Tags: trump | north korea | kim jong un | missiles

Trump's Out-of-the-Box Thinking Our Best Hope for Peace With North Korea

Trump's Out-of-the-Box Thinking Our Best Hope for Peace With North Korea

U.S. Donald Trump gives a press conference with the French president in Biarritz, south-west France on August 26, 2019, on the third day of the annual G7 Summit attended by the leaders of the world's seven richest democracies, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. (Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

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Tuesday, 27 August 2019 03:18 PM Current | Bio | Archive

The headlines out of North Korea seem distressing. The sixth short-range missile test in 3 weeks, dictator Kim Jong Un expressing "great satisfaction” over “mysterious and amazing success rates,” and a chorus of Foreign policy apparatchiks Monday-morning quarterbacking President Trump’s unprecedented North Korea policy.

The threat we very well know: Pyongyang has in fact conducted 9 weapon tests since February’s failed Hanoi summit with Trump. The North’s advancements this year include new types of short-range ballistic missiles (100-400 mile range) and even a new submarine able to carry a nuclear missile. The fact that many of these tests have violated United Nations Security Council resolutions is icing on the cake of Washington outrage.

In the midst of this we have President Trump blithely ignoring this saber rattling. Is this a sign that the President’s North Korea policy is failing (as the “experts” would have it), or is President Trump biding his time, and wisely deciding not to take the wily Kim’s bait?

Americans must consider that it is already amazing that we have gotten this far.

North Korea is one of the most intransigent regimes in world history. For 60 years, conventional diplomacy has been a spectacular failure, and has incrementally empowered this rogue regime. Aware that the Kim family has stacked the deck against any U.S. diplomatic “success,” the Administration abandoned convention and sought a personal relationship with the Great Leader. This diplomatic “Hail Mary” play, backed up by the U.S. intel community, was the least bad option amongst many bad diplomatic choices. Most of the time, talk is better than bombs dropping.

Slow-motion, bilateral negotiations must be kept in perspective. It’s hard to now fathom that 3 years ago, the very concept of a U.S. President just meeting with Kim was regarded as absolutely outlandish.

Trump’s silence on these missile launches demonstrate that the president has done his homework.

Provocations are standard part of the North Korea playbook — because they work. The Kim Family’s “Hermit Kingdom” has long had a history of such acts. These often-deadly encounters are initiated in the run-up or in the midst of diplomatic negotiations — to extract concessions and intimidate interlocutors. Historically, such gambits have worked when dealing with South Korea and the United States.

From 1995-2007, the United States provided $1 billion in assistance to North Korea, in the form of food aid and fuel exports — all to discourage North Korea’s nuclear program in the Six Party Talks (a lot of good that did!). Other aid programs have fitfully operated since then in a vain attempt to sate the North Korean thirst for extortion — under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.

Some such provocations, most notably the 2010 Cheonan Incident and Yeonpyeong Incident, resulted in heavy loss of life, and seemed timed to coincide with American-South Korean military exercises. While these bloody incidents demanded World reaction, the recent short/medium range missile launches are of a decidedly lower order — threatening, but not deadly. A Blue House raid these launches are not.

So the president’s “relative passivity” may be the equivalent of a parent ignoring a wayward child’s “acting out” as a tactic to draw attention and favor. The Kim family is used to hatred, fear, and contempt — but being ignored is a relatively new experience. Of course, the launches are an attempt to pressure Washington and Seoul over nuclear negotiations and joint military exercises, but the president refuses to add fuel to the fire.

This conscious act by the Administration is similar to the president’s claim to have cancelled at the last minute the recent planned Iranian missile strike. In that case, the president deprived the Iranian mullahs of a rallying point for their failing regime. The same thing is happening here — the levers which dictators have long wielded to ensure a predictable U.S. countermove have suddenly proven unreliable. This is the “strategic uncertainty” Trump long talked about on the Campaign Trail. For once, I find it refreshing to have other nations scratching their heads — and perhaps a bit fearful — at what the U.S. might do, instead of the other way around.

We must always remember that despite appearances, North Korea is not a complete monolith. Kim has a domestic audience — and local powerbrokers he must satisfy — so recent launches and bellicose pronunciations prove to his people that he is a strong leader, much like his father/grandfather — and not Trump’s poodle. These launches allow Kim to save face and hopefully empower him to negotiate productively with the U.S. in the future.

Provided Kim does not re-cross the threshold of lobbing Long Range Missiles over Japan, the Administration’s response will continue to be muted. The U.S. lack of rancor over these launches will enervate the North’s negotiation position. The wily Great Leader is aware that escalating these provocations past their present level will anger the U.S. President and force a response.

While U.S. negotiations to denuclearize North Korea is always going to be on shaky ground, I have been impressed by the Administration’s performance, and despite the naysayer’s criticism, Trump’s new approach is at least not embracing the failed practices of the past. His out-of-the-box thinking is our best hope for peace.

Scott Uehlinger is a retired CIA Station Chief and Naval Officer. A Russian speaker, he spent 12 years of his career abroad in the former Soviet Union. In addition to teaching at NYU, he is a frequent Newsmax TV and Fox Business TV commentator. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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ScottUehlinger
While U.S. negotiations to denuclearize North Korea is always going to be on shaky ground, I have been impressed by the Administration’s performance, and despite the naysayer’s criticism, Trump’s new approach is at least not embracing the failed practices of the past.
trump, north korea, kim jong un, missiles
911
2019-18-27
Tuesday, 27 August 2019 03:18 PM
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