Pre-release: The Right Way to Coerce North Korea While Avoiding War

“When it comes to North Korea, U.S. President Donald Trump’s policies have been whiplash inducing,” write Georgetown University Professor Victor Cha and Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Fellow Katrin Fraser Katz in a pre-released essay from the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs. “Trump’s newfound enthusiasm for diplomacy has temporarily lowered the temperature on the Korean Peninsula, but it also underlines a bigger question: Does the United States have a strategy for North Korea, or are these twists and turns merely the whims of a temperamental president?”

The authors concede that “An unprecedented summit between the U.S. and North Korean leaders could indeed bring lasting peace to Asia.” But, they warn, “if negotiations fail, the administration might conclude that a military strike is the only way forward, greatly increasing the chance of war.”

Cha (who was recently under consideration to serve as U.S. ambassador to South Korea under Trump) and Katz recommend that the administration “must ground its summit diplomacy and overall approach to North Korea in a strategy of comprehensive coercion that clearly defines U.S. objectives, leverages Washington’s most effective diplomatic and military tools, and aligns its Korea policy with the broader U.S. strategy in Asia.”

The authors say that “Washington must continue to strengthen the global coalition that it has mustered in its highly successful sanctions program,” as well as “buttress this sanctions campaign with a statement on nonproliferation” and “push for a counterproliferation coalition that shares intelligence about maritime nuclear smuggling and cooperates on law enforcement.”

Cha and Katz conclude, “In the land of lousy options, no plan is perfect. But some are demonstrably better than others. A comprehensive coercion strategy for denuclearization diplomacy would significantly increase the pressure on North Korea. … And it would strengthen the United States’ hand at the negotiating table in a way that primed Washington for success, but also prepared it for failure.”

The essay is available now at ForeignAffairs.com, and the full issue posts on April 17. This link bypasses the paywall on ForeignAffairs.com for one month following the release date. We encourage journalists to share with their audiences.

 

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