Our North Korea Policy: Appease, Embolden. Repeat.
Regardless of what course President Trump chooses in dealing with the threat from North Korea, there is an important lesson we can and should learn from this foreign policy disaster: appeasing our enemies is suicidal.
Have a look at the following developments in U.S. policy toward the nuclear-armed North Korea, described with the help of New York Times headlines. Let me know if you can spot a pattern.
1994: U.S. and North Korea Sign Pact to End Nuclear Dispute: “[As part of the deal] an international consortium will replace North Korea’s current graphite nuclear reactors with new light-water reactors…. The United States also agreed to low-level diplomatic ties with North Korea.”
2005: North Korea Says It Will Abandon Nuclear Effort: “[As part of the deal, foreign powers] said they would provide aid, diplomatic assurances and security guarantees and consider North Korea’s demands for a light-water nuclear reactor.”
2006: North Korea Will Resume Nuclear Talks [with West]
2007: In Shift, Accord on North Korea Seems to Be Set: “[As part of the deal] the oil and aid for North Korea would be provided by South Korea, China and the United States.”
2012: North Korea Agrees to Curb Nuclear Work; U.S. Offers Aid: “[As part of the deal, the U.S.] pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation.”
Can you project what might happen next? Here are my thoughts, from a few years back. In a nutshell: Appease, Embolden. Repeat.
You can read that entire analysis here. And in that same vein, I would like to highlight Elan’s op-ed from 2006 in which he elaborates on the hopelessly self-destructive diplomacy with North Korea:
After decades of chasing nuclear weapons, North Korea is on the brink of success. Worse yet, it may already have the means of mounting an attack against us. According to news reports, North Korea is about to test-fire a powerful long-range missile capable of threatening not only South Korea and Japan, but also the continental United States.
To end this nuclear stand-off without bloodshed, many people believe that we must restart the stalled negotiations with North Korea and engage in diplomacy. Pitched as levelheaded and practical, this approach would culminate in a supposedly win-win deal: the North promises to halt its nuclear program in exchange for a combination of economic and diplomatic concessions from the West.
But such a shameful deal, like all previous ones, would reward the North for its aggression and strengthen it into a worse menace. North Korea has become a significant threat precisely because we have appeased it for years with boatloads of oil, food and money.
Some twenty years ago, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions became glaringly obvious. The West pretended that this hostile dictatorship would honor a treaty banning nuclear weapons. To get its signature took years of Western groveling and concessions. The North’s promises to halt its nuclear program were predictably hollow. By 1993, after preventing required inspections of its nuclear facilities, Pyongyang announced its intention to withdraw from the treaty. Our response? More “diplomacy” — in the form of the “Agreed Framework,” brokered in 1994.
For agreeing to freeze its nuclear program, North Korea was offered two light-water nuclear reactors (putatively for generating electricity) and, until the reactors were operational, 500,000 metric tons of oil annually (nearly half its annual needs). The United States, along with Japan and South Korea, paid for these lavish gifts. During these years of apparent tranquility, our handouts and assurances of security buoyed North Korea as it furtively completed two reactors capable of yielding weapons-grade fuel. By 2003 — when the North actually did withdraw from the nuclear treaty — it was clear that Pyongyang had continued secretly to develop weapons-capable nuclear technology.
The pattern of America’s suicidal diplomacy is clear: the North threatens us, we respond with negotiations, gifts and concessions, and it emerges with even greater belligerence.
Be sure to read the whole article here.