Trump And Kim Jong Un – Sailing On Uncharted Waters

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Secretary of State Designate and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo is certainly knowledgeable of Kim’s position and the nature of relations he wants to forge with South Korea and other states in the area. Although Pompeo is a hard-liner and extremely suspicious of the North Korean leader, he must seize this historic opportunity to forge a lasting agreement.

The wild card here is the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor, who is known for his extreme views. He has advocated the abrogation of the Iran deal and the bombing of North Korea to destroy its nuclear arsenals, which could precipitate a horrific war and cause the death of hundreds of thousands of North and South Koreans, Japanese, and Americans, and potentially lead to a much wider regional war.

Pompeo, with the support of Secretary of Defense Mattis, who deeply believes in a diplomatic solution and enjoys Trump’s confidence, must disabuse Bolton and persuade Trump that force against North Korea will invite disaster. Pompeo must, however, be realistic about what can initially be achieved, and build on it to reach a lasting agreement. For this reason, he must come to the negotiating table with the understanding that a transitional period of five to seven years will be necessary, during which both sides undertake confidence-building measures to nurture trust and reach interim agreements that deal with various aspects of the conflict, which will eventually lead to denuclearization.

Any initial agreement must meet both sides’ initial demands: for North Korea, the lifting of sanctions, albeit gradually, is a central issue, without which it will have no reason to enter any negotiation. For the US, the immediate cessation of any nuclear testing and freezing further development of its intercontinental missiles is the prerequisite to the continuation of the negotiating process.

The talk of war against North Korea, as Bolton has been advocating, must be removed from the lexicon because it is beyond insanity. The solution lies with diplomacy and diplomacy alone, which must be pursued especially now that the conditions to reach an agreement are more favorable than any time before.

The changing dynamic of the conflict in favor of Kim, and Trump’s aspiration to reach an agreement that his predecessor failed to achieve, offer a historic opportunity to end a 70-year-old conflict that neither leader can afford to squander.

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Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for
Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and
Middle Eastern studies.

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