Letter: North Korea’s games

Published: 6/4/2018 12:01:07 AM

Regardless of what Kim Jong-un promises the Trump administration, North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons. Pyongyang’s atomic arsenal is an indispensable bulwark of the regime’s existence.

Above all else, the North Korean government wants to survive. Though morally abhorrent, it is coldly rational – neither crazy nor unintelligent. All of Kim Jong-un’s actions are rooted in his determination to preserve his regime. As North Korea experiments with economic reforms, Kim also dreams of a unified peninsula under North Korean-control someday.

With this understanding, North Korean pledges on “denuclearization” are a ruse – a feint to take advantage of the United States for the sake of propaganda and economic concessions. Kim Jong-un badly wants a summit with the U.S. president because it will prove an unprecedented propaganda victory.

Yet Washington believes it has brought North Korea to the negotiating table through brinkmanship diplomacy – through convincing Kim that the Trump administration might attack, that Pyongyang must exchange its nuclear weapons for security guarantees. This is sheer fallacy, a dangerous misinterpretation. North Korean diplomacy remains a tool of Kim Jong-un’s agency and his determination to achieve larger objectives – not only his presumed insecurity. For the immediate future, Kim seeks to diminish the U.S. military threat and keep his nuclear weapons. The brutal dictator will likely succeed.

The United States must recognize that North Korea will never give in to American demands. The United States must seek a more realistic form of détente with that dangerous foe.




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