and leveling more sanctions clearly is not working.
In May, South Koreans elected a new president, Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, who is committed to easing tensions with the North. South Koreans chose Moon because they want cross-border dialogue, with or without the cooperation of the U.S.
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. A comment by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham last month stands as a sharp contrast to such an approach. President Trump should reject it.
In an interview on NBC, Graham suggested the U.S. may need to attack North Korea. “It would be terrible but the war would be over there, wouldn’t be here,” Graham said in an interview on NBC. “It would be bad for the Korean Peninsula. It would be bad for China. It would be bad for Japan, be bad for South Korea. It would be the end of North Korea. But what it would not do is hit America and the only way it could ever come to America is with a missile.”
Asked if he would support a preemptive strike on the North, Graham said, “If that’s what it would take,” to stop North Korea from acquiring the capability to strike the U.S.
Such a statement is arrogant, irresponsible and reckless. As might be expected, the people of South Korea and Japan reacted in disgust and distrust.
In later April, an egregious display of disrespect for South Koreans, the U.S. military rushed to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) missile defense system instead of waiting to confer with the incoming president. South Koreans rightly feel THAAD puts them in greater danger, not less, as it escalates tensions with both China and North Korea.
Recently, Trump talked of military action and days later suggested he might be willing to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader. In April, after discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at Mar-A-Lago, Trump told reporters, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.” What he was thinking of as a unilateral solution, he didn’t say. However, he added “it won’t be good for anyone.”
Interestingly, Moon thinks Trump is flexible. “I believe President Trump is more reasonable than he is generally perceived,” Moon told a Washington Post reporter prior to the election. “President Trump uses strong rhetoric toward North Korea, but, during the election campaign, he also said he could talk over a burger with Kim Jong Un. I am for that kind of pragmatic approach to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.”
In line with Moon’s approach the U.S. should consider the following confidence building measures to test North Korea’s response. First, in consultation with South Korea, open the possibility of direct meetings between North Korean and U.S. representatives. Experts on North Korea point to the refusal of the U.S. to meet face to face with North Korean leaders as a roadblock. Understandably, this is a delicate issue for a U.S. administration, given the threatening rhetoric from the North. Perhaps employing non-state facilitators would provide a face-saving bridge for all parties.
In addition, the U.S. should offer to negotiate a permanent peace agreement to replace the 1953 armistice, ease sanctions and curtail the provocative U.S. – South Korean military exercises.
In 2015, an international group of 30 prominent women leaders visited North Korea. After a six-day visit they planned a symbolic walk across the DMZ into South Korea, calling it the International Women’s Walk for Peace and Reunification of Korea. The South Korean government would not approve the walk, but agreed to let them take a bus across the Unification Bridge.
U.S. media hardly mentioned this overture for peace and when they did, criticized the women for naively being used as propaganda by the North. Compared to the bellicose, irrational statement of Senator Graham’s, the Women’s Walk is an example of real diplomacy, not naiveté.
Might the steps outlined here succeed? We won’t know until we try.
NOTE: Please see the U.S. publication, Korean Quarterly, for excellent reporting and analysis of the history of the Korean conflict and contemporary events . I am indebted to this publication as a resource. URL: http://www.koreanquarterly.org/About.html.