TFF Board member
June 24, 2018
• At last, the leader of North Korea, DPRK, has been “allowed” to meet in person with the US president!
Since the time of the grandfather of the present leader of North Korean leader that country has had three major objectives in its foreign policy:
1. A peace agreement;
2. A recognition of the leader of the country with respect, or, concretely, a meeting with the US president;
3. Guarantees of peace and security.
In recent years there is also a demand for a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula. These demands were repeated to us at our two visits to to Pyongyang, DPRK, as representatives of IPPNW, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and in discussions with North Korean representatives when we have met them in other countries.
In 1972 President Nixon went to Beijing. No American president had been to Communist China before. No liberal, democratic president could have done what the conservative republican Nixon did. That would have been perceived as a sign of weakness.
Now President Trump has made “A Nixon”. He has shown recognition and respect to Mr Kim Jong-un. He has agreed to stop the military manoeuvres by the US and South Korea, which North Korea has always seen a provocative; he has declared that the US wants to work for a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula and a peace agreement.
President Obama could not have done this. That would have been regarded as a sign of weakness.
Now, what’s next?
During our conversations, North Korean politicians have demanded the removal of nuclear weapons from South Korea. As they were withdrawn thirty years ago that demand is easily met.
Perhaps “denuclearization” also means that no nuclear submarines should be allowed in South Korean harbours. That’s an easy one, too: US nukes have no need for harbours in South Korea.
However, it would also imply that USA should end the agreement to defend South Korea with nuclear weapons, if need be. That must wait.
The day North Korea has dismantled its last nuclear weapon, the US “Nuclear Umbrella” can be folded. There is no reason the US should not agree: It can defend South Korean territory without nuclear weapons. We will not reach this point in several years, but the parties could agree that a nuclear weapons-free zone including the whole of the Korean peninsula (and maybe Mongolia) should be the ultimate goal.
But here comes the core issue:
Will North Korea really trust the intentions and promises of the US to such a degree that they will dismantle the nuclear program?
In 1999, the DPRK accepted an agreement worked out by ex-president Carter for President Clinton It included a complete halt of the nuclear weapons program. Regrettably, President George W. Bush, as one of his first acts as president, simply tore up the agreement.
Later he named North Korea a member of the “Axis of Evil”.
The DPRK has also broken agreements regarding nuclear weapons.
The US’ unprovoked break with the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA) will give the DPRK leaders something to think deeply about.
The DPRK and the US will have to work hard to develop mutual trust. For trust to grow, there is a need to go step-by-step, with mutual compromises.
The DPRK has so far given most, promising to give up its nuclear weapons program. For the US, ending at least the most provocative the military exercises is easy, being the much stronger party in what is a very a-symmetric conflict.
Generosity from the US will be needed. It could provide much needed farming equipment and farming expertise. Petrol, medicines and medical equipment are essential. The US food aid in 1997 has not been forgotten in Pyongyang. Exchange of students and professionals would have a lasting impact.
In summary, the North Korea/US nuclear crisis brings us several lessons regarding nuclear weapons:
• Nuclear weapons do not prevent nuclear proliferation.
• Nuclear weapons can cause war. Without the “fake threat” of a nuclear attack on Manhattan from Iraq, the US public would probably not have accepted the war against Iraq. If the DPRK had not obtained nuclear weapons, the country would not have been threatened with an attack, nuclear or non-nuclear.
• Nuclear weapons can bring high status to the leader of a country
• Nuclear weapons, once acquired, are hard to give up.
We should be happy that the crisis between the US and North Korea is over. For the time being.
And we must not abandon hope when the first obstacles turn up.