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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Experts are guiding the U.S. to the wrong policy on North Korea: we must not accept Kim’s nuclear-weapon-program

Distinguished North Korea experts Jeffrey Lewis, in 2022, followed by John Delury, in 2024, published articles of the same tone in the New York Times. Both authors argue that accepting North Korea as a de jure nuclear weapon state and providing economic assistance would not only alleviate, but end its armed provocation, and also hold back a further solidification of its nuclear arsenal.

The authors’ rationale can be summarized in three points.

  1. Lewis and Delury acknowledge that thirty years of U.S. policy based upon a choice between a relationship with the U.S. versus isolation with nuclear weapons has not only failed but was also not able to prevent the continued development of North Korea’s arsenal.
  2. Both authors state that former President Donald Trump’s attempts to achieve the DPRK’s denuclearization with a trade of nuclear weapons in return for economic assistance have failed. Delury states that “a rare opportunity was wasted” as a result of Mr. Trump’s demand that Kim completely denuclearize.
  3. Lewis and Delury both argue that accepting the DPRK as a de jure nuclear-weapon state and providing economic assistance to the Kim regime will ease the North Korean threat, normalize the U.S.-North Korea relationship, and halt further expansion of the nuclear arsenal.

Their arguments are based on false premises and are therefore untenable.

First, de jure acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapon state and the provision of economic aid will not normalize DPRK-U.S. relations, alleviate the threat posed by Kim Jong-un, or end the North Korean nuclear weapon program.

The DPRK’s hostile foreign policy is rooted in its ideology and class struggle, and not in its weapons of mass destruction. The deep-rooted hostile policy towards the U.S. and South Korea has endured since the division of Korea at the end of World War II, culminating in the invasion of the South by the North in 1950, and persisted even after the armistice agreement between the Koreas in 1953. As we have witnessed, the acute struggle between the U.S.-led Western Bloc and the Soviet-led Eastern Bloc during the Cold War, an acrimonious confrontation, stemmed from hostile ideology. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the architect of glasnost and perestroika, underscored how ideology shapes foreign policy when he noted that foreign policy is a continuation of domestic policy, and domestic policy is an embodiment of ideology.

As long as the DPRK clings to class struggle as a ruling ideology, North Korea will continuously 1) wage conflict and seek confrontation, 2) relentlessly pursue internal and external repression, and 3) prepare for war. The following eloquent statement by Eduard Shevardnadze, who served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Gorbachev, should be understood in the same context: “Coexistence based on such premises as nonaggression, respect of sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, and so on is incompatible with class-struggle. Equating intergovernmental relations with class struggle places an insurmountable barrier in the way of mutual cooperation between countries with different sociopolitical systems.” He further elaborated: “Returning to the absolute of class origin means to resurrect the ‘image of the enemy,’ internal or external, and thus justifies repressions inside and outside the country. Presupposing a totally hostile encirclement means cultivating a siege mentality, preparing for war, and engaging in confrontations and conflicts without respite” (Eduard Shevarnadze, The Future belongs to Freedom, 1991).

A pertinent lesson from the history of socialism (an economic and political system based on collective or state ownership of the means of production[1]) is that, without exception, countries that adopted a socialist system all singularly failed to achieve economic development. China’s remarkable experience of economic success exemplifies why, in order to achieve economic development, a socialist country must relinquish its ideology of class struggle. By removing China’s ideology, Deng Xiaoping was able to implement market-oriented reform, privatize the means of production, integrate China into the world economy, and replace the hostile foreign policy with an amicable one.

It thus follows that, as long as the DPRK clings steadfastly to its ideology of class struggle, it cannot achieve economic development. Moreover, as income disparity between the North and the South deepens, the relationships between the Koreas and between the DPRK and the U.S. will become increasingly contentious.

Second, the arguments presented by Lewis and Delury for the failure of U.S. policies are based upon irrational grounds and are thus untenable. U.S. policies have been unsuccessful for the following two main reasons:

  1. The essential means for achieving denuclearization, as per James W. Davis’ theory of international influence[2], are threats and promises (euphemistically referred to as “sticks” and “carrots”). For three decades, the U.S. has leaned far too heavily on “sticks”- a strategy that has culminated in failure. Trump could have succeeded if he had made Kim an offer in which the benefits of giving up nuclear weapons were greater than the costs. Much like previous administrations, Trump relied too much on “sticks” and offered few viable “carrots.”
  2. To succeed, both “sticks” and “carrots” must be effectively calibrated. The U.S. does not have the capacity to offer either credible “sticks” and “carrots” requisite for peaceful denuclearization. Only if all five stakeholders – China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, and the U.S. – work jointly can they make Kim an offer he cannot refuse. The offer must ensure the DPRK a better chance of survival as a non-nuclear-weapon state. The benefits (promises made jointly by the stakeholders) of denuclearization must clearly outweigh the costs (punitive measures threatened by stakeholders). As North Korea expert Scott Snyder argued, strategic success can be achieved only through a shared policy that takes into account the stakeholder states’ strategic interests.

In order to offer a deal in which the benefits outweigh the costs, one must understand the losses Kim will incur from denuclearization. Such losses entail the following five attributes: a) they are a deterrence against U.S. military threats both real and imagined, b) they enable military parity with the South, c) as Kim’s monumental achievement they provide regime legitimacy, d) they are part of the Byungjin policy of economic growth in parallel with military development, and e) they enable Kim to wage a hostile foreign policy. The package deal should comprise security guarantees, the lifting of all sanctions, the normalization of relations with the U.S., a peace treaty with South Korea, and sufficient development funds. Undertaking market-oriented reforms and renouncing class struggle will enable sustained and rapid economic development, which will serve as a new means of legitimacy.

The deal must not only entail transaction, but transformation. In order to accomplish this, the package deal, once consummated, must bring rapid and sustainable economic development to North Korea. The DPRK’s socialist system, which was adapted from that of the Soviet Union, has lost its efficacy, and thus the state is destined to collapse without reform. Accepting the DPRK as a de jure nuclear weapon state will lead to further nuclear proliferation: South Korea and Japan would follow, instigating acute instability. Only if all stakeholder states work together to avert the disaster will they be able to establish lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia through the amicable denuclearization of the DPRK.

[1] “Socialism”, Oxford Reference, URL: https://ift.tt/dLkMWyK.

[2] David, J. W. (2002). Threats and Promises: The Pursuit of International Influence. Johns Hopkins University Press

April 29, 2024 at 07:00AM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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