By Richard Falk* and David Krieger**
TFF PressInfo # 420
June 30, 2017
This jointly authored essay was initially published in The Hill on May 30, 2017 under the title, “Averting the Ticking Time Bomb of Nukes in North Korea.” We did not choose such a title that is doubly misleading: our contention is not that North Korea is the core of the problem, but rather the retention of nuclear weapons by all of the states pose both crises in the context of counter-proliferation geopolitics and with respect to the possession, deployment, and development of the weaponry itself; a second objection is with the title given the piece by editors at The Hill.
While acknowledging the practice of media outlets to decide on titles without seeking prior approval from authors, this title is particularly objectionable. The term ‘nukes’ gives an almost friendly shorthand to these most horrific of weapons, and strikes a tone that trivializes what should be regarded at all times with solemnity.
Alarmingly, tensions between the United States and North Korea have again reached crisis proportions. The United States wants North Korea to curtail any further development of its nuclear weapons program, as well as to stop testing its missiles. North Korea evidently seeks to bolster its security by acquiring a sufficiently robust deterrent capability to discourage an attack by the United States.
The unpredictable leaders of both countries are pursuing extremely provocative and destabilizing patterns of behavior. Where such a dangerous interaction leads no one can now foresee. The risk of this tense situation spiralling out of control should not be minimized.
It is urgent that all governments concerned make a sober reassessment in a timely manner. The following questions need to be addressed:
• What can be done to defuse this escalating crisis?
• What should be done to prevent further crises in the future?
• What could be learned from recurrent crises involving nuclear weapons states?
It is discouraging that the White House continues to rely mainly on threat diplomacy. It has not worked in responding to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions for the past few decades, and it is crucial to try a different approach.
Currently, there are mixed signals that such a shift may be underway. President Trump has turned to China, imploring that it use its leverage to induce Kim Jong-un to back down, and has even mentioned the possibility of inviting Kim for crisis-resolving talks. Also relevant and hopeful is the election of Moon Jae-in as the new president of South Korea, and his insistent calls for improved relations with the North.
In the end, no reasonable person would opt for another war on the Korean Peninsula. The only rational alternative is diplomacy. But what kind of diplomacy?
American reliance on threat and punitive diplomacy has never succeeded in the past and is almost certain to fail now. We assuredly need diplomacy, but of a different character.
It is time to abandon coercive diplomacy and develop an approach that can be described as restorative diplomacy. Coercive diplomacy relies on a zero/sum calculus consisting of military threats, sanctions, and a variety of punitive measures. Read More »