If the international community really wants to resolve the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and give the North Korean people a chance to rejoin the community of nations, a peace treaty that gives North Korea the assurances it needs for its survival is the first — not the last — step.
Why are discussions for a peace treaty with North Korea not an option to resolve the extraordinarily dangerous tensions on the Korean peninsula? At long last, experts with long experience with the North Koreans are publicly calling for these negotiations.
Many in the Washington beltway think-tanks finally acknowledge that the Obama policy of “strategic patience” did not result in a slow down in the North Korean nuclear weapon and missile programs but in fact provided room for the North Koreans to expand their research and testing of both nuclear weapon and missile technology. They acknowledge that the U.S. government must deal with the reality that sanctions, as much as the U.S. government had hoped would have some effect on the North Korean government, have not slowed the programs and that negotiations are needed.
William Perry, Secretary of Defense from 1994-1997 during talks with the North Koreans that led to the Agreed Framework, wrote in an OPED on January 6, 2017, for the Washington Post:
“During my discussions and negotiations with members of the North Korean government, I have found that they are not irrational, nor do they have the objective of achieving martyrdom. Their goals, in order of priority, are: preserving the Kim dynasty, gaining international respect and improving their economy.”I believe it is time to try diplomacy that would actually have a chance to succeed. We lost the opportunity to negotiate with a non-nuclear North Korea when we cut off negotiations in 2001, before it had a nuclear arsenal. The most we can reasonably expect today is an agreement that lowers the dangers of that arsenal. The goals would be an agreement with Pyongyang to not export nuclear technology, to conduct no further nuclear testing and to conduct no further ICBM testing. These goals are worth achieving and, if we succeed, could be the basis for a later discussion of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.”
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Dr. Siegfried S. Hecker, an expert on the North Korean nuclear program, emeritus director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (U.S. nuclear program), and the last U.S. citizen to see part of the North Korean nuclear program in 2010, also called for talking with the North Korean government. In a January 12, 2017, OPED in the New York Times, Hecker wrote:
“Mr. Trump should send a presidential envoy to North Korea. Talking is not a reward or a concession to Pyongyang and should not be construed as signaling acceptance of a nuclear-armed North Korea. Mr. Trump has little to lose by talking. He can risk the domestic political downside of appearing to appease the North. He would most likely get China’s support, which is crucial because Beijing prefers talking to more sanctions. He would also probably get support for bilateral talks from Seoul, Tokyo and Moscow.”By talking, and especially by listening, the Trump administration may learn more about the North’s security concerns. It would allow Washington to signal the strength of its resolve to protect its allies and express its concerns about human rights abuses, as well as to demonstrate its openness to pragmatic, balanced progress. Talking will help inform a better negotiating strategy that may eventually convince the young leader that his country and his regime are better off without nuclear weapons.”
John Dulury, in the March-April 2017 issue of Foreign Affairs, in an article titled: “Trump and North Korea-Reviving the Art of the Deal,” said…
“If the United States really hopes to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula, it should stop looking for ways to stifle North Korea’s economy and undermine Kim Jong Un’s regime and start finding ways to make Pyongyang feel more secure. This might sound counterintuitive, given North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and human rights record. But consider this: North Korea will start focusing on its prosperity instead of its self-preservation only once it no longer has to worry about its own destruction. And North Korea will consider surrendering its nuclear deterrent only once it feels secure and prosperous and is economically integrated into Northeast Asia.”
“With Kim now feeling far safer at home (because of economic progress despite international sanctions), the United States needs to help him find a nonnuclear way to feel secure along his borders. A comprehensive deal is the best way to accomplish this, but it will require direct dialogue with Pyongyang. Trump should start by holding back-channel talks. If those make enough progress, he should then send an envoy to Pyongyang, who could negotiate a nuclear freeze (and, perhaps, as a goodwill gesture on the part of Pyongyang, secure the release of the two U.S. citizens imprisoned in North Korea). Trump could then initiate high-level talks that would culminate in a meeting between Kim and himself.”
The National Committee on American Foreign Policy is attempting to hold informal talks with the North Korean government in March 2017. Since 2003, the committee has sponsored other talks in Germany and Malaysia. The committee requested the Trump administration to allow the talks to be held on U.S. soil, however, as with the Obama administration, the Trump administration did not issue visas for a North Korean delegation to come to the U.S. due to the continuation of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and the holding of two Americans in North Korea. A peace treaty is the key to having peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Virtually unknown to the American public due to the media blackout on anything positive from North Korea is the North Korean annual request for negotiations for a peace treaty to replace the armistice that was signed to end the Korean War in 1953, 64 years ago. In January 2016, as in many previous years, the North Korean government specifically stated that it would end its nuclear testing if the U.S. and South Korea would end military exercises and sign a peace treaty. The U.S. responded that until North Korea ends its nuclear weapons program, the U.S. would not talk about a peace treaty. So there is a deadlock!!
Yet, it is not rational to think that the North Korean government will stop its nuclear weapons and missile testing until they are guaranteed that the United States will not attack them and has signed a peace treaty to that effect. The North Korean government feels their nuclear weapons program is what is keeping the U.S. from adding North Korea to its list of targeted attempts at violent regime change.
Having seen what has happened to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen under the Bush and Obama administrations, the North Korean government will not give up what it perceives to be its major deterrent to an attack by the U.S. and South Korea — its small but growing nuclear weapons program.
And the U.S. is doing nothing to signal anything but regime change is its policy. The annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises practice military operational plans with the mission of the overthrow of the North Korean government. The not so subtle title of the 2016 exercises of “Decapitation” did not give the North Koreans any indication that U.S. policy is anything but regime change.
Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more…) www.voicesofconscience.com