According to Jessica Lee, writing at The National Interest, North Korea and the United States are at a crossroads. Lee wonders if the president may use the State of the Union address to chart a new course for American/North Korean relations. She writes (abridged):
North Korea did not launch a long-range missile over Christmas or New Year’s Day. Instead, it released a summary of the 5th Plenary Meeting, including a speech by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The threat of a “new strategic weapon” notwithstanding, the meeting was notable primarily for its restrained nature.
The question is whether the United States will also exercise restraint in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear program, rather than needlessly (debatable) escalate tension as it recently did in the Middle East by assassinating Iran’s top general Qassim Suleimani.
Any deal with North Korea will require cooperation with U.S. ally South Korea.
The Trump administration should drop its excessive demands for the burden-sharing agreement in favor of a more realistic request that is compatible with Seoul’s position.
Antagonizing South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a time of historic opportunity to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula is counterproductive, illogical, and harmful to the long-term interest of the United States in East Asia.
Eighteen months after the Singapore Declaration, North Korea and the United States are at a crossroads.
North Korea has shown that it remains willing –however hesitantly — to change its behavior commensurate to the United States changing its stance. Now more than ever before, U.S. leaders must show that the United States will choose the path of dialogue and diplomacy with North Korea.
Jessica Lee is a Senior Research Fellow in the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute.
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