Reasons to Talk To North Korea–Aggregated from the New York Times

Thought this was pretty important/interesting.

As officials in charge of American policy toward North Korea during the Clinton and Obama administrations, we met last month in Europe with senior representatives of the North Korean government to discuss relations between our countries. We believe that the current impasse, which only buys time for North Korea to develop its nuclear program, is unstable and that matters will only get worse if not addressed directly. It’s time for the Obama administration to reopen dialogue with Pyongyang.

The United States government has not had direct contact with a senior North Korean official for more than a year. Our private and unofficial meetings were an important opportunity to review the state of the regime’s thinking on bilateral relations and its willingness to give up its nuclear weapons program. The North Koreans — who are longtime participants in government-to-government talks and well plugged-in to their country’s leadership — stated that if dialogue were to resume, their nuclear weapons program would be on the negotiating table. They provided preliminary thinking on a phased approach that would start with a freeze of their program and end with denuclearization.

That process, they said, would have to include steps by America, such as the conclusion of a peace treaty to replace the temporary armistice that ended the Korean War, and the lifting of economic sanctions imposed on the North by the United States since the end of that war.

We stressed that Pyongyang needs to indicate clearly the concrete steps it would take both before and immediately after a return to the negotiating table. The North Koreans told us that they were prepared to enter talks without preconditions and would consider some confidence-building measures once talks begin.

The Obama administration says that the North must take steps to demonstrate its seriousness about denuclearization before, not after, dialogue resumes. Washington also has in mind steps that appear to be more far-reaching than those the North Koreans are considering, such as a moratorium on long-range rocket tests. Pyongyang wrecked a February 2012 agreement by launching a rocket later that year, claiming that space launches were allowed.

Overall, the Obama administration’s position reflects a healthy skepticism about the North Koreans, particularly given what happened in 2012.

Still, here we sit, with multiple dangers threatening both countries and the region, while Pyongyang moves ahead with its nuclear program. Whatever risks might be associated with new talks, they are less than those that come with doing nothing. Pyongyang’s nuclear stockpile will continue to expand, the North will continue to perfect its missile delivery systems, the danger of weapons-of-mass-destruction exports will grow, and the threat to U.S. allies will increase.

We recognize the pitfalls of negotiating with Pyongyang. The North Koreans have not abided by many of their past commitments. The United States should enter talks with the North with its eyes wide open.

While Washington is right to press Beijing to take a firmer hand with Pyongyang given their close ties with the North, we would be wrong to assume that the Chinese will solve this problem for us. The Chinese have their own concerns. They don’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons, but they also don’t want North Korea to collapse under the weight of sanctions.

It is in the interests of both Pyongyang and Washington to show the flexibility needed to jump-start discussions. The United States should relax its requirement that North Korea meet its demands before any dialogue begins. Pyongyang should be ready to take steps not only at the very beginning of talks but also beforehand.

A confidence-building step that Pyongyang could take would be to release Kenneth Bae, a U.S. citizen held in a North Korean prison. It should follow up with other moves like a moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and a suspension of operations at its main nuclear facility intended to produce bomb-making material, to be verified by international inspectors. Another important step by the North would be an end to missile tests, including “space launch vehicles.” Finally, Pyongyang should reaffirm the pledge to denuclearize that it made in a 2005 agreement among the United States, China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia and Japan.

Once talks begin, Washington should embrace two guiding principles. First, any new agreements must be based on “simultaneous, verified steps.” That approach means no unilateral concessions or moves but rather moving forward in lock step. Second, America should move quickly to talks on a peace treaty that formally ends the Korean War and improves our bilateral relationship, which are among the North’s main concerns.

Although President Obama and his national security team are busy with issues far from the Korean Peninsula, we believe it is imperative that the United States turn its attention to quickly resolving this dangerous situation.

Stephen W. Bosworth and Robert L. Gallucci were responsible for negotiations with North Korea during the first Obama and Clinton administrations, respectively. Mr. Bosworth is a senior fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. Mr. Gallucci is president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


I thought it was important to include the entire article, to get the full context of what Mr. Bosworth and Mr. Gallucci are saying. They offer excellent points and experience that I do not have to this discussion.

Should the United States talk to North Korea? Yes, for many of the reasons outlined by these two, for lack of a better word, experts.

The part I take issue with is solely wanting to orchestrate these talks as a means to dismantle a weapons program. North Korea, like most other countries, have a weapons program. The difference, outside of the threats, is that the U.S. has no control, which as Bosworth and Gallucci pointed out makes North Korea a threat.

The reason for talk and betterment of  a relationship with North Korea, should be to help both countries economically. Bloomberg reported that Indonesia has begun meeting with officials from North Korea in order to foster trade, a main motivation for this is the industrial park partnership between South and North Korea, which have been expected to bring economic gains for both countries.  If the United States could use its relationship with South Korea, and this formed partnership with North Korea to form a better relationship, then perhaps Kenneth Bae could  be let free.

What Bosworth and Galluci stressed is true, in order for this to work ,”both Pyongyang and Washington to show the flexibility needed to jump-start discussions.” This can not be, as it has been, a meeting of demands.

Discussions need to happen.

This can not be a contest of “who will give up last” because everyone involved will lose.


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