North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, November  2017.

Sooner or later, the United States will either be in negotiations with North Korea or at war with North Korea. Given the unacceptable consequences of war, it is long past time to get realistic about diplomacy. That means not just exploring whether talks are worth trying, but also clarifying what each party would have to accept, and concede, in order to give diplomacy a chance to work.

The U.S. debate about policy options toward North Korea has long suffered from a lack of candor, on all sides. Calls for military strikes are based on the fallacy that Pyongyang can’t be deterred, a rationale offered by U.S. National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, among others. Pleas for diplomacy, meanwhile, rarely address the serious obstacles that make talks more likely to fail than to succeed. And claims that pressure will force North Korea to give away its prized nuclear

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  • MICHAEL FUCHS is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2013 to 2016.
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