Promote Diplomacy with North Korea

“The Only Realistic Option”

On June 28, 2017, six experts on North Korea including former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Secretary of State George Shultz sent a letter to President Trump expressing their belief that diplomacy is “the only realistic option to reduce dangers resulting from the current high state of tensions and prevent North Korea’s ongoing development and potential use of nuclear weapons.”

The successful nuclear agreement with Iran is a prime example of the efficacy of nuclear diplomacy, even with an adversary. Since it’s implementation in January 2016, the Iran accord has been keeping us safe by verifiably blocking all of Iran’s potential pathways to obtaining nuclear weapons. The same focused diplomacy could and should be applied to talks with North Korea.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration seems to have put diplomacy on the back burner, opting instead for dangerous threats of preemptive military force, and more coercive sanctions. While sanctions can play a role in encouraging a country to come to the negotiating table, they also have a terrible track record in getting countries to change their behavior without a serious diplomatic effort behind them. That was the case with Iran for example, which significantly increased its uranium enrichment during a decade-long sanctions ramp up. Military posturing and threats are even less effective, and lead to reciprocal threats and escalations that increase the risk of accidental and intentional conflict.

Such a conflict should be avoided at all costs. Even a limited military strike would very likely lead to all out war with North Korea, which would imperil millions of lives. South Korea’s capital city of Seoul and the surrounding area has a population of roughly 25 million people, who are all in range of North Korea’s significant artillery. A study from 2012 estimated that 64,000 people could be killed by artillery in the first day of fighting. The U.S. has roughly 28,500 soldiers stationed in South Korea, some of whom would be in range of the North’s artillery, and many of whom would be called upon to fight. Since much of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is hidden, a preemptive strike would very likely fail to take out all of the North’s nuclear capabilities, so North Korea could decide to retaliate with nuclear weapons.

It’s time to try diplomacy without preconditions. Successful diplomacy is about open-minded dialogue, not making demands. Offering to come to the negotiating table does not validate North Korea’s nuclear program or condone its behavior, but it does open the possibility that we can put a pause on North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, and perhaps down the road, work towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula. Peace Action is lobbying Congress, helping to shape the media narrative, and mobilizing grassroots activists to support diplomacy and oppose war with North Korea. Click here to take action today and urge your members of Congress to join our call for direct diplomacy with North Korea, and against further threats of war.

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