Oliver Sawbridge sets out eight steps the West can take to help reduce the threat posed by North Korea and pull us back from the brink of nuclear war.
A nuclear-armed North Korea presents the Trump administration with one of its most urgent foreign policy and security challenges. Previous attempts to denuclearise North Korea, including incentives, presidential assurances, security guarantees, sanctions, threats and isolation, have not worked. As a result, America now faces a North Korea of growing boldness and lethality.
As it currently stands, North Korea could target South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region with nuclear tipped ballistic missiles. Expert David Wright of the Union of Concerned Scientists claims that a recently tested Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) revealed potential to reach Alaska. A threat, therefore, now exists to the US itself in addition to northeast Asia and America’s key allies and military bases in the region.
The Trump administration’s current policies and announcements to curb the North Korean threat are confused, contradictory, and unhelpful. A recommended course of action includes:
1. Increasing the scope and frequency of military exercises that include other UN member nations for a more multi-lateral, unified approach;
2. Intensifying UN sanctions on Pyongyang to the level formerly applied to Iran. Secondary sanctions should also be placed upon third country entities including Chinese companies that trade nuclear weapon materials with North Korea;
3. Intensifying UN sanctions on Pyongyang to the level formerly applied to Iran. Secondary sanctions should also be placed upon third country entities, including Chinese companies that trade nuclear weapon components with North Korea;
4. Pursuing dialogue with Beijing to get them to use their laws to curb Chinese entities trading sanctioned goods with North Korea;
5. Closing North Korean overseas trading offices when they violate sanctions;
6. Encouraging the international community to intensify inspection of North-Korean aircraft and vessels to curb the flow of materials needed to build nuclear weapons;
7. Invest in training more Korean-speaking diplomats and government officials so that they can engage with Korean-speaking business communities in various countries to gain access to information about goods North Korea is attempting to procure;
8. Discuss the possibility of replacing the Korean War Armistice with a Peace Treaty, which would include denuclearisation.
US policy should make clear that it wishes to resume meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang and that it stands by its past commitments to normalise ties with a non-nuclear North Korea. This should include commitments to the integrity of its borders and that it is not seeking regime change.
North Korea has bedevilled US foreign policy for twenty years. Diplomacy and economic sanctions have failed thus far and military intervention would be catastrophic. There is no alternative to continuing the first two recommendations but until China and Russia come on side, the omens aren’t promising.