A Proposal To Move from Threats to Talks With North Korea

What might it take to create a breakthrough to resumption of US-North Korea talks? The experiences of prior diplomacy suggest an answer: a special emissary of the president to meet with Kim Jong-un. North Korean leaders not only want a reliable deterrent to what they fear is a potential US attack, or attempt at regime change. They also want respect, especially from the United States, which translates to recognition of the country’s status and the regime’s legitimacy – its “supreme dignity,” at one observer puts it.

Use of a special emissary – someone of recognized stature, with appropriate international credentials – would meet the North Koreans’ standard of dignity. The emissary has been successful in a number of dicey situations between North Korea and the United States. Jimmy Carter’s visit to Kim Il-sung in 1994 paved the way for the Agreed Framework, which pre-empted US preparations to attack a North Korean nuclear site. Madeleine Albright’s visit to Pyongyang in 2000 produced an importantly symbolic joint statement of “no hostile intent” when the visit was reciprocated by a top North Korean party leader. Former New Mexico Governor and UN ambassador Bill Richardson’s mission in 2007 recovered the remains of US servicemen killed during the Korean War. Former President Bill Clinton’s visit in June 2009 resulted in the release of two American journalists after Kim Jong-il pardoned them.

Richardson, who has visited North Korea several times, has written that building trust through personal relationships is central to effective engagement and negotiations. The Trump administration should take note of that. Trading threats invites deeper trouble, and often leads to deployments of force that produce disastrous miscalculations. Is President Trump up to the task of learning from the past and trusting to diplomacy rather than gunboats? There is no weakness in engaging an enemy, and there is wisdom and maturity in trying creative diplomacy before firing shots.

Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is professor emeritus of political science at Portland State University, and editor-in-chief of Asian Perspective. His most recent book isWill This Be China’s Century? A Skeptic’s View(Lynne Rienner, 2013).

  • There has to be a multilateral framework imitating the JCPOA. There’s no way to make it work without making it an international agreement which the US can’t just tear up at will.

    • Luchorpan

      Who enforces an “international agreement”? Are the EU and Canada going to invade the US if it breaks the deal? Will they raise sanctions against the US though the US agrees to trade at US disadvantage? Usually “global deals” mean the EU is boss.

      We should agree to not mock invade NK anymore.

  • Luchorpan

    This is a great idea: “A special emissary of the president to meet with Kim Jong-un.”

    I had expected Trump to do such a thing. He’s been told we wanted a “tough” president. I liked the guy who was condemning the Iraq War, wanting to get along with other countries.

    • MvGuy

      I’m with you Luchorpan.. I too liked candidate Trump’s very down to earth desire to get along. It’s a concept our founders viggorously embraced. Beyond mere comity now, there a far more exitential reality that our MAD nuclear reality demands, that is…. if we want to survive, personally, if we want our loved ones to survive and if we do not want abdegate

    • MvGuy

      What is going on with the comments these days??? I just now wrote a comment and posted it. I am absolutely positive that it was posted because now I check to see if the “edit” button has appeared. Not sure about some spelling, I then open a new tab. Then go back to the tab, and WTF… The comment which was a reply is gone….

      This is not the first time by far, that my comments have disappeared. Somestimes they have reappeared, sometimes NOT….. I have sometimes reposted them and they continued to remain up…. Sometimes those reposted comments vanish…

      All these comment issues foster an environment that discourages careful reasoned discourse and foster a one liner type of commentary.
      Why spend time writing thoughtful comments that are so easily sent to ?????? when one can just bark out base condensations. e.g. More $hit…

      If you (really?) want thoughtful commentary, it would help if aw.c-m treats our comments transparently, and there are fewer forced & mysterious disappearances.

      • The comment you’re presumably referring to (it begins with “I’m with you Luchorpan”) seems to be right there. I have no idea why you can’t see it, but it shows up as “approved” in my moderation queue, and I also see it on the site.

        • MvGuy

          I had always thought & understood that our comments are presumed innocent here and posted when we push the “post comment” button,tab. And that our comments are only removed if there is a complaint, or if someone like you with “executive” access notices some violation of the almost impossible to find guidelines,and or rules..

          Yes, I see the comment NOW… Bus when I wrote it 4 days ago at 1:00 AM. At about 1:15 I checked back to see if mine was still the ONLY comment. Instead of finding new comments, I found 0 comments. So then I wrote another comment a and posted it. Even at the time that I posted that new comment, now close to 1:30 AM there zero other comments.

          • MVGuy,

            There are some automatic filters, mostly for spam. In fact, the biggest part of my job isn’t reading the posted comments, it’s checking those filters to make sure they don’t stop anything that shouldn’t be stopped. Of course, sometimes they do grab something for no obvious reason, and sometimes they don’t grab fifteen copies of the same post flogging an opportunity to earn $97 an hour working for Google, or offering escort services in Dubai, or whatever.

            Rough guess: For every message that gets posted and that I then see and delete because it violates guidelines, there are five posts that get automatically held for moderation which shouldn’t have been and that I approve when I see them. And for every spam post that gets through, there are 50 that get caught in the filter and that I have to look at and make sure are actually spam.

            Basically I spend about two hours a day on that (in 15-30 minute chunks), not counting the time I spend just being a commenter myself.

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